The official version of the foiled Saudi diplomat’s assassination sounds too convoluted to be true — and many skeptics have pointed to inconsistencies and holes in the plot to suggest that the U.S. government is using the incident as an excuse to further isolate Iran.
The government’s account of the events sounds more like a movie plot than an actual event: “U.S. officials have described it as a remarkably clumsy but deadly serious operation by Iran’s elite foreign action unit, the Quds Force. Two men were charged in New York federal court Tuesday for allegedly trying to hire a purported Mexican drug cartel member to carry out the assassination with a bomb attack.” The U.S. government insists it has solid evidence that the Iranian government was complicit in the plot.
Despite Iran’s denials, President Obama and other top officials have placed the blame for the attack on Iran,vowing to hold Iran accountable and impose more sanctions. “We believe that even if at the highest levels there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity,” Obama said.
The president and others have been vague about their proof that Iran was behind the attack, and anonymous U.S. officials and foreign policy experts have admitted that the plot does not make much sense and that the evidence is spotty. Additionally, the alleged mastermind behind the plot is a used-car salesman without apparent experience, intelligence, or motive.
Even though these factors should raise suspicions, Vice President Joe Biden said that “nothing has been taken off the table” in terms of America’s possible response to the alleged plot.
Not everyone is as willing to accept the government’s version and condone their reaction without learning more evidence. Glenn Greenwald wrote that people have been too quick to blindly accept the government’s account of the events while ignoring problems with the story. Furthermore, even if the government has conclusive evidence supporting its claims, the reaction to the plot has been hypocritical given the United States’ penchant for committing assassinations in other countries, often with “collateral damage.” He raises the recent instances of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which was carried out without the permission of Pakistan, and the questionable killing of Anwar Awlaki on Yemeni soil.
The ironies here are so self-evident it’s hard to work up the energy to point them out. Outside of Pentagon reporters, Washington Post Editorial Page Editors, and Brookings “scholars,” is there a person on the planet anywhere who can listen with a straight face as drone-addicted U.S. Government officials righteously condemn the evil, illegal act of entering another country to commit an assassination? Does anyone, for instance, have any interest in finding out who is responsible for the spate of serial murders aimed at Iran’s nuclear scientists? Wouldn’t people professing to be so outraged by the idea of entering another country to engage in assassination be eager to get to the bottom of that?
Other people believe the government’s assertion that Iran is to blame, and they are pushing for more severe punishments. The neoconservative Heritage Foundation reacted with their typical reasoned argument, even though no one was injured in the clumsy incident:
By brazenly planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador — an act of war — the Iranian regime has raised uncomfortable questions about whether a nuclear Iran could be contained or deterred. Even if one chooses to interpret the assassination attempt as a rogue operation, as many apologists for Iran are sure to do, it is the Revolutionary Guards that will have their fingers on the nuclear trigger by virtue of their control over Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The Obama Administration could potentially take drastic measures and use the incident as an excuse to exercise military force against Iran. But if we learned anything from the costly Iraq War, it should be that Americans must demand evidence and explanations from the government before rushing into an armed conflict.