Saudi intelligence officials, close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed a plan to assassinate senior Iranian officials, including General Qassem Soleimani, according to a NYT report published on November 11th.
The outlet cited three unnamed sources familiar with the discussions. According to them, the discussions happened at a time when MbS was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the kingdom. If the rumors are true that means that top Saudi officials have been considering assassinations ever since the Crown Prince’s ascended to power.
The sources claimed that in March 2017, during a meeting in Riyadh aides to top intelligence official Ahmad al-Assiri asked businessmen about the feasibility of hiring private operatives to kill “Iranian enemies of Saudi Arabia.”
“The Saudis asked the businessmen whether they also ‘conducted kinetics’ – lethal operations – saying they were interested in killing senior Iranian officials. The businessmen hesitated, saying they would need to consult their lawyer,” the NYT reported.
“The lawyer flatly rejected the plan, and the businessmen told the Saudis they would not take part in any assassinations,” it added.
The meeting was allegedly organized by George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and convicted pedophile and close associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, arranged the meeting. He also reportedly pitched the plan to White House officials. Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies.
The NYT further reported that both Nader and Zamel are witnesses in the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors have allegedly asked them about their discussions with US and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal.
In 2016, a company owned by Mr. Zamel, Psy-Group, had pitched the Trump campaign on a social media manipulation plan as it became apparent from Rick Gates testimony.
Before he was ousted last month, General Assiri was considered one of Prince Mohammed’s closest advisers, a man whose sharp ascent tracked the rise of the young crown prince. He was released after the Kingdom acknowledged Khashoggi’s killing and said Assari had organized the operation. There is speculation that he was used as a scapegoat to take the blame for Khashoggi’s murder.
According to the NYT:
“Mr. Nader’s and Mr. Zamel’s plan dates to the beginning of 2016, when they started discussing an ambitious campaign of economic warfare against Iran similar to one waged by Israel and the United States during the past decade aimed at coercing Iran to end its nuclear program.”
Nader is also an adviser of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, which also portrays Iran as the primary threat to stability in the Middle East.
Reportedly, Nader and Zamel’s idea was rejected because, according to Assiri it would be too provocative and destabilizing. The Saudi General also allegedly wanted to get approval from the Trump administration before the Kingdom paid for the campaign.
However, Assiri’s closeness to the Crown Prince would also make it difficult to distance the allegedly planned assassinations from MbS.
The NYT also cited emails that it had procured emails from a business associated of Nador. According to them, he sometimes referred to conversations with MbS about other projects he had discussed with Assiri.
“Had a truly magnificent meeting with M.B.S.,” Mr. Nader wrote in early 2017, discussing possible Saudi contracts. The crown prince, he said, had advised him to “review it and discuss it with General Ahmed.”
This is all a rumor, and nothing has been confirmed by any side in the story.
However, seeing how the Kingdom managed to come out completely unscathed from the Khashoggi debacle, killing several Iranian officials who are being portrayed as the enemy by the US and Israel would likely not even get Saudi Arabia in a scandal. What’s more they might even get increased weapons sales and praises.