A number of Iran analysts are expressing doubt over the alleged plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Here are some excerpts:
Former CIA operative Bob Baer expressed his skepticism about the allegation that Iran was behind the plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Robert Baer is a former Middle East CIA field officer and TIME.com's intelligence columnist. He is also the author of See No Evil, The Devil We Know and The Company We Keep. Here's what he had to say:
"There are very few groups operationally better than Iran’s Quds Force. They know what they are doing. The only proxies they use are ones they’ve vetted. They don’t let their own citizens get involved. They send other people to do it for them from Hezbollah to Bosnian Muslims. It would be completely uncharacteristic for Iran to be caught red handed."
"So why were they all of a sudden so sloppy? Why would they take this risk now? Who cares about Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Ali Jaber, anyway? He’s not a royal. He’s probably not the main interlocutor between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Why not go for Saudi Prince Bandar in London? Many other targets would serve Iranian interests better."
"Everybody is looking for evidence that there is going to be a confrontation with Iran. Everybody is jumping on this as a sign of conflict to come. But there are many questions here that need to be answered."
Gary Sick is a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. Sick served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. In the following blog post, Gary Sick reiterates some of Baer's questions:
"I find this alleged Iranian plot very hard to believe. In fact, this 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 U.S. and Israel. And the king of Saudi Arabia is reliably reported to have called for the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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."