By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Comments attributed to a hard-line Iranian cleric, who had been quoted as saying that Iran can assassinate the king of Saudi Arabia if need be, have been removed from the website where they first appeared.
On October 15, the website of Iran's Journalist Club posted comments by mid-ranking cleric Mehdi Taeb, who dismissed recent U.S. accusations that Iran was involved in a terror plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
"We don't need to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. If we needed to assassinate anyone, we have enough capability to assassinate King Abdullah himself," Taeb, the brother of Hossein Taeb, the chief of the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, was quoted as saying in a Tehran mosque.
His comments were later removed. The Journalist Club wrote that the news item about Taeb comments was not authentic and should not have been used.
Taeb's comments are still available on other Iranian news websites, however.
It is possible Taeb was misquoted and his comments therefore removed. Yet it is also possible that he did make the comments, which received a lot of attention in social media circles. In that case, the removal of his comments from the Journalist Club's website was most likely a decision made by the authorities, who have a well-document record of censoring materials of which they don't approve. The incident could signal that Tehran does not want to create more tension over the alleged plot through comments that are not politically calculated.
Iranian officials have strongly dismissed the terror plot allegations, describing them as baseless and false. On October 15, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the allegations "meaningless."
"They say we want to isolate Iran, [but] it's they who have isolated themselves," Khamenei said in his first public reaction to the allegations.
Iranians Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he hoped Saudi Arabia would exercise caution in its reaction to Washington's terror plot allegations.
“We hope that the Saudis take all the precautions in dealing with the issue, because the enemy always seeks to sow discord among regional countries,” Salehi said in an interview with an Iranian radio station on October 15.
Also on October 15, the head of the Iranian parliament's national security commission, Alaedin Boroujerdi, said the Saudi ambassador to Washington is not worth assassinating.
"It is laughable for Iran to plan the assassination of the Saudi ambassador, who is worthless for Iran," Boroujerdi was quoted as saying. He said the real reason behind the allegations was to divert public opinion.
Boroujerdi seemed to suggest that the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he said is being dealt with by the United States in "the most brutal way," was the reason why the Obama administration had leveled the terror accusations against the Islamic republic.
Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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