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."

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Topics: Iran • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism

soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. CNNReviewer

    The American public is weary of the propoganda and fictionalized news stories such as this. Nobody believes these thin, far-fetched articles designed to sway public opinion. The CIA has lost the confidence of Americans. It is an organization that clearly does not provide actionable security information. Instead, our government news is seen as it really is: deception, propoganda, fiction. If the CIA provided beneficial services to our nation, I would drop my professional career and sign-up tomorrow.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  2. Ron

    Why would any Iranian wants to kill these brain dead Saudis??? Their being alive or dead would make no difference? Why? It is clearly a set up to worsen the situation between Iran and Saudis despotic regime further......The more Muslims fight in a sectarian war the better for the Zionits .....such a shameful plot ....Already all AIPAC member of the media and Zionits politicians such as Clinton R maximizing benifit from their mastermind against Iran

    October 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  3. bonded

    Its very unprofessional for Bob Baer to insinuate that the Iran Qud has just one methodology. It takes common sense to imagine that as intelligence gets more sophisticated and tight, terrorist plots would always seek to adopt new unexpected modus operandi. Did anyone ever dream of 9/11 as a possible Al-quaeda move? Its time we get it right, there is nothing like a classic hallmark of any terrorist organization, the characteristic methods remain status-quo because they've always been successful in their applications, especially when they've got every reason to be boastful of the outcome, like the ones in Afghanistan. With all wire-tap evidences and confessions, a so-called former intelligence operative still has the gizzard to doubt the authenticity of this foil, because he thinks he can predict these psychos?
    Well done Obama, the economy might be giving you migraine, but you've got the best intelligence coordination ever....your list of success stories speaks for itself!!!!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      If being "unprofessional" saves even one American soldier's life, it's worth it...

      October 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  4. jorge washinsen

    Its getting close to the election. Got to keep something in the news.Same about the demonstrations.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  5. jorge washinsen

    Could have been the oil companies, they have already gone up today if my buddy did not fib.Every time there is a crisis who is the first thing to raise prices?

    October 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  6. jorge washinsen

    Don 't buy any stock ever again unless it is energy or drug store or casket maker.The only sure thing out there.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  7. jb

    Mr. Bob is just trying to drum up publicity for himself.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      No, I think he's trying to warn us before it's too late....

      October 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  8. rex

    Racism is a powerful thing ! it always trumps reason in the feeble minded . I am glad for record keeping , my kids will be able to judge for themselves what kind of leader Obama will be , he is not done yet !

    October 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • Wendy

      Yes it is Rex, now tell me again why you voted for Obama and then we can pretend that race had NOTHING to do with it. You are right, racisim is alive and well and it is in your back yard too!

      October 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      I know who Wendy voted for - Peter Pan...

      October 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  9. ARIEL SHARON

    POOR AMERICANS,FORGET WALL STREET PROTESTS,LETS HAVE SOME FUN FROM US GOVT,THIS STORY AT LEAST WILL SEDATE AMERICANS MINDS FOR A WHILE

    October 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  10. Sagas

    Former CIA operative Bob Baer is a fool. Iran cannot go after Saudi Prince in London. It will be all out war with Saudi, and Israel will also use that opportunity.

    Iran is wiser than Former CIA operative Bob Baer.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      I don't know; the Russians seem to prefer taking out traitors in London...

      October 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
      • Joe

        "Iran has reportedly been involved in past assassinations in Europe and bombings in Argentina and elsewhere."
        Those assassinations in Europe had targeted individuals who were seen as traitors by Iranian government at the time and had been involved in terror activities inside Iran eg. PKK/MEK. As for Argentina, it was never proven with any substance that Iran had done them. Infact many analysts believe that they were false flag operations as at the time Iran had very good relations with Argentina and the government of the time in Argentina was building nuclear reactors in Iran and was transferring technology to Iran for building the reactors indigenously. Infact the Tehran nuclear reactor was completely rebuilt by Argentina at the time and fully refueled using enriched Uranium provided by Argentina government. So analysts claim that Iran had nothing to gain by bombing a Jewish cultural center while Iran's own Jews are having their own hospitals and cultural centers paid for by the Iranians government in Tehran. Infact it was other forces which benefited from those bombings and planting evidence against Iran much like this case here today. After the bombings Argentina had to stop nuclear cooperation with Iran and a massive PR forced government of Argentina to finish off its diplomatic relations with Iran. Neither Argentina nor Iran benefited from that. Only outside forces did. Now think for yourself about it without taking it directly from big media.

