WASHINGTON -- An alleged Iranian plot to hire Mexican drug cartel killers to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil "crosses a line" in Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism and will further isolate the Islamic republic, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday.
"This really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for," Clinton said. She said the plot -- it allegedly involved Iranian government agents trying to contract a Mexican cartel to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir -- was stranger than fiction.
"The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?" she said.
Speaking shortly after the Justice Department announced the uncovering of the alleged plot, Clinton said the scheme "creates a potential for international reaction that will further isolate Iran, that will raise questions about what they're up to, not only in the United States and Mexico."
She said both she and President Barack Obama were calling world leaders to inform them of the developments.
"We are actively engaged in a very concerted diplomatic outreach to many capitals, to the U.N. in New York, to not only to explain what happened so we can try to pre-empt any efforts by Iran to be successful in what would be their denial and their efforts to try to deflect responsibility but so that we also enlist more countries in working together against what is becoming a clearer and clearer threat" from Iran, Clinton said.
"We want to reassure our friends that the complaints against Iran are well-founded," she said.
As she spoke, Alizreza Miryusefi, the press attache at Iran's mission to the United Nations, said the accusation was "totally baseless" and that a full statement would be issued shortly.
Two people, including a member of Iran's special operations unit known as the Quds Force, were charged in New York federal court in connection with the alleged plot.
Justice Department officials say the pair worked with a person they thought was an associate of a Mexican drug cartel to target al-Jubeir. But their contact was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency who told U.S. authorities about all their planning.
The State Department has for the past decade identified Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is subject to numerous U.S. sanctions for its support of militant groups as well as its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies claim is a cover for the development of atomic weapons.
Clinton said Tuesday's revelations would reinforce those concerns as well as worries about Iran's attempts to gain influence in Latin America. She and other officials have noted in the past that Iran is trying to make inroads in Venezuela and Nicaragua.