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Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

Interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein

By The Situation Room - October 13, 2011

BLITZER: President Obama says his administration would not accuse Iran of being behind an alleged assassination plot unless it could prove it.

Let's discuss what's going on with the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

She's joining us from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You're welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you've just come from a briefing yourself. But David Ignatius, the columnist for "The Washington Post," he was just here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He said he was originally skeptical of these allegations, but he's now come around increasingly to believe what's going on and he also says he's now getting information that this alleged plot against Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, was not and is not the only time Iran allegedly has tried to kill Saudis.

Is that true, based on what you know?

(LAUGHTER)

FEINSTEIN: Well, based on what I know, David Ignatius is a very smart man. Based on the briefings, yes, this was a real plot. And, yes, this had to do with Iran.

Specifically, Quds Force, Department 400. Treasury has sanctioned four Quds Force members yesterday. It is real. It happened. It doesn't appear that one would think this was a real plot, it was.

We've been briefed by Treasury, by State, by CIA, and, of course, by FBI, now on two occasions and run through it and run through all of the intelligence and the evidence.

And I am convinced that it was for real.

The question is, why?

Why would Iran escalate by coming into the United States, by finding someone adult -- a dual citizen in this -- in this case, to employ criminal elements to try to assassinate the Saudi ambassador?

And you asked me the question, have they done this before?

I would answer that question, yes, they certainly did it at Camp Victory in Iraq, which killed six Americans. They have done it in places, countries closer to the Near East. I won't be specific because it involves sources and methods. But I believe that's the case.

The other question is, how high up did this go?

And I believe that -- I know it went to the top of the Quds Force. And, therefore, it's likely that the Revolutionary Guard knew about it. Whether the civilian government, in terms of the supreme leader or Ahmadinejad knew about it, there is no evidence that I have seen of that.

BLITZER: But you've seen evidence, Senator, that the Saudi -- that the Iranians tried to kill other Saudi citizens, not necessarily Americans, but Saudis in -- in recent years?

FEINSTEIN: I'm not going to comment on specifics, but I believe that to be correct.

BLITZER: You believe that Saudi Arabia -- that Iran played a role in the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, who was very close, as you know, to the Saudis?

FEINSTEIN: I can't say. I don't know.

BLITZER: Was this just a plot to -- an alleged plot to kill the -- the Saudi ambassador?

Or how serious was this other part of the story, that they were also allegedly planning to blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies here in Washington?

FEINSTEIN: I think it's fair to say that that might well be correct here and possibly in Argentina, as well.

BLITZER: How strong is that evidence?

Is it as strong as the allegation of the assassination plot?

FEINSTEIN: No.

BLITZER: So that's...

FEINSTEIN: It's not -- it's not as strong.

BLITZER: Some have suggested, Senator, that this may have been retaliation for the killing of a few Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years. The allegation was that the Israelis, backed by the United States, may have been involved in these killings.

What can you tell us, if anything, about that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't tell you anything about it.

BLITZER: Do you have any reason to believe it wasn't the Israelis, it may have been the Saudis, involved in these kinds of assassination plots against Iranian scientists?

FEINSTEIN: No.

BLITZER: Do you have a good reason, an explanation why Iran, at the highest levels of the Quds Force, may have wanted to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington?

FEINSTEIN: Well, now this is speculation. Adel al-Jubeir is not -- is not just the ordinary person. He's really an amazing person. He's very forthright. He's very honest. Reportedly, he's close to the royal family. It may well be -- I can't -- I'm only speculating -- that the Iranians wanted to send a signal to the Saudi government.

But this -- I would hypothesize that Adel al-Jubeir is the number one Saudi ambassador in the world.

BLITZER: And so they -- they were hoping, is that what you're suggesting, the Iranians, to send a signal to Saudi Arabia...

FEINSTEIN: That's, Wolf, that's just my speculation and worth what you're paying for it.

BLITZER: All right. Well, but -- but any of the additional skepticism you, like David Ignatius, may have had, that's gone away?

You believe this to be the real deal?

FEINSTEIN: I believe it to be the real deal. I believe this man will be convicted in a court of law. I believe the evidence will be overwhelming.

BLITZER: A lot will now -- will be watching Saudi Arabia to see if they do anything to retaliate diplomatically, economically, against Iran.

Do you suspect they will sever diplomatic relations, recall their ambassador from Tehran?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I have no idea what the Saudis would do. I think what's important is what we do. This is our country. And that we offer the sanctity of a democratic government in which we house ambassadors, some of whom are friendly and some of whom are not.

But we provide them with an element of security. And I think that's important for everyone to know.

So this is a real affront to the United States, as well as to Saudi Arabia.

The second part of your question I think I lost.

BLITZER: Well, I mean it was just that the Saudis are going to retaliate economically or diplomatically...

FEINSTEIN: Oh, well...

BLITZER: -- by severing their relationship with Iran.

FEINSTEIN: Yes, well, what I wanted to say is that some have been critical of what the United States have done -- has done. I am not one of those. I believe the United States has acted in a very responsible way.

Treasury has sanctioned various parts of the Iranian government and Iranian enterprise and Iranian individuals. State is going out, is delivering evidence yesterday at the Security Council of the United Nations and to our allies all over the world.

So I think the effort to isolate Iran, and, hopefully, to convince Iran that this is not the behavior that's going to endear them to any nation is really important and critical. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how the Iranian government reacts, other than bluster, which is to say all this is made up.

I think it's very secure that it is not made up, that it's real.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, we'll stay in close touch with you.

Thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. 

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