Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador, was said to be the target
of an assassination plot involving a Mexican drug cartel.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday sought to reconcile what it said was solid evidence of an Iranian plot to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States with a wave of puzzlement and skepticism from some foreign leaders and outside experts.
Senior American officials themselves were struggling to explain why the Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, would orchestrate such a risky attack in so amateurish a manner.
The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, would not go further than to say the plot “clearly involved senior levels of the Quds Force.” But other American officials, armed with evidence such as bank transfers and intercepted telephone calls and with knowledge of how the covert unit operated in the past, said they believed that Iran’s senior leaders were likely complicit in the plot.
“It would be our assessment that this kind of operation would have been discussed at the highest levels of the regime,” said a senior American official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the government’s analysis.
American officials offered no specific evidence linking the plot to Iran’s most senior leaders. But they said it was inconceivable in Iran’s hierarchy that the leader of the shadowy Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, was not directly involved, and that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was not aware of such a plan.