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BLITZER'S BLOG: Why would Iran target Saudi ambassador?
Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir was targeted for assassination, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says.
October 12th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

BLITZER'S BLOG: Why would Iran target Saudi ambassador?

By CNN's Wolf Blitzer

(CNN) – Even if the Justice Department and the FBI are proved correct about their allegations against “elements” of the Iranian regime, we may still never know why they may have wanted to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, a man I’ve known for many years.

In late 2002, when he was national security adviser to then-Crown Prince (and now King) Abdullah, he was very helpful to CNN and me during our live coverage from the Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh. At the time, the U.S. military had 5,000 troops and dozens of warplanes based there as the Bush administration geared up for the invasion of Iraq.

In recent months, it’s been clear that Saudi-Iranian relations have collapsed, especially since the protests erupted in Bahrain. The Saudis actively support the Sunni-led leadership there; the Iranians support their fellow Shiites.

We also know that the Saudis are very worried about Iran’s nuclear program. Like the Israelis, they view Iran’s potential capability of delivering a nuclear weapon as a near-existential threat.

The Iranians flatly deny all the U.S. allegations. They insist that the Obama administration’s charges are “politically motivated.”

I assume we will learn exactly how much evidence the U.S. actually has in the coming weeks and months as the legal proceedings unfold in New York.

But until we get the full story, the question still remains: Why specifically target Adel al-Jubeir? What would the killing of the 49-year-old Saudi ambassador in Washington actually achieve for elements of the elite Iranian Quds Force?

I have two personal theories:

One is that they got wind of al-Jubeir’s very outspoken condemnations of the Iranian regime. In private conversations in Washington with members of Congress, State Department officials, scholars and journalists, he’s made his government’s views very clear, and they include strong attacks against Iran. He doesn’t mince his words.

My other theory is that the ambassador may have just been an unlucky pawn in this alleged plot. It’s certainly possible that there are unknown battles going on inside Iran between various factions that we don’t understand.

The alleged assassination plot against al-Jubeir and the other alleged attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington may have more to do with some complicated internal struggle under way inside Iran.

There have been many reports, for example, of serious tensions between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Grand Ayatollah. I don’t know enough about internal Iranian intrigue to have a good sense of this theory.

What I do know is this: If these allegations are proved correct – and they have not yet – the short- and long-term ramifications for the U.S., Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and indeed the region could be enormous.

What if the terror plot had succeeded?

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Filed under: Interviews • Iran • Terror • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Claudia

    This plot is just another load of yellow cake. And you Wolf are a Zionist shill trying to gain public support for Israel and or US to bomb Iran. The only people out there really trying to sell this are you, FOX, Zionists and neo-cons. Most of the world think this alleged plot stinks to high heaven. It barley passes the laugh test.

    October 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  2. onelife to live.

    I do believe on what the Iranians truly want besides testing the metal of the united states is to expand the shia cause that is practically in their front pockets and to subsequently forment unrest in the neighborhood which ironically produce oil which will put the countries under iranian hedgemonie subsequently bringing america the great satan to its knees by squeezing the amount of oil out there.

    October 13, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • bill ryals

      Why can't CNN get the real story here and ask the Saudi King what he plans to do about this? They have an army,navy and air force. What is their planned response....just sit by and do nothing about it? This has nothing to do with the US. Will the Saudi King ask the Kuwaiti Emir and other friends in the middle east to respond to Iraq or will they just talk abou it. We all need to know. Most's not our problem we will not respond or handle their issue for them.

