October 13th, 2011
08:30 AM ET

Iran's leaders would not have approved alleged plot

Editor's Note: Geneive Abdo is the Director of the Iran Program at The Century Foundation.

By Geneive Abdo - Special to CNN

Even if it turns out that rogue agents within Iran’s Quds Force were behind the foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi and Israeli ambassadors in Washington, it is still highly unlikely that Iran’s political leaders were behind this amateurish scheme.

Despite U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement two days ago that the two Iranian suspects behind the plot were “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government, and specifically, senior members of the Quds Force,” the United States government still has not made the link between the plot and either President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Why? Because it is highly unlikely any of Iran’s top political leaders would be involved in such a foolish – not to mention completely counterproductive – attempt to commit violence on U.S. soil. Simply put, this is not how Iran conducts its foreign policy.

When it comes to the United States and Israel, Iran’s political leaders remain in varying degrees of fear of a military attack. This plot, if successful, would have been a declaration of war – an act Iran would never initiate. The only significant cooperation Iran has shown over the last decade on its nuclear program, for example, was in 2003 when the country’s leaders thought the United States planned to bomb Tehran after Baghdad.

One theory being advanced by some in Washington is that Iran’s escalating tensions with Saudi Arabia, particularly in the wake of the Arab uprisings, is behind the plot. But this idea also seems implausible. If Iran wished to confront Saudi Arabia, it could do so over the Saudi’s intervention in Bahrain, a country where the majority of people are Shiite Muslims. But despite the Saudi’s March invasion, in which thousands of troops entered the tiny kingdom to crush an uprising being waged predominately by the Shias, Iran has remained on the sidelines.

The Saudis have made it clear in the diplomatic public sparring with Iran that any move against it would unleash the entire force of the other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Thus, Iran would be forced to face the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. With all of this at risk, does it make sense to assassinate two ambassadors and kill an unknown number of Americans in Washington DC?

In all the alarm sweeping the country, particularly in Washington, it is important for Americans to understand that Iran’s political and military apparatus is just as complicated as that of most countries. The Quds is a professional force which is highly specialized. It has a history of having the most sophisticated terrorism experts. Its commanders are directly under the command of Supreme Leader Khamenei, who has emerged more powerful than ever after a protracted power struggle with President Ahmadinejad and the rogue political faction he leads.

The only possible explanation – if indeed the Quds Force were involved in this plot – is that rogue agents decided to take Iranian foreign policy into their own hands. Such renegades should not serve as an excuse for military action against Iran or to punish Iran’s political leaders for a plot that they most likely did not concoct.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Geneive Abdo.

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Topics: Foreign Policy • Iran • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    If this were the case, Iran should openly demonstrate its will and readiness to investigate. It could't just take knowledge of this allegation and condone the plot. The theologues had summoned the Swiss ambassador to Iran, America's representative in Tehran and affirmed its innocence. But it wasn"t enough to calm the world down.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:21 am | Reply
  2. Thinker23

    The very same arguments the author used to support his claim that Iranian leaders "would not have approved" the terrorist act could be used to "prove" a claim that the leaders of Taliban "would not have approved" the 9/11 attack. They did.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • eville_11

      good point, and you wonder had the plot been succesfull would the Iranians take credit?

      October 14, 2011 at 6:34 am | Reply
  3. Thinker23

    It is up to the US to show evidence to support its case. I believe that it would be extremely unlikely for the US to make such allegations without convincing evidence supporting them. It's the credicility of the US Government that is at stake here.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:58 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Of course there's no smoke without fire, we outsiders don't know the truth. Indeed the Obama-Administration has to get to the bottom of this affair, not only for the sake of its credibility and also the international stability.

      October 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | Reply
  4. Rz

    If I understand this all correctly, the intended target was a Saudi national, correct? Sure, there may have been collateral damage, and yes, it would have taken place on US soil, but if the prime minister of Canada was assassinated in a CIA plot in China let's say in a make it look like a plane crash scenario) , should China take it as an "Act of War" by the us against China? After all, it was the Canadian that was the political target. So in the case where a Saudi national was the target of an alleged Iranian plot, shouldn't Saudi Arabia be more inclined to deem it an "Act of War" rather than the US?

    October 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  5. Jule

    Another CIA old trick?

    October 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  6. Tony

    USA is lying....we are merely going for our interests here which would be war for Iran. We will say anything to get that, even if this story isn't credible.

    October 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • Daniel

      Quite true Tony, quite true but the people who post here to support the U.S. position are only proving just how easily they can be brainwashed by this government. Brainwashing has been around since the 1930's when Josef Goebbels said, If one repeats a lie often enough, people will start to believe it. Sadly enough, it's only too true here in America!!!

