Saudis sponsor covert action against Iran?

The governments of Saudi Arabia and the US are working with other Middle East states to sponsor covert action against Iran, according to a report in the May edition of The Atlantic. The report also suggests that covert attacks are planned against Iran’s oil sector. David Samuels, in a lengthy article on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East, reports that the US is promoting the direct action campaign against Iran.

Last fall, he writes, “Rice and her colleagues in the administration decided to embark on a daring and risky third course: a coordinated campaign, directed with the help of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates… The bill for the covert part of this activity, which has involved funding sectarian political movements and paramilitary groups in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, is said to amount to more than $300 million. It is being paid by Saudi Arabia and other concerned Gulf states, for whom the combination of a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq and a nuclear-armed Iran means trouble.”

Samuels suggests Iran has already faced a variety of internal attacks as a consequence of this covert program: “They pointed to an upsurge in antigovernment guerrilla activity inside Iran, including a bomb in Zahedan, the economic center of the province of Baluchistan, that killed 11 soldiers in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on February 14; the mysterious death of the Iranian scientist Ardashir Hosseinpour, who worked on uranium enrichment at the Isfahan nuclear facility; and the defection of a high-ranking Iranian general named Ali Asgari, a former deputy minister of defense who was also the Revolutionary Guard officer responsible for training and supplying Hezbollah during its war against the Israelis in southern Lebanon in the 1980s.”

Samuels warns that these covert actions may soon target Iran’s petroleum sector. “People focus altogether on the nuclear facilities and how difficult they would be to take out,” he quotes former Secretary of State George Shultz as saying. “But it’s not difficult for somebody to sabotage those refineries.”

Samuels’ report echoes an earlier story by the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh. “The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said,” he wrote in the March 5 article.

Samuels full report is available to subscribers at The Atlantic‘s website. (Raw Story, May 11)

See our last posts on Iran, destabilization and Baluchistan, and Saudi Arabia.

  1. Iranian “defector” found dead in Israel?
    Ali Reza Asgari, the disappeared Iranian deputy defense minister, has apparently turned up dead in Israel. Media reports in the Middle East indicate that he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Turkey, brought to Israel via the US Air base at Incirlik, interrogated for three years and finally died (suicide or Mossad assassination) in an Israeli prison. Iran is calling upon the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate, and rejected reports that Asgari had “defected.” (MondoWeiss, Jan. 11; Tehran Times, Jan. 8)