Despite that consistent denial by al-Sayegh, a Washington Post story on Apr. 14, 1997 quoted U.S. and Saudi officials as saying that al-Sayegh had met two years earlier with senior Iranian intelligence officer Brig. Gen. Ahmad Sherifi and that Iran was the "organizing force" behind the Khobar bombing. That story, leaked by officials supporting the Saudi version of the Khobar story, cited Canadian intercepts of al-Sayegh’s phone conversations in Ottawa before his arrest as allegedly incriminating evidence.
The story lent further credence to the general belief in Washington that Iran had masterminded the bombing, mainly because U.S. intelligence had observed the surveillance of U.S. military and civilian sites in Saudi Arabia by Iranians and their Saudi allies in 1994 and 1995.
What al-Sayegh actually told FBI agents in a series of interviews in Ottawa and Washington, however, contradicted the leaked story, according to sources familiar with those interviews.
Al-Sayegh admitted having carried out the surveillance of one military site other than Khobar for the Iranians, but insisted that it was not to prepare for a possible terrorist bombing but to identify potential targets for Iranian retaliation in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran.
His testimony was consistent with what Ambassador Ron Neumann, who was director of the Office for Iran and Iraq in the State Department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs from 1991 through 1994, had been saying about the Iranian reconnaissance of U.S. targets.