October 12th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Questions about the alleged Iranian plot

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 EvilThe 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."

Post by:
Topics: Iran • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism

soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    First of all, what would Iran's motivation for assassinating this Saudi ambassador anyway? Secondly, why would the Quds bureau fool with the members of the Mexican drug cartels? This whole story doesn't even hold water as it's just another U.S. govenment ploy to get peoples' minds off the sorry state of the current economy!!! Just when are the people in this country going to wise up???

    October 12, 2011 at 10:48 am | Reply
    • Theend

      "We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way." - George S. Patton

      October 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  2. mklsgl

    He's not just 'anyone,' Bob Baer is 'that guy'–remember Syriana? I'd take his opinion as gold.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:50 am | Reply
  3. JamesBond

    So they have planned the next bogey man after Anwar awlaki

    October 12, 2011 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • Theend

      "When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
      When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
      When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
      When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
      When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out."

      October 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  4. Observer

    What’s going on?
    After a decade of American blood and treasure lost in Iraq, that country is aligning itself with Iran.
    So, what to do?
    Attack Iraq again? No.
    Go after Iran.
    “More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.
    Iraq’s stance has dealt an embarrassing setback to the Obama administration, which has sought to enlist Muslim allies in its campaign to isolate Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. While other Arab states have downgraded ties with Assad, Iraq has moved in the opposite direction, hosting official visits by Syrians, signing pacts to expand business ties and offering political support.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iraq-siding-with-iran-sends-lifeline-to-assad/2011/10/06/gIQAFEAIWL_story.html

    October 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  5. Voltairine

    Show the American people and the world the evidence. I don’t trust Iran either, but the U.S. government has decimated the public’s trust too many times. We have engaged in one military campaign after another, like an Empire of old, throwing yet more money and, “targets”, at the military industrial complex, while our people remain in financial agony. This smacks of “our” government champing at the bit to attack another nation, especially Iran, and unless evidence is released and imminent danger to the U.S. or its allies is made clear and is indeed present, I hope that the American people will resist. Show the evidence or stop rattling the saber ceaselessly that we the people provided.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • Theend

      "All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."

      October 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  6. Listener

    You have to ask yourself who has the most to gain. An action like this will only bring more pressure on Iran, which has plenty already, and further increase the Saudi attention toward radical Islam. The links must be examined, but when it all shakes out I will not be surprised to find out the "Quds" contact which pushed the actors into motion was a Mossad agent.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:56 am | Reply
  7. sassyfrass

    It was a Saudi Arabian ambassador who was targeted. Let Saudi Arabia attack Iran for retribution.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:59 am | Reply
  8. nsaqib

    Sometimes war is the only solution to the domestic problems and this act perfectly fits that analogy. The war takes peoples focus away from the economic issues and daily struggles of life and keeps them preoccupied with security issues. In current world economic situation a war is bound to happen to deflect the economic tensions and peoples woes i.e. 1st it was Pakistan and now Iran. We have thrown the line into the water lets see which fish catches the hook.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply
  9. Michael

    Yeah, Im not buying this. Smells fishy. Im betting this is a completely manufactured crisis/plot/conspiracy to get us to hate iran moar. And in any case, do we really care about saudi arabia? If it werent for the oil, would they be such buddies? Im surprised Obama didnt break up over the phone as soon as he was elected.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:02 am | Reply
  10. SId Airfoil

    On the one hand, this could be a ham-handed Iranian plot by one faction of their government to discredit another.

    On the other hand, this could be a ham-handed CIA plot to justify a increased budgets and power, etc.

    But the fact that it is ham-handed (i.e. that no one cares about the Saudi ambassador, that Quds never gets caught or uses unreliable proxies, etc.) is not evidence for either argument. Either side could have been DELIBERATELY ham-handed for precisely the purpose of claiming their innocence ("If WE had wanted him dead, he'd BE dead! Therefore it WASN'T us!"). Wheels within wheels.

    Everyone should stop armchair quarterbacking. If we can't trust our own government, then we have bigger problems than Iran. And we will NEVER know the truth with certainty. Everyone is too damned clever for that, and ambiguity serves everyone's interests in this, except the interests of the American and Iranian people.

    Sid

    October 12, 2011 at 11:06 am | Reply
  11. Shaif YirBoosh

    Oh yeah...right...sure...wait'll the news breaks that this was another sting job set up by the FEDS to entrap dumb & dumber.