        October 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Wendy

    I am laughing at all of you who actually believe this could yet be another conspiracy....you are all so easily led by your noses! I wonder if this had been a article on proof how you would have responded. The burden is on YOU to prove the evidence wrong, not the other way around. Just because some washed up CIA has-been says Iran doesnt do it that way, where is his proof? If he was and is sooooo good, why isnt he still with the CIA. Please.....

    October 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      No, we don't have to prove anything. And the truth, like the ruse that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, will come out eventually - and further damage the US government. However at some point the the citizens of the United States, and even the military, will no longer support foreign wars that have nothing to do with the security of the United States. Remember Dien Bien Phu and the Tet Offensive?

      October 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  12. Dave

    Boy, we sure are lucky that the Mexican drug cartel person that the Persians contacted to arrange this assassination just happened to be a DEA informant.

    Boom, baby!

    October 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  13. A Vet

    Gulf of Tonkin, v 6.0

    October 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Reply
  14. rex edie

    bob baer is the real deal.... he knows what is going on.... but ...god forbid anyone listen to someone like him....we'd have to face the truth.... with the "bs" excuses for afghanistan and iraq wearing thin.... the "military industrial complex" and the pentagon.... (the people who actually run the U.S. government ..not the president...senate...or congress... have got to find a new excuse to stay in business... to continue to bankrupt the country.... they couldnt care less about the american people....

    October 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Reply
    • Sagas

      "they couldnt care less about the american people...."
      You are right, the CIA should have left those terrorist to blow their target. Afterall, those targets are not inhabited by american people. American people sucks!

      October 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  15. Theend

    I can't believe that Clinton, Obama, etc. decided to go along with this ruse... It seems odd, desperate - and diminishes our credibility in the world... I wonder what is really going on? I watched a film clip of Clinton talking to the press about Iran on the internet today. She looked exhausted, her voice squeaked and she refused to make eye contact...

    October 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  16. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
    Is there no other way the world may live?” Dwight David Eisenhower

    October 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  17. Rick

    Do we really want to escalate the rhetoric with Iran to the point where the politicians have an excuse to invade yet another country? Iran is a flea. Let's stay focused on getting our own house in order and quit sending good money after bad in foreign wars.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Reply
  18. Kanoodle

    what the heck happened to obama, he has become a war mongerer

    October 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  19. wonderingwhy

    hmmm...most be getting closer to an election year here. Time for the ol' "look what the terrorist's tried to pull" schtick. Can't we just go back to good ol mud flinging and leave the wars and the rumors of wars until after elections? And it seems both sides like this tactic...nice, short attention spans with even shorter memory = placated population.

    baa..baa...baa...man this grass is tasty this time of year...baa...

    October 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  20. rex edie

    just for the record... im not the aforementioned "rex"..... how's this for a conspiracy theory..??? at the time of 911... the bin laden family were investors in a (war manufacturing company) called the "carslyle group".... coincidently ...bush senior was sitting as a "ceo" on the board of same..(the bush"s and bin laden's were tight for years ) (fact)
    so ...you want a return on your investment... you need to sell more weapons and make some money.... but there's nothing going on..... bin laden's folks say.... hey Osama..!! why dont you get a couple of your "batsht crazy" radical muslim followers to do a little job for Allah...?? (we know that 19 of the 911 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia ) "fly airplanes into the WTC... that will give us an excuse... since americans act before they think.... Cheney will have the CIA dummy up some info....and we'll blame it on Iraq... until we can find a better excuse..... (ever wonder why bush had that "dumb...i cant believe they actually did it look on his face" when he was trying to read the children's primer to the class...???? just a thought... but at this point....we now know how many lies they've shoveled on us....
    so...maybe its possible..

    October 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  21. James

    II don't think Iran has anything to do with this plot. This country is supposed to be run by white people, unfortunately it is completely controlled by the other white folks known as Jews.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  22. Annexian

    Again I'll say "False Flag"...