      October 14, 2011 at 10:29 am | Reply
  7. Onesmallvoice

    Of course the Iranians never contrived such a plot. This was done by the right-wing thugs in Washington in order to get peoples' minds off the sorry state of our national economy. Unfortunately, there are too many people in this country who are ignorant enough to believe what our lying government says and I find that quite nauseating!!! Then again, Iran is the forth largest producer of petroleum in the world and the right-wing thugs in Washington covet that very much!!!

    October 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
    • eville_11

      yah, Hilliary is a right wing thug.

      October 14, 2011 at 6:35 am | Reply
  8. Hardluck

    I expect the United States government to secure "confessions". Torture and drugs seem to be the new operative for US "security forces".

    October 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  9. Sunny

    Ahmadinejad's power and position is quite different from Khamenei's since he cannot order gaurds or Quds forces to do anything but supreme leader is commander in chief and all military forces are under his supervision so I can't understand why you want to show both of them didn't know about the plot or both of them knew? if supreme leader didn't know what was the motivation of this assasination? that guy is crazy or US is just lying and there wasn't such a plot?

    October 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  10. johnyanybody

    STOP STOP STOP! PLEASE EVERYONE JUST CALM DOWN! Honestly here is the truth about why this plot seems to be a bad made up cover story by the US, Mossad, both or Eric Holder and Obama for whatever reason; people who know the world of international black ops agencies, know that this is not any way Quds Force, if the Iranians really wanted this non sigifigent Saudi national dead, then he would be dead and there wouldn't be a sherd of evidence pointing or leading to Iran.

    They the Quds or Savama would not use a dizzy Jerry Lewis of a used car salesman or plot and contract Mexican drug cartels to then blow up restaurant killing this noon significant Saudi and killing scores of Americans along with him,LOL i mean come on, its laughable!

    And to gain what? There is nothing to be gained by Iran in this so called plot! Something definitely doesn't smell rite about any of this.

    October 14, 2011 at 1:00 am | Reply
  11. mina

    Iran is a terrorist state and perfectly would do such thing and it would be by the order of Khamenei, his son and Quads Forces are in assassination of Iranian opposition in Iran and abroad. Iran has founded Hamas and Hezbollah, all the kidnapping and terror come from Iran. About 20 years ago they blow up a restaurant in Germany to kill their opposition just look for the Mykonos restaurant assassinations
    Road side bombs are made in Iran, killing American soldiers. this author and some others are tied to Iranian regime lobby, truth prevails

    October 14, 2011 at 1:36 am | Reply
  12. yogi-one

    The run-up to Gulf War III; Iran has begun. After FOX, The New York Times, and the all the major news networks jump on the bandwagon, trumpet blatantly wrong and false disinformation, and call some schmuck Pentagon fall-guy to make a speech based on false intelligence to the UN, it's all over.

    We have seen this all before. It will be no different this time.

    The US hasn't been able to get the Caspian Sea oil by any other shifty means yet. My money says we'll bomb and march our way in and take the damn oilfields at nuclear gunpoint.

    I give it five years max. You wait and see.

    October 14, 2011 at 2:51 am | Reply
  13. Turbulancs

    The Iranian regime as whole has brutal repression inside the country and terrorisom outside Iran. For the last 34 years this regime has arrested, imprisoned, tortured and executed hundreds of thousands of Iranians in Iran and used assasins to kill oppenets outside Iran. They have assasinated Dr Shahpour Bakhtiar ex priminster in Paris, Dr Ghasumloo the Kurdish leader in Germaney, Ferydoon Frokhzad a very famous singer in USA, Profesor Khazem Rajavi in Swistzeland just to name a few. I am sure this is the work of the Iranian leadership.

    October 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  14. TowelHeadsAreMorons

    Why? Because Iranians are P_ssies!

    October 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  15. Farhood

    It is very obvious that the aim of the writer of the above article is not clarifying the politics of Mullah’s regime.

    But his aim is clearly to show the murderous regime of mullahs whose finger prints of murders of Iranian people inside and outside of Iran and American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are every day across the world.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  16. Farhood

    It is very obvious that the aim of the writer of the above article is not clarifying the politics of Mullah’s regime.

    But his aim is clearly not to show the murderous regime of mullahs whose finger prints of murders of Iranian people inside and outside of Iran and American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are every day across the world.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  17. Farhood

    It is very obvious that the aim of the writer of the above article is not clarifying the politics of Mullah’s regime.

    But his aim is clearly not to show the true nature of the murderous regime of mullahs whose finger prints of murders of Iranian people ( inside and outside of Iran) and the American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are apparent to everyone across the world..

    What only remains, it appears to be more concessions to Mullah’ Regime and to its leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply

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