George Nader, who arranged meetings that discussed assassination of Iranian figures, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

Saudi intelligence personnel close to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman asked businessmen last year about the use of private companies to assassinate Iran’s senior officials, the New York Times reports.

“Three people familiar with the discussions” said Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri was present at the meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh, where the businessmen presented a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to undermine the Iranian economy.

Assiri was one of Mohammad bin Salman’s closest advisors. He was formally dismissed by the Saudi monarchy last month as it tried to protect the Crown Prince and contain international pressure over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the discussion, one of a series of meetings, Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Asked if they “conducted kinetics” — lethal operations — the businessmen hesitated, saying they would need to consult their lawyer.

The lawyer rejected the plan, and the businessmen told the Saudis they would not take part in any assassinations.

Lebanese-American businessman George Nader arranged the meeting, after meeting Mohammad bin Salman. One participant was Joel Zamel, who led an Israeli psychological warfare firm with close ties to Israel’s intelligence and security agencies.

After the businessman turned down “kinetic operations”, Nader told the Saudis about a London-based company run by former British special operations troops that might accept the contract.

Both Nader and Zamel have been questioned by the team of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller. While focusing on Trump-Russia links, the investigation is also looking at discussions by Trump’s team in other areas, including contacts with Saudi Arabia that include the Iran proposal.

Nader brokered meetings between Trump’s advisors — including Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater mercenary group and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — and Gulf officials. In 2016, Zamel’s Psy-Group pitched the Trump campaign on a social media manipulation plan.