The Iran-cartel scandal: Who dreamed this up?

Mistakes were madeBack in the antediluvian days of the Reagan administration, the Iran-Contra scandal brought together a bizarre accumulation of bedfellows, as if the invite list for a bar mitzvah got crossed with one for an orgy.  There were mullahs, neo-cons, Nicaraguan rebels, a National Security Adviser landing in Teheran with a cake, secretaries with secret files under their skirts, and many more.   Now we have a new scandal with a similar Keystone cops array of participants: mullahs (again) hiring Mexican drug cartels to kill the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil.

Gary Sick, who knows Iran rather better than most Americans, questions the whole thing. He’s worth quoting in almost-full:

[T]his plot, if true, departs from all known Iranian policies and procedures.

To be sure, Iran has plenty of reasons to be angry at both the United States and Saudi Arabia. They attribute the recent wave of assassinations of physics professors and students, as well as the intrusion of the Stuxnet worm, to the US and Israel. And the king of Saudi Arabia is reliably reported to have called for the US to bomb Iran.
Iran has reportedly been involved in past assassinations in Europe and bombings in Argentina and elsewhere. But the assassinations were of Iranian counter-revolutionaries in the 1980s, and the bombings were always carried out by trusted proxies — normally a branch of Hezbollah. Iran’s fingerprints were always concealed beneath one or more layers of disguise.

Iran has never conducted — or apparently even attempted — an assassination or a bombing inside the US. And it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions. In this instance, they allegedly relied on at least one amateur and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and US intelligence agents. …
Perhaps this operation is just as it appears. But at a minimum both the public and the Congress should demand more detailed evidence before taking any rash or irreversible action. If Iran is really as stupid and as incompetent as this case implies, then perhaps they are their own worst enemy and not the clever and determined adversary that they are made out to be.

Pepe Escobar also finds it seems less like a plot than a two-page treatment:

FBI Director Robert Mueller insisted the Iran-masterminded terror plot “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script”. It does. And quite a sloppy script at that.

The American public has plenty of credulity, way more than American intelligence has imagination.  One’s conspiratorial sensors swell: perhaps it’s a huge act of disinformation by the Iranian government — or even the drug lords — to leave the U.S. embarrassed at the end.  Juan Cole, meanwhile, suggests a Byzantine explanation: two drug cartels wrote the story. Iranian drug networks are powerful and have financial ties to the octopian business interest of the para-statal Revolutionary Guards.

If a rogue Iranian drug cartel… wanted to hit the Saudi ambassador, then  it would be natural for them to reach out to their counterparts, the Zetas in Mexico. Whereas if the Iranian state wanted to assassinate someone, it would be crazy for them to reveal themselves to a Mexican gangster.

So why hit the Saudis? If it was an Iranian cartel, they might be annoyed with the Saudi version of the war on drugs. After all, some of their colleagues may have gotten caught in the dragnet. Or they might be angered that Saudi-backed Sunni militant gangs in Iraq and Syria have grabbed smuggling routes, cutting out the Iranians.