      October 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Nevena

      stevieb The real problem is the Israel lobby and ZOG. It’s not a cpsoniracy theory. It’s a threat to the entire plane. You are absolutely right.Israel lobby is the root of all evil.They are the reason why USA cannot have rapprochement with Iran. They are the reason why USA has lost nearly 5ooo soldiers in Iraq.They are the reason why Israel can occupy Palestine by force.They are the reason why Israel can murder Palestinians with impunity.They are the reason why Israel can get away with murder.They are the reason why Israel can violate international law.They are the reason why Israel can violate UN resolutions without accountability.They are the reason why there is so much hatred against the USA.They are the reason why there will be no peace in Middle East.They are the reason why there will be a war against Iran.It is about time that we have a proper debate about the role of “Israel lobby” towards Iran in this forum.I would like to askBBen Katcher to help us in this regard.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  3. Angela callahan

    As hard as it may be for those who have voices in their heads... As much as I think the Feds are dangerous. One thing I am pretty sure about is they don't show their hand until it is ready.. So...... You can be pretty sure they have the goods. They don't like to look stupid .. They aren't ... So they don't come with it till they have it. We, the people, don't have any info on anything that matters while the back story is playing out, whatever you might think of these folks.. They know how to do what they do.. To Bachman... If Obama wasn't on the nuke thing then we most probably wouldn't' know about this insanity. If you have never known an Iranian, if you never even met a Muslim if your only info comes from the the voice in your head.. Try to look then. Learn something.. Read!!!!! Anything and everything an every side. Get a lot of information and think about it. Think please try to think... And come to conclusions that are rational

    October 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  4. Ian

    Iran very stupin, They do believe in them seft and not from Iran's President have a mind.... Because they love to do as so evil ..... LOL ... Crazy ever, thank you...

    October 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Occam Razor

    Folks remember my idea, it may be a wee bit old but it still holds water. I think Iran's problem is that they don't have a good Pub in their capital. It would be better for them to find a way to unwind a bit every day then to just get wound up so tight and at some point totally unravel.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  6. alien

    Trust noone but yourself. Trust your country and not your enemies and let's not forget US is an enemy in Iran's eye. We will need to wait for more details supporting this allegation, however, given Iran records in directly or indirectly killing Americans abroad, this allegation should not come as a surprise. Iran is going nuke Israel and US in a heartbeat if it is capable. US needs to stay on the offensive!

    October 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  7. Blogson

    The U.S., motivated by its alliance with Israel and very likely by oil company "donations" to their supporters' political campaigns, has been attempting to get rid of the Islamic Revolution's leaders ever since they evicted Western oil companies which had been exploiting Iran's resources. The U.S. blaming of Iran's government and its supporters for this supposed plot has the same hallmark as many of its other allegations about Iran. It would be very surprising if Iran's officials were involved in this as they know that the U.S. reaction potentially would be dangerous. If there was such a plot it may well have been contrived by an opposition faction, possibly with U.S. covert assistance, as a method for discrediting Iran's leadership as a pretext for the U.S. to engage in military action with the goal of "regime change" against Iran's existing ruling leadership.

    One of the pretexts for the U.S.invasion of Iraq was the false testimony of Chalabi and others about supposed WMDs with his major motivation to replace Iraq's government with one either which he would head or at least would be to his political and economic advantage. The supposed Iranian plot could be similar subterfuge by anti-government interests.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  8. StevensB

    To soon to tell about this story but ..... let's face it , the Iranian Gov't or regime or what ever is about as crazy as a loon so nothing should be surprising . Living in a border state , there have been many times this exact type of attack , using a cartel to either smuggle in terrorists or contract to carry out an attack , has been the discussion among people who live here !!!
    Surprised it hasn't happened sooner .

