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Experts Highly Skeptical of ‘Iran Terror Plot’ Allegations

October 13, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Middle East with 0 Comments

There is much skepticism surrounding the allegedly foiled Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat on U.S. soil.

Experts are lining up to express their doubts about the veracity of the claim that Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American, and Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran’s elite Quds Force, were preparing to assassinate Abdel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, at his favorite Washington restaurant. The assassination conspiracy allegedly involved the Iranian government and/or military as well as a Mexican drug cartel. In addition to blowing up al-Jubeir, the plot also allegedly involved bombing the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. and possibly targets in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The plot, said FBI director Robert Mueller, “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, said: “The idea that they [Iran] would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador? Nobody could make that up, right?”

Well, perhaps, but… “We spent the day here trying to figure this one out, and it just doesn’t make any sense,” Ken Gude, managing director for national security at the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy group, told the Huffington Post. “It doesn’t mean it isn’t true,” he added. “Strange things do happen.”

“It’s impossible for them to not know that bank transactions over $10,000 are monitored and recorded. I mean, you know that if you watch TV! This is like it was intentionally not secret — it just seems extremely unsophisticated.”

“It’s hard to put together anything from a strategic perspective reason of why they would do it. And then when you look at the operational aspects of it, it’s just so clumsy and Keystone-Kops-esque, it’s really hard to figure. I think a lot of people have been raising a lot of justifiable questions.”

“The amateurish nature of this plot is shocking, and its audacity is shocking,” Vali Nasr, an Iranian-American who formerly served in Obama’s State Department, told the Huffington Post. “I thought that given the pattern of behavior of the Quds Force that if this is indeed true this would be a far more sophisticated operation than using a dilettante used car salesman as a go-between with a Mexican cartel.”

“Second, the audacity to escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia in such a brazen way, and then to try to get the United States involved in the middle of regional issues, is nothing you would assume Iran would do.”

Former CIA agent Bob Baer expressed his doubts to CNN:

“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.”

And Gary Sick, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and a former national security adviser to presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, wrote:

“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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