A report Monday by The New York Times cited a spokeswoman at Iran’s embassy in the African nation as characterizing the claims, which Israeli news outlets first circulated early this month as “baseless allegations” put forward “by the Zionist regime’s malicious media.”
The comments echoed what has been the Iranian regime’s standard talking point in response to past allegations of its involvement in international terror plots.
Reports that such a plot was underway in Ethiopia emerged two weeks ago in Israeli media, which claimed that Ethiopian authorities had arrested 16 suspects who were planning an attack on the UAE embassy in Addis Ababa.
On Feb. 5, The Times of Israel cited initial reporting by Israel’s Kan News that Israeli officials believed Iran was pursuing the plot in retaliation for the killing last year of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the U.S. and the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — the latter of whom died in an attack that Tehran blamed on Israel and has sworn to avenge.
The reporting came against a backdrop of speculation among U.S. and Israeli officials that Iran, apparently outraged by the recent U.S.-brokered normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), may be targeting UAE diplomatic posts to deter any further expansion in UAE-Israel relations.
The Israeli media reports claimed Iranian operatives also plotted an attack against the UAE embassy in Sudan and scouted Israeli and American embassies.
The New York Times verified elements of the reporting on Monday. While a Times report noted that Ethiopian intelligence has stopped short tying Iran to the alleged plot in Addis Ababa, the report cited American and Israeli officials as saying Iran’s intelligence service activated a sleeper cell in the Ethiopian capital last fall to gather intelligence on the UAE, U.S. and Israeli embassies in the city.
The Times article cited a spokeswoman for the Iranian Embassy in Addis Ababa as sharply denying the claim and hurling counter-allegations at Israeli media.
“Neither Ethiopia nor the Emirates said anything about Iranian interference in these issues,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
The U.S. State Department has listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and U.S. officials point to a long history of Tehran-backed terrorist attacks and plots around the world, including plots targeting Arab diplomats.
One of the most notable and elaborate came to light in 2011, when American authorities found that Iran was attempting to recruit a Mexican drug cartel to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States by bombing a Washington, D.C., restaurant. U.S. law enforcement authorities foiled the attack and, in 2012, an Iranian-American man pleaded guilty of involvement in the plot.