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.