Alleged Iran Plot Needs a Neutral Arbiter


Iran’s alleged assassination attempt of the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Abdel al-Jubeir only highlights the regional struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

As this recent political flare-up illustrates, the two countries are fighting an ideological war generated by sectarian strife. Earlier this year Saudi Arabia sent troops into Sunni-controlled Bahrain to help curtail an uprising by the majority Shiite population. Iran, it is alleged, is supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy and Iran’s Shiite theocracy are now bringing their feud to the world stage with the assassination plot. 

As such, this diplomatic incident should no longer be seen as a regional issue. And to solve it, world governing bodies must be utilized. Any response against Iran’s actions will be taken either through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or the International Court of Justice (ICJ), buttressing the notion that future transnational disputes will be handled by international laws and norms, not individual actors.

The two men accused in the Saudi assassination plot are Iranian-American Manssor Arabsiar, a car salesman from Texas, and Gholam Shakuri. Arabsiar has been arrested in the U.S. while Shakuri is thought to be in Iran. Arabsiar was allegedly working with people in the Iranian government when he tried to recruit assassins from the Zeta Mexican drug cartel to carry out a hit on Jubeir. The criminal complaint was filed in federal court in New York on Tuesday and for now, Arabsiar has been locked up in New York since September. Arabsiar has been charged with five counts including conspiracy to murder a foreign national and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. But, the number of transnational actors involved brings into question why the case is being handled by the U.S. and only makes it more relevant that international institutions like the UN or the ICJ get involved.

In 2008, Jubeir was quoted as saying that his country wanted the U.S. to launch military strikes against Tehran “to cut the head off the snake.” 

His unilateral solutions are not shared by America. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the assassination plot that “this kind of reckless act undermines international norms … Iran must be held accountable for its actions.” What she’s referring to is a UN treaty which Iran signed in 1978 that forbids attacks on diplomats. Clinton’s comments echo the fact that the U.S. is ready to recognize international institutions like the UN or ICJ as the place to settle international disputes. 

Ali Larijan, speaker of the Iranian parliament, said “the Americans have launched a stupid mischief ... there is no reason for Iran to carry out these childish actions.” Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, echoed similar sentiments when he said “If the Iranians were involved in this kind of plot, I don’t think they’d choose this kind of a guy to do it. They’re much more professional.” Iran and Saudi Arabia are clearly not on the same page in this dispute, highlighting the need for a neutral actor like the UN or ICJ to help build relations in this particular case. 

It will be seen through this case that international relations will become more dependent on international laws and norms vested in the UN and ICJ, rather than with the U.S., which is currently the case.             

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