Editor’s Note: In an interview with SPIEGEL, Kenneth Pollack comments on the alleged Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the United States. According to Pollack, Iran’s leaders may have been spurred on by a weak U.S. economy and troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan.
SPIEGEL: All of Washington is shaking their heads over the alleged Iranian murder conspiracy against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. Even U.S. officials said it seems like a Hollywood film. Does the scenario make sense to you?
Kenneth Pollack: It seems quite remarkable, even outlandish. Given the graveness of the charges and the outlandishness of the story, we want to view it with some skepticism. We should also keep in mind that the Iranian government gets blamed for lots of things, not all of which it does, and the United States government makes lots of claims, not all of which prove to be accurate.
SPIEGEL: President Barack Obama doesn’t seem at all uncertain. On the contrary, he seems rather determined in his efforts to punish Iran with tough sanctions. He has also said that all options are on the table, which is an indirect military threat.
Pollack: This is the Obama administration, not the Bush administration, and they realized that the whole world was going to be skeptical after the revelations about the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. They’re doing this from a law enforcement perspective, so these are not intelligence claims. These are American law enforcement officials saying, ‘We have evidence,’ and the evidence that they claim to have seems to be fairly impressive.
SPIEGEL: Still a number of questions remain unanswered. Does the US.. government know more than the rest of the world?
Pollack: Probably. We have not seen the records of the wire transfer, and I’m certainly not privy to whatever they have in terms of the phone calls. They’re just saying that they have these things, and again, I don’t doubt that they do. They don’t make these claims unless they have evidence that will stand up in a court of law.
This is what opaque, unaccountable, monarchic rule looks like. The way this was done is not a way that gives any transparency. If you’re another senior prince or another senior businessman, you don’t know what you can do to avoid a similar fate.
I think there are a number of analysts that say it might be the very uncritical support [from] Trump that may have emboldened the Saudis and Emirates to believe they could pursue this argument with the Qataris with American support or at least acquiescence.