Story from PRI's The World. Listen above to the full audio report.
A day after the U.S. government announced it had foiled what it says was an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, experts are trying to make sense of it all.
Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University says it doesn't fit the Quds Force — who is alleged to be behind the plot — typical mode of operations.
"It usually has not occupied outside of the Middle East and it has usually not conducted these sorts of high-profile assassinations, especially in the West," Nasr said.
According to Nasr, typical Quds operations are confined to the Middle East and also often involve operating proxy forces, like Hezbollah. And therein may be a connection to why Quds would try to do something outside of its normal behavior.
Nasr said instability in Syria is creating challenges for Quds Force. That may be a factor in their involvment, if they are truly involved, he said.
For now, though, relations between Iran and the United States have taken a decidedly dark turn. Nasr says this means that the way the U.S. deals with Iraq will shift from being framed in the context of nuclear non-proliferation to being framed in the context of the global War on Terror, and that will change how the U.S. approaches Iran.
But, Nasr cautioned there are many reasons to question whether the Quds Force specifically, an elite military force, would be involved in this.
"It seems amateur. It's a bit baffling," he said.
Nasr also said that Quds has existing relationships with organization in Latin America and Venezuela, so it's hard to see why they'd use a car salesman and hitmen from a Mexican Drug Cartel to pull off the attack.
"It's also very difficult to see what Iran thought it would gain from bringing the United States into its rivalry with Saudi Arabia."
If the allegations are proven true, Nasr said the United States and Saudi Arabia have to react. But in order to get the support the United States is seeking from the international community, it will have to ensure it's investigation is as transparent as possible and lays out for other countries in the west and in the region that Iran is harming the region by its actions.
PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.