    The FBI couldn't catch a cold in a SARS ward.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:07 am | Reply
  12. Vanilla Gorilla

    just an exercise by the WH to deflect attention from their ineptness and corruption
    the Saudi in question is a nobody in the grand scheme of things
    could be a positioning move to set up the long anticipated conflict with Iran
    we live in a world of misinformation

    October 12, 2011 at 11:12 am | Reply
  13. BEAR

    ask yourselves what motivation cnn has for attempting to minimize this terrorist plot. The answer is simple. CNN has been pro obama and obama is pro muslim. Obama has made iran outreach his platform since he was inaugurated and to admit it hasn't worked is to admit that the policy is a failed one...and CNN does not want to cover ANYTHING that hurts his chances for reelection.

    How is obama pro muslim?

    bowing to saudi king
    approving of ground zero mosque
    asking NASA's bolden to make muslim outreach its number one priority(really? NASA the space agency should be pro muslim?)
    sending repeated wishes to iran for new years etc
    not doing a thing during irans oppostion movement
    going to cairo, ankara and saudi arabia for speeches but not to israel his "unshakeable ally"
    treating netanyahu like an opponent in previous washington meets
    unfair handling of israel, his ally, during the peace process
    making outreach to hamas and hezbollah a FP initiative
    making outreach to erdogan's turkey which has been islamicizing rapidly and jailing journalists.
    removing missile shield in czech repub and poland in return for x-band missile shield about to be put in turkey? insiders say this will create a hole in the shield where it concerns israels defense as turkey cant be trusted to share incoming launch data with israel.
    foolishly apologizing to the muslim world for americas past

    October 12, 2011 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • rex

      wiki this clown ! must be high on G13 he stashed when he was working for the CIA .

      In an interview with Thom Hartmann on June 9, 2006, Baer was asked if he believed "that there was an aspect of 'inside job' to the September 11, 2001 attacks within the U.S. government". He replied, "There is that possibility, the evidence points at it."[5] However, he later stated, "For the record, I don't believe that the World Trade Center was brought down by our own explosives, or that a rocket, rather than an airliner, hit the Pentagon. I spent a career in the CIA trying to orchestrate plots, wasn't all that good at it, and certainly couldn't carry off 9/11. Nor could the real pros I had the pleasure to work with."[6]

      October 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Reply
      • rex

        should have kept on skiing .

        October 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
      • Theend

        Enough American soldiers have died in the Middle East; we don't need to waste anymore lives...

        October 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  14. Tom

    Bob Baer is completely wrong in his assessment. The FBI got it right however, the now-retired CIA Officer Bob Baer (trying to justify his salary from Time and CNN) is attempting to spin it in his own fashion. Just because he was the CIA Station Chief for Middle East Affairs back in the 1990's does not make him the authority on Iran's intentions these days. Bob–let the FBI do their job and stay out of the mix!!!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • Gene

      I suspect this is mostly the FBI's doing – they found a willing fool and led him down a series of foolish agreements to an illogical conclusion. Using Mexican assasins in DC to target a Saudi non-royal? Baer is right that such a move would be out of step with their normal operations.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  15. james

    so all you idiots are trusting Ahmadinejad's spokesman before our own government? Thats messed up.

    October 12, 2011 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • Bill in VA

      Yes it is james

      October 12, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      Unfortunately our government's track record isn't very good...

      October 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  16. Indigotime

    For once i see almost complete agreement on a CNN board and i'm with you... AMAZING!..We must speak out not just on the boards but to our congressman and senators now. Tell them this is BS and we will vote every last stinking one of them out if they go after Iran for this crap. As everyone has pointed out all this serves is the oil companies, the defense industry, our real enemies etc. etc. etc.Don't let them do it to us again. We ned jobs dammit not more war!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
  17. Bill in VA

    I am not really in to conspiracy theories but if someone wants to advance one it would this – the Saudis were behind the plot in the hopes of getting the US to do something drastic against Iran because Iran scares the crap out of them (and others).

    October 12, 2011 at 11:32 am | Reply
  18. bernd

    we should remember before the Iraq war everybody told us that they (Iraq) has weapons of masdestructions, which we now know was false information and a reason for Bush jun. to start a war with Iraq, which was totally useless causing losses of life on both sides, however it shifted the focus of bad domestic policy towards a war. maybe it is a time to start a new war, things are bad on the homefront and the US needs an enemy to distract the people and voters from the real problems?? ever thought of that? preperation of a new invasion and new oil fields, very sad, we have learned nothing in many years!!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:41 am | Reply
  19. CAL USA

    What is really sad, and it comes through in the commentary here, is how much damage the Bush administration did to the credibility of our government with our own people. Even when we replaced them with an administration that has (admittedly with mixed success) tried to reverse some of their destructive policies, we still have too many Americans willing to believe the worst. Even more amazing, they will side with the government of Iran against their own. Sad!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply
    • Teamchaos

      You have got to be kidding, You are still blaming bush, obama can take credit for this, notice how no one is afraid of obama, he will replace jimmy carter as the worst president in history.

