Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Iran links dissident group to Saudi assassination plot

Suspect is reported to be a member of a dissident group in an apparent attempt by Tehran to distance itself from allegations

Tehran has pointed the finger at a dissident group it considers a “sworn enemy” in an attempt to distance itself from United States accusations that the Islamic regime in Iran conspired to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported that one of the two suspects the US said were involved in a plot to hire a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir is a “key member” of an Iranian dissident group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (MEK).

“The person in question has been travelling to different countries under the names of Ali Shakuri/Gholam Shakuri/Gholam-Hossein Shakuri by using fake passports, including forged Iranian passports,” according to Mehr.

Last week, the US brought charges against an American-Iranian, Mansour Arabsiar (56) who was arrested at New York’s JFK airport on September 29, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian who remains at large in Iran, according to US officials.

The pair, who the US says were the main culprits behind the alleged Iranian murder-for-hire plot, were identified in a sting operation involving the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Shakuri was described by the US as a member of Iran’s Quds Force, a special unit of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, tasked with overseas operations. But Mehr said Interpol “has found new evidence” that suggests Shakuri is associated with the MEK and “was last seen in Washington and Camp Ashraf in Iraq where [MEK] members are based”.

The MEK, which is based in Paris, remains unpopular inside Iran because of its support for the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war but is also designated as terrorist organisation by the US and Canada, though not by the European Union.

In recent years, Iran has been quick to blame the MEK for many of its internal problems, including the protests that followed its disputed presidential elections in 2009. Many political and human rights activists imprisoned in Iran have been falsely accused of having links to the organisation. The MEK has denied the Iranian claims and neither Interpol nor the US have so far reacted to Mehr’s report.

If the MEK alleged link turns out to be true, it would be a big embarrassment for Washington, which has already met widespread scepticism over its version of events of Iran’s involvement in the assassination plot.

Both Tehran’s sympathisers and its critics have questioned the US claims that Iran was directly linked to the alleged plot to kill Jubeir, a close confidant of the Saudi king.

Little evidence has been provided by the US in support of its claim and the amateurish and sloppy nature of it have led to many analysts speculating that the alleged plot might have been the work of rogue elements, with the aim of pleasing the authorities in Tehran or, in contrast, smearing a regime which is already isolated by the international community.

Since last week, Iran has mounted a firm rebuttal of US accusations, with many of its senior officials claiming Washington is struggling to divert attention from its economic and social problems, especially the Occupy Wall Street protests in recent weeks.

Despite the unity in rejecting the claims, Iranian officials have made contradictory remarks over the handling of the events, which has highlighted the extent of the chaos in Iranian politics at a time when a power struggle is developing between the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Monday that Tehran was ready to investigate assassination charges, but within hours, Ahmadinejad contradicted his own minister by telling al-Jazeera television that the country would not investigate the US claims.

In his interview with al-Jazeera on Monday, Ahmadinejad likened the plot accusations to the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, saying the US “fabricated a bunch of papers” for its claims at the time. “Is that a difficult thing to do?” asked the president. —

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Local elections: Water tops the agenda in Limpopo’s dry villages

People in the Fetakgomo Tubatse local municipality, who have to collect water from Motse River, are backing independent candidates because they’re tired of parties’ election promises

Careers the Zondo state capture inquiry has ended (or not)

From Vincent Smith to Gwede Mantashe, those named and shamed have met with differing fates

More top stories

Nigeria’s palm wine tappers face stiff competition

Large companies such as International Breweries and Nigerian Breweries are vying for the population’s drinking money

Covid-19 border closures hit Zimbabwe’s women traders hard

The past 18 months have been tough for women cross-border traders, who saw their income vanish when borders closed

Local elections: Water tops the agenda in Limpopo’s dry villages

People in the Fetakgomo Tubatse local municipality, who have to collect water from Motse River, are backing independent candidates because they’re tired of parties’ election promises

A bigger slice of the pie: Retailers find ways to...

The South African informal economy market is much sought-after, with the big, formal-sector supermarkets all looking to grow their share
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×