    October 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  9. Amir

    My theory is that this plot is actually is done by Saudis themselves. It is known( remember Wikilikes) that Saudis want USA to attack Iran for a long time so they have the basic motive for this beside they are now under internal unrest, something like this helps them to diverse their people attention to something else. So they wired some money (from iran ?) to that account so Iran seems guilty. Iranian are smart and never do something like this if they want to kill some one in USA.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  10. Patrick Bailey

    Maybe I am just a simple cynic; but the similarities of this story remind me of the Bush Administrations lies to invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Saddam is trying to buy yellow cake from Nigeria. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Now the US government, being encouraged by our great ally Israel, to pick a fight with another of Israel’s enemies, Iran. But they need to amp up the tensions a little bit. Not enough public opinion yet to support such an operation. So, they need to create another reason to go to war against another of Israel's enemies for the benefit of Israel. Now I am not saying Israel had anything to do with this, although it is clearly within the Mossaud's modality of operations. We probably would not go to war for Saudi Arabia, but we sure would for Israel.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  11. Steve

    Iranians are crazy but they aren't stupid. I can't see them planting bombs in the United States. It doesn't make sense.

    Would they really wire money instead of using a brief case?

    October 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  12. Cambob

    A war with Iran is necessary. They have oil. Anyone who thinks this isn't enough of a reason has not been paying attention to American military policy for the last 15 years.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  13. Fred

    Is this alleged plot coming from the same intelligence agency that was so sure we had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    Not buying it.. There's no motive.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  14. Guest

    The fact that Iran is increasing it's presence in central and south america should be of great concern.
    We must confront this regime without blowing our cover. They want to harm us, as it is part of their long term policy to establish hegemony in the gulf and the ME.
    I am not a big Arab fan, but I can see the animosity and comtempt with which the Iranians look at their Arab neighbors.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  15. Ahmed Kadhum

    Despite my desdain to the Iranian regime (being an Iraqi and witnessing how much damage Iran has caused Iraq), I truly believe this was made up. Why you may ask? Don't know, but the coming months will tell what's cooking...who knows...maybe this is because the sanctions have failed and now the US needs a different means to ramp up pressure on Iran.

    The world will be a much better place without three regimes: Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. I can't wait for the day these regimes fall.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  16. DR Wing

    Insane! There is no evidence and those that tell you there is are lying. Prove it. As Bush once said, "fool me once well shame, shame on you, fool me again... and ah, well, well you just can't fool me again". Actions being taken against Iran are unjustified unless the American people know the facts. This is a democracy after all.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Bill in VA

    Why indeed? Because he is not a member of the royal family, and most likely not even the principal voice of Saudi Arabia as it relates to US relations, he may have been viewed as an easier target. Just a guess of course

    October 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Bill Wimmer

    How does the 'all knowing' Peter King know that this plot was not cooked up by Al Qeada?? How can he possibly say this had to come from the very top of the Iranian Government?

    October 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Patrick

    Here comes again a drama from incompetent Holder and Obama. This is what they do when they want to divert our attentions from thier poor leadership.

    Poor Iran is chosen to be a victim.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • AlanSeago

      Patrick: How can you conclude that Pres. Obama and Atty. Gen. Holder are responsible for this allegation against Iran? If you're suggesting that we citizens shouldn't absolutely believe everything that everyone in the U.S. Government says, I absolutely agree with you. But we shouldn't immediately be convinced that everything our government says is a lie, either. Let's wait and see the evidence. This is going to be presented in a Federal court. Wait and see, then judge.

      October 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • tony

      And your proof of this is... what?

      October 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  20. MaryM

    To all you Conspiracy theorist, Have you watched the CNN inteviews regarding this plot?

    October 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  21. Joey

    I'm skeptical.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bad Dog

      Me too. This stinks. I have to doubt Mossad. Seems a little too obvious for them. And it's not Iranian, at least not the Iran we have all grown used to. But a plot like this just seems wrong. The Iranians are (a) cautious and (b) competent. This has all the appearance of a set-up meant to be discovered. There are a number of players including some local, homegrown kooks.

      October 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  22. John

    "they view Iran’s potential capability of delivering a nuclear weapon as a near-existential threat"

    What on earth does "existential" mean in this wretched sentence? Journalists take note: do not use hifalutin terms if you have not the faintest idea what they mean.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • RichardLSmith

      Spot on! And what the hey is up with the "short and long term" ramifications? A simple 'the ramifications' would have encompassed short and long and anything else in between. Is this excessive use of words designed to make the reporter sound more intelligent?

