The U.S. government believes that top Iranian regime figures supported a plan to kill Saudi Arabias ambassador to Washington.
Although initially skeptical that Iranian leaders would have endorsed such a plot, U.S. government officials were convinced by the transfer of $100,000 from Iran this summer as payment to set the assassination in motion.
Tipped off to the plan by a Drug Enforcement Administration informer, U.S. officials came to believe that Irans Supreme Leader Ali Khameini must have signed off on the plot, which they said was advanced by the Quds Force, a secretive branch of Irans Revolutionary Guard.
According to prosecutors in the case, a high-ranking member of the Iranian Quds Force told his cousin, Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American living in South Texas to find someone in the narcotics business to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington: $1.5 million was offered to carry out the deed.
Reactions to the governments allegations have been varied. Former White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey said the plan should serve as a warning of the threat posed by instability in Mexico.
Former CIA officer Reuel March Gerecht warned that if the Justice Department is correct that the plot was ordered by Irans supreme leader, it means that Irans leaders did not fear a muscular American response.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the intelligence indicates there may be problems elsewhere, perhaps threats to Saudi, Israeli or American ambassadors in other countries.
Yet some experts on Iran outside the government are not convinced that Iran would have ordered such a flawed plot, the Chicago Tribune reports. And some countries are seeking more proof that Tehran ordered the hit on the ambassador.
As one European Union official said, the plot would have grave consequences if the allegations are confirmed.
The Obama administration certainly believes its accusations against Iran and should offer further proof to allies that need more convincing.