    The Saudis could get another ambassador as easily as order their Filipino slave to change their toilet paper, or rather have them beaten if it wasn't replaced before it could conceivably be empty. Iran would have to know that. And just like Israel, they could easily murder them in Dubai.

    IMO, this is just a weakling "False Flag" to justify an "Iran War". A real "False Flag" would discredit the government too bad right now. But the "Globalist Bankers" who start wars to profit are now so greedy they can't rest a decade between major events... Looks like they even have the Shah's son ready to be a puppet prince.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  23. Voiceinthewind

    Sounds like America and Da Zionist Jooz have cooked up another scheme to make Iran look bad when in reality its Da Zionist Jooz that are affraid that Iran will or has The Nuke to get rid of Da Jooz. So they pay thier lobbiest to get American Poli-tickers to go along with the plot to make Iran the bad guys. This right wing lunatic fringe controlled media will print whatever it can to try to get rid of anything or antone that is a threat to thier onging Ethnic Cleansing of the Plaestinian People and take thier land and homes from them out of sheer Greed. Don't go for this BS people and don't look at Iran look at America and Da Zionist Jooz, because they are behind this fiasco too!

    October 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      "...And how many deaths will it take till we know, that too many people have died? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

      October 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  24. SoldierOfFortunes

    What if all this is a mirage to actions that USA agreed upon in the late 1960's...with England and Saudia Arabia too...
    Iran must have carnal knowledge of this " event " that is a secret England and Saudia Arabia do NOT want you to know
    Oh what countries will do for money...or trangressions that occured with a care package about 9 months later...lol...

    October 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  25. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    This is classic CIA behavior right before budget time. Lots of pr put out ~ high level bad guys captured. Need more money all around. Once upon a time the CIA itself would have wacked an occasional ally just for the pr.
    This story does not even read right. The US ambassador is a nothing, he is not even a 20th tier royal. Not much more than a store mannequin to prop by the embassy door. The loose cannon Mexican drug wackos ~ who are all connected to the Mexican government at the hip ~ are a lot of things-but paid assassins?
    This one is way up on the stink factor scale.
    Dear CIA ~ prop up the storyline by having the Iranians offer to launder drug money cheaper than Wall Street.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Reply
    • shibu Lekshman

      Love your reply man.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  26. shibu Lekshman

    Exactly the questions i had in my mind. Who the hell cares about this Saudi ambassador to USA? I have not even heard of him before. Sounds like Bush all over again. (WMD WMD where are you?) What better than a distraction of war to take the attention of problems at home. right? People with power no matter where they are usually only have one motive, and one motive only it is to keep their power.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  27. ACord

    How did people not see this one coming? What two countries surround Iran? Afghanistan and Iraq?

    But the nation is broke, many of us have no faith in the word of our government, and I think we are tired of conflict, so it doesn't really matter if it's true or not.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  28. Ali F

    Bob Baer had the best assessment based on the available information up to now. I think the operation was meant to fail so the hardliners would stop any initiative to open a dialogue between US and Iran as Admiral Mullen suggested few weeks ago and it was welcomed by Ahmadinejad. The opening of communication line between the two governments was strongly opposed by Irans's Defense Minister later. President Obama should tackle our real enemies(high unemployment, bad economy and popular discontent of the existing political bickering in Washington DC) and instead he has started the blame game now. I believe that Iranian government is capable of carrying out polical assisinations abroad as it had done before, but to find someone who was arrested in Texas for theft 10 years as the mastermind of killing an ambassador, it seems a bit farfatched.

    October 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  29. James

    I do not claim to know the answer but if what the government is saying is a real state sponsored threat, then I would expect Saudi Arabia and Israel to take action against Iran. So far nothing. In addition the United States would want to clamp down harder at the border to America. Again nothing to that effect. I think we have a crazy that the FBI caught. Certain elements in the government want to hype it for other reasons.

    October 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Reply
    • Theend

      No, it's like "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf"....

      October 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  30. Anon

    Elaine I'd like to make angry love to you. Women like you never admit they're being a bid girl until you give them an orgsm.

    October 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Reply
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