The assassination of the Iranian colonel general was a wake-up call. to Tehran, says the Saudi prince

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<pre><pre>The assassination of the Iranian colonel general was a wake-up call. to Tehran, says the Saudi prince

The U.S. airstrike that killed the Iranian commander showed Tehran that its provocations will not get through but will not prevent the country from continuing its agenda, a former Saudi intelligence chief told CNBC.

"The removal of (Qasem) Soleimani was definitely an important step to review at least some of Iran's ambitions after its very provocative actions last year," Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal told CNBC's Hadley Gamble.

"The attacks on the oil tankers culminated in the attacks on the Aramco facilities and there was no response," he said. "It was a kind of wake-up call to the Iranian government and leadership that they couldn't get away with it."

Tehran has denied involvement in both incidents.

Al-Faisal said, however, that Soleimani's death would not stop Iran's "agenda".

"It was definitely a very important step," he said. "Whether it would stop further activities by Iran to use the methods with which Soleimani was very clever – I don't think so."

That's because the Iranian leadership has an "agenda and a project," he said. "This project is said to be the dominant representative of all of Islam in the world, if you will."

Tehran has used "surrogates" like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen to advance his project, he said.

"It will go on like this," he predicted. "Perhaps less efficient than when Soleimani was alive, but inevitably just as terrorist and, in my opinion, evil in his intentions."

US presence in the Middle East

Al-Faisal also affected the effects of the withdrawal of US troops from the countries in the region.

The US should have withdrawn from Afghanistan "earlier than this was better than now," he said, pointing to a "missed opportunity" after the murder of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

When asked whether it was better for Iraq to leave the American armed forces, he said: "Not today."

He recalled talking to US and British officials during the US invasion of Iraq. "I remember always telling them that I hope you don't leave Iraq as soon as you enter it."

"We have seen America withdraw troops and then start operations on Al Qaeda and then repel troops under General (David) Petraeus," said Al-Faisal.

"I don't know what kind of … organization is coming, but it will definitely be a lot more complicated and bloodier than American troops."

– Amanda Macias, Joanna Tan and Natasha Turak from CNBC contributed to this report.