The alleged Iran plot to hire hitmen from a Mexican drug gang to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., represents a significant escalation of the battle between Iran and the West.
It is also a reminder of Washington’s cloak-and-dagger history, The Washington Post reported.
The plot, coming on the heels of a threat by an Iranian admiral to send naval ships to patrol off American’s shores, was viewed as out of character and unusually bold.
“To my mind, it reeks of desperation,” Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, told the Post. “It suggests to me that they are feeling cornered.”
Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East and author of several books on Iran, suggested the plot was a sign of deterioration. “Maybe things have really fallen apart in Tehran, or maybe there’s a radical group that wants to stir up the pot,” he said, according to the Post. “But the Quds are better than this. If they wanted to come after you, you’d be dead already.”
However, administration officials believe the plot involved the highest levels of the Iran government. “The United States does not need new reasons to have serious concerns about the Quds force,” a senior administration official told the Post. “But this plot on U.S. soil is a dangerous escalation, and we consider it a flagrant violation of international law.”
For its part, Iran has charged the United States and Israel are involved in the deaths of scientists working on the country’s nuclear program.
In recent years four scientists have been killed by gunshots, bombs, and poison, and Iran’s nuclear program was also damaged by the computer worm Stuxnet, the Post reported.
Regardless, Washington is no stranger to politically motivated killings. In 1941 former KGB agent Walter Germanovich Krivitsky was found dead in Washington’s Bellevue Hotel, and in 1976, agents of Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet used a car bomb to kill diplomat Marcos Orlando Letelier del Solar and an aide.
In 1954, five members of Congress were wounded when Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on the House chamber from the overhanging ladies’ gallery.
“You can’t spin in Washington without hitting somebody who is in the espionage business,” Mark Stout, historian at the International Spy Museum, told the Post. “But it’s unusual that foreign intelligence services that try and kill people here.”
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