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This whole scenario is confusing to me. Has it ever been explained in Star Trek lore anywhere?

  1. Why did the Romulans attack the Klingons when they were allies?

  2. And why did Ja'rod help them do this... and let himself be killed on Khitomer for the Romulans?

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    “This whole scenario is confusing to me” — that’s probably a big part of what the Romulans were going for. Oct 10, 2021 at 14:15

2 Answers 2

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To answer your first question: despite what Worf says in the first season, the Romulans and Klingons weren't really allies any more by that point. Indeed, the attack on Narendra III where the Enterprise-C was lost (TNG 3x15 "Yesterday's Enterprise) took place two years earlier than Khitomer.

It's not entirely clear what the Romulans hoped to gain; possibly they were trying to drive a wedge between the Klingons and the Federation, as in the conspiracy they participated in to assassinate Gorkon in The Undiscovered Country, by demonstrating the Romulans' strength and the Federation's relative inability to resist. It's revealed in "Birthright" (TNG 6x17) that the Romulans took a number of prisons at Khitomer and interrogated them, possibly to find military or political weaknesses they could exploit. They may also have wanted to specifically remove Mogh, Worf's father, who was a rival of the House of Duras and a strong political opponent of the Houses that closer ties with the Romulans.

As to the second question - it seems that Ja'rod's motivation was glory and power for his House, specifically his son Duras, who would eventually (in TNG 4x07 "Reunion") rise to become one of the two claimants to the position of Chancellor. At that time, and later, the Romulans were covertly supporting the House of Duras; it's not hard to imagine that Ja'rod's sacrifice was part of forging that alliance. Though he may have had underhanded means, Ja'rod was still a Klingon warrior and fully willing to die for his House's glory.

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    Also, it's entirely possible that the Romulans made sure he died for his House's glory -- loose ends and all that.
    – Shadur
    Oct 10, 2021 at 8:50
  • Wait, what? It’s been a while since I saw The Undiscovered Country, but there were surely no Romulans in it. It was Vulcans (Valeris for example) that were implicated in the conspiracy.
    – Darren
    Oct 10, 2021 at 19:36
  • @Darren In the scene where Spock is mind-melding with Valeris and names the conspirators, one of them is the Romulan Ambassador. It isn't stated what exactly his role is in the plot.
    – Cadence
    Oct 10, 2021 at 20:51
  • @Darren The Romulan ambassador was in a scene with the Federation president and Sarek just before the meeting about rescuing Kirk as I recall. He just didn't look like TNG ridges Romulan. And he was arrested on Khitomer. Oct 11, 2021 at 0:57
  • @lucasbachmann I stand corrected.
    – Darren
    Oct 11, 2021 at 1:56
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Based on similar events years later I think we can make some deductions. Ja'rod being from a prominent klingon house no doubt was deeply invested in the Romulan alliance that had briefly failed a few years prior at Narenda III (the Enterprise-C incident).

(Edit: I think we need to take Worf literally that despite a well known attack a few years prior to Khitomer - there was in fact was some degree of alliance between the Klingons and Romulans still or the attack would not be considered such a surprise and betrayal. Of course we don't have the Romulan side of the story I think we can also assume the Klingons aren't completely innocent and surely attacked Romulan territory too in this time period. Both cultures have long memories so "who started it" is likely not simple.)

And for whatever reason Ja'rod believed he could manipulate the situation to come out ahead. I'd speculate this could benefit him politically or economically. Additionally given Worf's father Mogh was killed - Ja'rod's enemies may have had much more invested in Khitomer. I think we need to realize the Klingon Empire is merely a weak alliance of various houses. And those houses will occasionally put their personal benefit above the Empire.

Ja'rod obviously overestimated his importance to the Romulans and was either collateral damage or a useful idiot to be disposed of.

As to what motivated the Romulans. There have always been border disputes with both the Klingons and the Federation. I'd speculate the Romulans believed also that a good way to prevent improved Klingon Federation relations would be to create enough chaos that the Federation would withdraw from participation. In a real world sense this is similar to Japan attacking the United States by thinking get the United States involved would ultimately result in a war between Japan's enemy the Soviet Union with the United States. And Japan honestly thought the United States would choose a renewed alliance with Japan over a U.S.A. plus Soviet alliance despite the attack. Obviously some cultures don't view an attack as a permanent deal breaker. (Per history book "Japan 1941" by Eri Hotta)

It may be worth noting that in the Yesterday's Enterprise timeline a Romulan attack on the Klingons ultimately resulted in the Klingons being more offended that the Federation didn't help and a Klingon Federation war the Federation was losing.

See also https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Khitomer_Massacre https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Battle_of_Narendra_III

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