UPDATE: Add to the list below, Geneive Abdo telling CNN, and David Mack's comment citing David Ignatius and Karim Sadjapour on NPR.
Yesterday I posted a link to Gary Sick raising questions about the Iranian plot against the Saudi Ambassador; now here's a report by Barbara Slavin, herself a veteran Iran watcher, quoting, among her named sources, Kenneth Katzman and Bruce Riedel, also scratching their heads about this one. These are hardly knee-jerk defenders of Iran; when Bruce Riedel (former NSC Middle East chief, now at that noted Iranian front organization the Saban Center at Brookings); Gary Sick (who was at NSC back at the time of the Islamic Revolution and has long been at Columbia); Barbara Slavin, who has written several books on the subject and has excellent sources; or Ken Katzman, who's long done Iran (and terrorism) at the Congressional Research Service, all suggest there is something (in Riedel's words) "fishy, fishy, fishy" about this, I feel a little more secure in my own first reaction, which was that this doesn't sound like the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps or the Quds force: they aren't nice guys at all, but they aren't such amateurs as to plan something this crackpot.When many Iran experts not known for being soft on the ayatollahs raise their eyebrows (and questions), it's time to listen.
And here's another post at Huffington Post quoting still other doubters, including another veteran Iran analyst, Vali Nasr.
Perhaps it's a rogue operation of some kind, but most Iranian overseas ops (except for the first year or two after the Revolution in 1979) have been deniable, with considerable operational security. Giving funds to an Iranian-American amateur to make deals with Mexican drug lords is not how they work. They work through surrogate organizations who are reliably Islamist and Shi‘ite, like Hizbullah against the US Embassy in Lebanon or Hizbullah in the Arabian Peninsula against Saudi targets, and they don't leave fingerprints.
I'm not saying, as Iran is, that this is a US fabrication. And the would-be plotters were given money by somebody. Whether this has some link to the internal power struggle in Iran or is a false-flag operation to provoke a US-Iranian conflict, I can't speculate.