October 13, 2011
You couldn’t make it up. An Iranian-American paying $1.5m to Mexican drugs gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, and all at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps back in Tehran. All we needed was a beautiful blonde to entrap the Arab and Jason Bourne to rescue him from certain death and the scenario would be complete.
But is it made up? It’s not impossible that it is true. Stranger things have happened in the netherworld of Middle East terrorism. And Iran, or at least elements in it, such as the Revolutionary Guard, has form for violence abroad. There is still the suspicion that it was Tehran who paid Libya to carry out the Lockerbie bombing in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian arliner by the USS Vincennes in 1988.
Yet, to go around hiring Mexican hitmen to carry out a diplomatic assassination in the US capital is so hare-brained and so ridiculously amateurish that it beggars belief that a people as sophisticated as the Iranians would try it. Tehran has little time for Saudi Arabia, and vice versa, but the oil kingdom is far too rich and far too well-connected internationally to risk outright conflict with. Even during the Saudi-backed suppression of the demonstrations in Bahrain, Tehran’s government kept its distance.
Nor, at this moment, would Tehran see it in its interests to risk an open bust-up with Washington by killing the representative of its closest Arab ally on US soil. It’s not the way the Iranian government operates. It likes to tease its opponents, divide its enemies, but on the whole it avoids direct confrontation abroad. If Tehran is now so emphatic in its denial it may well be because it is genuinely outraged at the idea.