Did Iran Really Try to Assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.?

My first reaction is that it just doesn’t sound credible. Gary Sick, who knows a lot more about Iran than I do, also has a hard time buying it, although he doesn’t categorically reject the possibility.

[T]his plot, if true, departs from all known Iranian policies and procedures.

To be sure, Iran has plenty of reasons to be angry at both the United States and Saudi Arabia. They attribute the recent wave of assassinations of physics professors and students, as well as the intrusion of the Stuxnet worm, to the US and Israel. And the king of Saudi Arabia is reliably reported to have called for the US to bomb Iran.

Iran has reportedly been involved in past assassinations in Europe and bombings in Argentina and elsewhere. But the assassinations were of Iranian counter-revolutionaries in the 1980s, and the bombings were always carried out by trusted proxies — normally a branch of Hezbollah. Iran’s fingerprints were always concealed beneath one or more layers of disguise.

Iran has never conducted — or apparently even attempted — an assassination or a bombing inside the US. And it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions. In this instance, they allegedly relied on at least one amateur and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and US intelligence agents.

Whatever else may be Iran’s failings, they are not noted for utter disregard of the most basic intelligence tradecraft, e.g. discussing an ultra-covert operation on an open international line between Iran and the US. Yet that is what happened here.

Perhaps this operation is just as it appears. But at a minimum both the public and the Congress should demand more detailed evidence before taking any rash or irreversible action.

If Iran is really as stupid and as incompetent as this case implies, then perhaps they are their own worst enemy and not the clever and determined adversary that they are made out to be.

On the other hand, it also seems incredible that the Obama administration would make up such a wildly improbable accusation. “Stupid and incompetent” certainly characterizes someone in this case, but it’s not clear who.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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3 Responses to Did Iran Really Try to Assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.?

  1. James K says:

    It really does sound like something out of a Bond movie doesn’t it?

  2. Matty says:

    If it isn’t too conspiracy theoryish I’d ask if anyone benefits from spreading a false story like this.

  3. James Hanley says:


    It’s a bit conspiracy theorish, but one argument is that the executive branch and all those interested in promoting continued military spending benefit from spreading false stories along these lines. It’s not entirely unknown, in general concept. Let’s not forget that Hitler staged a fake attack on a German radio station, and Lyndon Johnson blatantly lied about U.S. navy ships being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. And John Le Carres’ post 9/11 novel, Absolute Friends, spins a story about the U.S. government duping would-be revolutionaries into a situation in which they can be “exposed” as a serious threat, to justify continuation of the war on terror–a bit overwrought, perhaps, but–as Le Carre always is–chillingly conceivable.

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