Others dismiss that theory, saying that the Iranian hierarchy’s control of foreign policy is clear. Khamenei makes the important foreign policy decisions, and extensive surveillance by political commissars leaves little room for rogue elements.
With Iran’s regional role in flux, some Iranians wonder whether the alleged plot could be related to developments closer to home.
Iranian officials admit privately to genuine worries over losing Syria as a strategic partner and say popular uprisings in the Middle East pose challenges, as well as opportunities. The ouster of entrenched rulers in the region is seen as reducing Iran’s role as a leader of oppressed movements.
“In the current status quo, Iran might lose, with now even Hamas trading prisoners with the Israelis,” one analyst said, referring to the Palestinian militant group. “Maybe they felt the need to make a great impact on their enemies.”
Others strongly disagreed, arguing that none of Iran’s security organizations would stake so much now on such an ill-conceived plot. “Iran’s leadership would never risk being involved in hitting someone on U.S. soil,” Zibakalam said. “Why would they endanger Iran in this way? This is really not logical.”
Yet, there is some precedent for such an act. In 1980, an American Muslim acting on behalf of the new revolutionary government in Tehran assassinated Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a monarchist living in exile in the Washington area, before fleeing to Iran.
As Iranians puzzle over the latest alleged plot, a realization appears to be setting in that, true or not, the allegations herald a dangerous period of increased tensions between Iran and the United States.
“Whoever is behind it — inside or outside the country — is determined to create an international front against Iran,” said Saeed Laylaz, a political analyst who was imprisoned in a crackdown on anti-government protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 reelection. “The U.S. is gradually paving the way for a confrontation with Iran,” he said.