EU leaders back US claims on Iran assassination plot
EU countries have in a formal statement given full credence to US claims that Iran plotted to murder a senior Saudi diplomat in Washington.
The 27 leaders in a communique published at a summit in Brussels on Sunday (23 October) said the plot was real and strongly implied the Iranian authorities were behind it.
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"The European Council welcomes the reinforcement of EU restrictive measures against Iran due to unacceptable human rights violations and the adoption of restrictive measures against five individuals following the foiled plot to assassinate the ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States," the statement said.
EU countries one day earlier also put the five suspects on their terrorist register. The bloc's Official Journal said they "have been involved in terrorist acts."
The weekend's language abandoned the kind of caveats used by EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton mid-week. Ashton had spoken of "allegations" and "precautionary" measures.
Her spokeswoman, Maja Kocjancic, told EUobserver the EU took the US line on good faith: "Member states were briefed by the US authorities using different channels, including in their embassies in Washington ... I am not going to interpret the statement by the 27 EU leaders. But there clearly is enough belief to make that statement."
For its part, Iran firmly denies involvement.
Its EU embassy in an unusual move on Friday emailed a letter to every single MEP, Belgian parliamentarians and most Brussels-based journalists, saying: "A vast wave of political and media propaganda has been launched against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is being threatened by political and economic reprisals, even military reprisals."
The US Justice Department itself is being more cautious than the EU. Its communique ends with the line: "The charges ... are mere allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty."
Commentators such as Robert Baer, a former CIA officer turned Time magazine columnist, previously told this website the EU is helping the US to demonise Iran to justify tougher action against its alleged nuclear weapons programme. He pointed out the EU has also imposed sanctions on Iranian army officers over massacres in Syria without giving any evidence.
The US says Iran used the five suspects as go-betweens to hire a Mexican drug cartel to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador on American soil for $1.5 million. If true, it amounts to an act of war against the US and EU's main Arab ally in the Middle East.
Baer and other experts have poured scorn on the accusations.
"[Iranian leaders] Suleimani and Khameini understand how to do political murder ... If they were in on this, they've either lost their minds, or they've lost control, or they're committing suicide. Those are your three choices. There isn't a fourth choice," Baer told the New York Times.
"I would say it just doesn't feel right ... It's hard to imagine why the Iranians would sign on to that. And the tradecraft seems amateurish and sloppy. It's crazy", Charles Faddis, a former CIA counter-terrorism chief told the New York-based news service ProPublica.