      October 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Mike

      An existential threat is one that threatens one's very existence.

      October 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • ronnyRaygun

      It's really very clear. They are afraid that a nuclear Iran will threaten the very existence of Saudi Arabia.

      It might be appropriate for a person attacking a journalist for correctly using a word to actually understand the meaning of that word. Sigh.....

      October 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • AlanSeago

      John: I believe they mean that an Iranian nuke would be a threat to the existence of Saudi Arabia.

      October 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  23. andreadealmagro

    It does not make any sense at all. Just a few days ago, Iran released two Americans who had been condemned to I don't know how many years in prison. If they were up to escalate tensions with the U.S. they would have publicly executed them .
    The whole thing is very bizarre and frankly, I don't know what to suspect more: If the Iranian government falling apart or our government falling apart.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • wonderwall

      Iran can't publicly do anything so evil as execute the American hikers. They would bring the wrath of someone -the UN. So they work in subtle ways, using agents to do their dirty work just as they did in Iraq. Wolf seems to be right in focusing on the tension between Ayotallah and Ahmadinjiad (sp). Even they don't know what the other hand is doing!

      October 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • tony

      I believe there may have been a ransom paid for their release... just a guess.

      October 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • roya1230

      It seems like our government is desperately looking for issues to divert our attentions from real problems

      October 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  24. Jeffery L Davis

    I must say that we as a country must not at this time start taking about any action towards Iran. They know we will take action in someway and at sometime. Just let them sweat!

    October 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  25. Frank

    I’ve known Jack (Manssor Arbabsiar) for several years. I’ve had business dealings with Jack before. Jack is no terrorist. Jack has been in a big financial bind for the past few years. Jack recently lost his home, investment properties which put him in a big financial bind. Jack is a real kind person. He would never hurt anyone in any manner. He might take advantage of a financial situation; as a matter of fact he took me for a few dollars. Also, recently about a year ago he lost a real dear friend who was like a brother to him. The dear friend was killed in an auto accident which involved the friend, friend son, friend’s ex-wife, and another passenger (in Portland Texas) I hope that the US thoroughly investigates this situation before doing something stupid with Iran. I think Jack acted as an individual in a scheme to make money for himself.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • roya1230

      I don't know this guy but he is not terrorist material!

      October 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  26. Louis Phillips

    When was the last time anyone accused these people, especially the extreme factions named here, of logical thought?

    October 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  27. John Hanna

    this is just BS from a losing political group trying to turn the attention away from that incompetent Holder. Why would a war hardened incursion force from Iran work with a used car salesman to hire a even less dependable killer for hire – and they almost always turn out to be cops.? Since they have probably served in Iraq and elsewhere why wouldn't they just do it?

    October 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  28. Scott Goodspeed

    "What I do know is this: if these allegations are proven correct – and they have not yet – the short and long-term ramifications for the U.S., Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and indeed the region could be enormous."

    Enormous? That's it? What are the short and long term ramifications for each of these countries? What will the US likely do? How would Saudi Arabia influence US reaction? What would Israel do? Journalists haven't just abandoned real analysis they don't even make predictions any more. Tell us what the likelihood of certain outcomes is.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  29. Yasmin Barrie

    As a journalist, I have reported on stories both here in the US and in Iran. I have just spent many months at a time in Iran and what is clear is the constant power struggle between Iran's revolutionary guard, Presidency and Supreme Leader. The Quds force has connections to both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, but the way the terror plot was carried does not seem like an official government sanctioned action, instead carried out by a rogue faction driven to carry out actions they believe would be for the good of Iran- just a theory.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Bad Dog

      But explain the internal logic of this. How could an action like this remotely benefit Iran or any faction in it? Doesn't make sense. This is a frame.

      October 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm |

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