Will this be Obama’s War?
Iran vows 'decisive action' on US claims of assassination plot from the Australian
IRAN'S Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has warned of a "decisive response" to any "inappropriate action" over US claims of a Tehran-directed assassination plot against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington.
"If American officials are entertaining any illusions, they should know that any inappropriate action - whether political or security-related - will meet with the Iranian people's decisive response," he said in a speech in western Iran yesterday.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who has labelled the plot claims "absurd", said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran will face off any plot, or destructive or obstructive measures, with all its might."
President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, in his first comments on US claims over the alleged plot, was quoted as saying: "Iran is a civilised nation and doesn't need to resort to assassination."
Addressing the US government, he said: "Terror belongs to you."
Highlighting an apparent schism with the President, Ayatollah Khamenei accompanied his warning with suggestion that Iran could scrap the post of a directly elected president.
He suggested that, in future, the president could be elected by MPs rather than through a national poll. It remained, he said, a "distant" prospect, but his words will embolden hardliners determined to oust Mr Ahmadinejad. Iran's two most powerful men have been in a power struggle since April, when Mr Ahmadinejad sacked his intelligence minister, only to see him reinstated by the Supreme Leader.
The President boycotted government for 11 days before bowing to an ultimatum from the Ayatollah to return or be dismissed.
US officials were yesterday consulting allies and other countries on ratcheting up pressure on Iran, which is already subject to UN and US sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
Senior Democrat Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate intelligence committee, warned that the US and Iran were on a "collision course" as Tehran steps up its nuclear program and escalates hostilities with its alleged plot to kill the Saudi envoy to Washington. She said this was not the time for war with Iran, but for stronger international sanctions to change its behaviour, saying she favoured sanctions on Iran's central bank.
"Iran is escalating, I believe, its nuclear development. Iran is increasingly hostile," she said in an interview with Fox News. "It's a very dangerous situation.
"If you project out a number of years, we are on a collision course. If we want to avoid it, we have to take action to avoid it."
Iran denies any involvement in the thwarted plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.
But US President Barack Obama has vowed Iran will "pay a price" for what he says is incontrovertible proof it had a hand in trying to contract a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit.
Saudi Arabia has said it will make "a suitable response" over the alleged plot, which it has requested be brought to the attention of the UN Security Council.
The US Justice Department and FBI say the alleged plot leads back to officials in the Quds Force, a special operations outfit within Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.
Quds Force personnel are said to have transferred nearly $US100,000 ($97,094) to the bank account used by a member of the Mexican drug cartel who was really a paid US informant. The money was allegedly part of a $US1.5 million hit on Mr al-Jubeir, possibly through the bombing of a Washington restaurant.
An Iranian used car salesman who is a naturalised US citizen, Manssor Arbabsiar, is said to have confessed to acting as the go-between for his cousin, whom he described as a top Quds official. Mr Arbabsiar is in US custody, charged with the plot. The US has charged another Iranian, Gholam Shakuri, said to be an Iran-based Quds agent who flew to the US to speak with Mr Arbabsiar.