About Power & PolicyPower & Policy is a virtual forum for explaining and debating the exercise of American power in the world. The core participants are renowned Harvard Kennedy School faculty members and associates who have spent decades studying how power works.
Topics9/11 Afghanistan Al Qaeda American power Arab spring Belfer Center Bush China cyber Egypt Europe Fukushima Graham Allison Harvard Harvard Kennedy School Heineman Heinonen Iran Iraq Islam Israel Japan Libya Middle East military Muammar al-Gaddafi Mubarak Muslim Brotherhood NATO Nicholas Burns North Korea nuclear Nye Obama Osama bin Laden power Putin Qaddafi Russia Saudi Arabia security Syria terrorism Wikileaks Yemen
Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia
By Kayhan Barzegar This article was first published on December 17, 2012 in Persian by Tabnak The Arab Spring has resulted in a shift in the nature of Iran’s regional policy from a traditional “reconciliation and resistance” approach to a … Continue reading
By Kayhan Barzegar The Arab Spring can be seen as a turning point in the regional balance of power of the Middle East. Previously, the “balance of power” was determined at the level of classic players—the states—and therefore was easier. … Continue reading
By Francisco Martin-Rayo The recent attacks against U.S. embassies around the world, the murder of U.S. diplomats, and their associated hateful images, have shocked the American public and confounded policymakers. Although many Americans and academics have asked the question, “What changed?” … Continue reading
By Kayhan Barzegar Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, Tehran; Former Belfer Center Research Fellow in the Managing the Atom Project and International Security Program Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s trip to Iran for the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) … Continue reading
By Richard Clarke Listening to Iran’s president Ahmadinejad deny the Holocaust or claim 9-11 was a US plot, most people correctly regard him as a dangerous kook and a product of the corrupt political system that runs Iran. In addition … Continue reading
By Annie Tracy Samuel and Daniel L. Tavana
This commentary first appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s blog, Global Public Square, on cnn.com
Shortly after news broke of an alleged, failed “Iranian” plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., policymakers began campaigning for tough action against the Iranian government. House Speaker John Boehner called on President Obama to “hold Iran’s feet to the fire,” and Rep. Peter King urged the president to “respond forcefully to this grave provocation by Iran.” Senator Dianne Feinstein urged the administration to “explore whether there are other plots going on . . . in other countries.”
Such calls are based on the assumption that senior officials in the Iranian government sanctioned the alleged plot. That assumption, however, is not supported by the allegations laid out in the Department of Justice’s complaint or by past Iranian behavior.
As some analysts and experts have noted, very little is known about the circumstances surrounding the plot or the involvement of Iranian officials. The charges presented in the complaint — the claims the U.S. government believes it has enough evidence to prove in court — are a good place to begin.
The complaint charges two defendants, Mansour Arbabsiar and Ali Gholam Shakuri, with conspiracy to murder the Saudi Ambassador. It describes Arbabsiar as a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports and Shakuri as a member of the Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The vast majority of allegations made in the complaint are based on statements made by Arbabsiar after he was arrested and confessed to his participation in the plot.
Arbabsiar claims that Quds Force officials recruited, funded and directed him to carry out the assassination. He said those officials approved the use of and payments to the man hired to execute the plot, an associate of an international drug-trafficking cartel who turned out to be a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant. Arbabsiar also explained that when he was in Iran last spring, he met Ali Gholam Shakuri, the other defendant and alleged Quds Force deputy, and with his cousin, Abdul Reza Shahlai, whom he believed to be a “big general in [the] army” working “in other countries.”
The complaint documents recorded conversations between Arbabsiar and Shakuri, but includes no other evidence of a connection to the IRGC or other Iranian officials. Interestingly, it does not name or charge Arbabsiar’s cousin, Shahlai, leaving us to assume that there is only a weak link between him and the plot. The complaint does not allege that Arbabsiar works, or has worked, as an agent of the Quds Force or the Iranian government.
If we accept the charges made in the complaint and take Arbabsiar’s words at face-value, we know that two Quds Force officers unsuccessfully and sloppily arranged, through intermediaries they thought to be associates of a Mexican drug cartel, to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, D.C. There is no evidence in the complaint to support the claim that other elements of the Iranian government knew about, approved of, or ordered this plot. Continue reading
By Juliette Kayyem (This post first appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s blog on CNN.com, Global Public Square.) The announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder of the thwarted assassination attempt of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States by suspected Iranian agents is mesmerizing. … Continue reading