Sputnik – A report published by the New York Times claims, Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year were planning to assassinate several Iranian officials, including the leader of the Quds Force of the IRGC*. Sputnik discussed this with Iranian diplomat Hossein Sheikholeslam and Middle East expert Hasan Royvaran.
The New York Times reported that Saudi Arabian intelligence officers “pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy” and “asked a small group of businessmen about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom.”
Diplomat Hossein Sheikholeslam, who at that time served as advisor to the head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told Sputnik that Saudi Arabia really did provide financial assistance to Iran’s opponents, and tried to “paralyze” the country.
“The Saudi prince was in a great hurry to become king. It appears that the crime that was committed in Turkey against the Saudi journalist (Jamal Khashoggi) has deprived him of a future. They repeatedly said that they would bring disruption to Iran and complicate the situation in Iran. All the statements of the Crown Prince were about this,” the official said.
Sheikholeslam further noted that “indeed, Saudi Arabia officially provides all kinds of assistance, including funding, to terrorist organizations including Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK, a left-wing radical opposition group in Iran). This organization, as well as Mossad, carried out several sabotages in Iran, not without the help and support of the Saudis. Their last terrorist attack was in Ahvaz. They themselves officially have declared that Iran needs to be paralyzed. It’s quite natural that the NYT article is not far from the truth.”
According to Middle East expert and political scientist Hasan Royvaran, the US wants to widen the gap between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He said that such publications are related to the killing of a Saudi journalist and the attitude of some congressmen in the US towards the Crown Prince. The expert also noted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has caused enormous damage to the Iranian economy through direct interference.
“I think this is related to the Khashoggi case. Media in the United States are divided into two groups. One group, which includes the New York Times, is against bin Salman and demands his resignation from the government. Some congressmen have the same position, stating that Mohammed bin Salman harms US national interests. Maybe for this reason, they raised this topic. As a resident of Iran, I believe in this (information) and perceive this not as propaganda against the Saudi prince, but as a reality, because after the first wave of American sanctions against Iran, many began to buy currency, which led to a decrease in the value of (Iran’s) national currency,” he said.
Royvaran also noted that Saudi Arabia has operatives inside Iran who are helping the Kingdom wage its economic war in order to destabilize the Islamic Republic, stressing that “the government of Iran set up special courts to deal with economic crime and in order to try those involved in operations in the financial sphere. There were trials held during which it became clear that [the defendants] had connections to foreign countries. And now we can conclude that Saudi Arabia may be one of their backers.”
“After the second wave of sanctions, despite the fact that they were stronger (than the first round), Iran did not experience an economic ‘shock’, which, along with the strengthening of the rial, surprised the United States. The dollar fell. During the first period of sanctions in Iran, over $20 billion was thrown into the market. People could not have so much cash, obviously there was some third party involved.”
The Middle East expert also told Sputnik that despite Saudi Kingdom’s intervention in the Iranian economy, he believes that the Saudis were unlikely to be involved in the plan to kill a high-ranking Iranian official.
“Regarding the fact that they developed a plan to assassinate General Qassim Suleimani, then, most likely, this is not true. We must be wary of US claims that Saudi Arabia is behind all this. It cannot be claimed with one hundred percent certainty that Mohammed bin Salman was involved, since the prolongation of the clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia is entirely in the interests of the United States,” the expert said.
He further stressed that Bin Salman demanded that OPEC cut oil production by 1 million barrels per day, which is “completely inconsistent with US policy.”
Royvaran concluded that “perhaps Bin Salman, with these demands, is looking for a rapprochement with Iran, and the United States by publishing such news, is seeking to increase the distance between Iran and the Saudi Kingdom. I think this can very well be the case, and one shouldn’t entirely believe all the news that is published in the American press.”
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
*IRGC — Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
*Quds Force of the IRGC — a special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard with 10,000 — 15,000 personnel, handling activities abroad.