By Mshari al-Zaydi, A Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsatâ€™s opinion page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.Â
What if Iranian officer Gholam Shakuri had succeeded; via his agents in assassinating the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, perhaps even blowing up the Saudi Arabian embassy there?
When it came time to point the finger I admit I wouldn’t have been surprised if Al Qaeda had carried out an operation such as this, not because I am prejudiced, but because the general context of such an attack, as well as the prevailing logic and the organizationâ€™s history, all support it carrying out such operations.
The Quds Force, commanded by General Qassem Suleimani, has had a hand in a series of operations and actions across the region, and has been dubbed the Iranian , as it is Tehran’s between the world of light and the world of darkness, or between the realm of countries and states, and that of groups. It is the illegitimate face of the Iranian regime, the gateway to terrorism and off-the-book â€œblackâ€ operations. The Quds Force is nothing more or less than the dark side of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As for General Suleimani, he is none other than the custodian of Iraqi politics and security, and he governs the country from somewhere on the Iranian â€“ Iraqi border. The Quds Force has an unmistakable presence in Baghdadâ€™s impenetrable Green Zone, via Iranian agents stationed there.
We can clearly see General Qassem Suleimaniâ€™s fingerprints in our region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Shiite militias in Iraq to the sleeper cells in the Gulf, the Huthi rebels in Yemen, and the loyalist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The danger of the foiled terrorist operation in Washington, which targeted the Saudi ambassador and embassy, is that Iran could easily have gotten away with this. Even more dangerous than this, is that this foiled terrorist operation raises a question that is nearly impossible to answer, namely: what other operations have the Quds Force â€“ or other Iranian intelligence apparatus â€“ carried out in the region which others have been blamed for? What about the assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi last May?
The mistake of Iranâ€™s agents in Washington was akin to a slipup made by a master thief who has grown complacent after the fourth or fifth successful burglary. For during the initial operations, the thief would be very careful and alert, but if he continued not to get caught, he might grow complacent or start to take greater risks, until he is caught.
Iran is not so dumb that it would seek to carry out an operation of this kind for the first time. There are two major issues that clearly explain why Iran would try this. Firstly, it is clear that the Iranian [intelligence] apparatus previously successfully carried out operations such as this â€“ worldwide â€“ that have not been traced back to it. Therefore, they laboured under the delusion that this operation would be like its predecessors. Secondly, and more importantly in my view, the Iranians have found themselves facing intense regional pressure, with their Syrian ally facing internal problems, the [Arab] Gulf victory in Bahrain, not to mention the Huthi setback in Yemen. Therefore, this assassination attempt was a desperate bid to turn the tables and preoccupy Saudi Arabia and the US with something new, by framing Al Qaeda for this operation.
In short, this failed operation uncovered what was hidden, exposed the language of lies and hypocrisy and revealed the truth of this confrontation.
Yes, a state of covert war exists between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the one hand and between Iran and the international community on the other, and I do not believe that the international community will allow Iran to capitalize on the regional vacuum and overrun the Middle East.
We have moved from one condition to another and so our policies, rhetoric and positions must reflect this. It is absolutely imperative that this happens, there is no other option.
One last word to those who promote the Iranian claim â€“ being repeated by the Muslim Brotherhood â€“ that this whole story is nothing more than a fabrication and a lie. Is the US â€“ which uncovered this plot via Justice Department â€“ a banana republic, like Syria, not possessing any oversight bodies able to uncover the most basic of lies?