      The transparency he talked about turned out to be smoke and mirrors.

      Grow up and realize not everything is bushes fault. Take responsibility.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  20. george

    Israel and the oil cartels control the foreign policy of America, people can rant all they want in the comments above but there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. If Israel wants America to attack Iran, and if the oil companies want to raise the depressed oil prices then that's what will happen. This is not a democracy by any means, it's the new fascism where corporations dictate what happens, it's what I call " Corportacracy " Please prove me wrong

    October 12, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • zack

      I tried but i can't. I guess u r right

      October 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  21. Saad

    So many things that the american government has said in public have turned out to be false. Now it is very hard to believe any thing that it says...

    October 12, 2011 at 11:51 am | Reply
    • Alicia

      I do not believe this 'plot' – it is either entrapment to justify the big bucks to our wonderful homeland security racket or it is an outright false story to be used to justify some nefarious action in the middle east.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  22. Troops Home Now

    No one with any sense believes this so called assasination plot is anything other than an attempt to justify an attack on Iran. There is only one person who will bring ALL our troops home withing six months of taking office; saving us trillions. And by putting some of those troops on the border, he will also keep out the wage crushing, job stealing illegals:
    Ron Paul 2012

    October 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
  23. Jason

    This is clumsy! At least the previous theater's were packaged better.

    Remember the Iraqi Ambassador's daughter posing as a nurse in front of the Congress telling them that he was in the Kuwaiti hospital and saw Iraqi soldiers through babies out of their ventilators? We now know she was not a nurse and she was not in Kuwait at that time. But, she played it so well that it took a long while before anybody caught on.

    This one is not well-packaged!

    October 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Reply
  24. Jason

    I ought to read before I say send!
    First line should be "theaters" not "theater's"
    Third line should be "throw" not "through"

    October 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • zack

      and I think before I write and then 'click' Post

      October 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  25. aldebaran

    why are saudis our buddies? they don't even let their women drive and they only just gave women the vote (the kingdom decided to do that–how nice, we are only in 2011). a prince recently punished someone by driving his suv over him and got off even though it was videotaped–put the guy in the hospital for months. frankly, i agree this stinks of an invention. why would the mexican cartels give a damn about the saudi ambassador? gee–if the cartels are doing this–why not declare war on mexico? more misinformation to empower the fools at the pentagon and in the gov't. obama–go back to chicago.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  26. LiberalNN

    Wow I've totally forgotten Operation Fast & Furious and Eric Holder's disgraceful incompetence and numerous lies as a result of this new Iran / Saudi story!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • Bill in VA

      Just becuase there was a botched operation where the AG may have in fact lied to Congress (it is never the act that causes the real trouble but the cover up) doesn't make me question what is going on here with Iran ...yet. I will still believe Holder before I believe anyone from the Iranian Gov't until someone shows me otherwise.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  27. Matt

    I don't really care, It made no sense. Thank god for the FBI/DEA or I would have turned it into South Lebanon, not now how it will look in the future. A Mexican Cartel bomb a US city, a restaurant. He is just a corpse among many. The FBI/DEA got in early.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      Your paying for it; maybe you should care...

      October 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  28. whatever2War

    You guys still don't get it. Remember Murder on the Orient express??? .....too many clues......to many leads...... But they all killed him! War is smelling and you small citizens cant do anything to stop it. Better go home and CONTINUE watching TV and ENTERTAINMENT!! This stuff is too hard for you...........

    Just saying. Don't hang me ...please!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  29. VJ

    Obama is not smart enough as Bush to fabricate a story, at least Bush made us believe 9/11 and WMD.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • CNNReviewer

      No, Bush did not convice Americans. He LIED and reported what Dick Cheney told him to say. However, the inplausiblity, doubt, and irrational behavior was evident. Americans tentatively gave Bush spport out of patriotism for our troops. We knew the truth would eventually be known.

      October 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
      • Wendy

        Keep telling your self that sweety m'kay....if that is what helps you sleep at night.

        October 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
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