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Dr. Ian Lustick
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania
· Author of Trapped in the War on Terror
· Consultant on Middle East affairs and national security for every White House administration since President Carter
“U.S. security and law enforcement agencies should be congratulated on thwarting the alleged attempt by an Iranian security service to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. One motive for the plot is clear. Saudi Arabia is Iran's most potent antagonist in the Muslim Middle East. But what is not well appreciated is that another crucial target of the attack was the Saudi-U.S. relationship.
“The U.S. has used Saudi Arabia as a platform to foster change in Iran via subversion, information campaigns and military pressure. By murdering the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil, the Quds force in Iran, who apparently was behind the plot, hoped to provoke Saudi anger and distrust against the U.S. and further damage a relationship that is already under considerable strain as a result of American opposition to the Palestinian statehood initiative at the United Nations.
“Old Middle East hands will feel, vaguely, as if they've ‘seen this movie before.’ In 1954 one Israeli security service launched what is known in Israel as ‘the security mishap,’ a bungled attempt to attack the U.S. cultural center in Cairo and firebomb a theater frequented by Americans in order to sabotage a budding alliance between the United States and Egypt. In Israel the political fallout, known as ‘the Lavon Affair,’ lasted for a decade as those who carried out the attack framed some higher-ups for giving the order and sought to shield others. This was a night-of-the-long-knives that lasted almost a decade and helped push David Ben-Gurion into the political wilderness. We may see the same thing begin to happen in Iran.”