Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jabeir, Ayatolla Khameini, US Attorney General Eric Holder
It should come as no surprise that Iran has been involved in the development of a terrorist attack on US soil. The announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday that an Iranian terrorist plot to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir had been foiled in the US simply confirmed what many have been anticipating for a long time. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the plot was the work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the military wing of Iran’s 32-year-old revolutionary government, and the Quds force, its covert, international operationsl arm,whose commander reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamene.
““This conspiracy was conceived, was sponsored and was directed from Iran”, he said. “High-up officials in those agencies, which is [sic] an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot,” Holder told the news conference and he vowed to hold Iran “accountable” for the plot.
Good idea. In fact, we should have been concerned and prepared for something like this a long time ago, since Iran’s interest in destroying the US and its willingness to mount devastating terror attacks has been open knowledge since before the first Iraq war in 2003. It simply wasn’t taken seriously by any administration, and our recent policy of treating Iran with kid gloves has only emboldened them.
Iran expressed outrage at the accusations, denied they were involved, and filed a complaint with the UN. In an interview with Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, called it “a comedy show fabricated by America”.
President Barack Obama remained firm, however, calling the plot a “flagrant violation of U.S. and international law”. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Western countries that had “held back” in the past to now “go that extra mile”. FBI Director Robert Mueller said the plot involved international calls, Mexican drug cartels, ‘contacts’ with supposed violent Mexican gang members, and an attempt to kill the ambassador as he ate in a Washington restaurant.
In fact, it would make a good movie. It has all the ingredients of a good thriller: an assassination plot, a wannabe nuclear power, spies, cut-outs, drug cartels, dangerous Mexican gangs, terrorism, and a plot to bomb a popular DC restaurant frequented by Congressmen and diplomats.
The U.S. Justice Department named two men in the affair, charging them with conspiring with Iranian officials to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir.
Manssoor Arbabsiar, a naturalized US citizen from Iran, and Gholan Shakuri, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Al-Quds Force, was charged in absentia because he is reported to still be in Iran.
The plot involved the bombing of an unnamed restaurant in Washington DC, popular with Congressmen and diplomats, that al-Jubeir is said to frequent. Had the plot been successful in the crowded restaurant, the death toll would have been high and the ramifications would have been fierce.
According to Ryan Mauro writing for Front Page Magazine, “Manssor Arbabsiar was asked by his cousin, a senior Revolutionary Guards official, to recruit a Mexican drug trafficker to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. In May, Arbabsiar made contact with someone whom he thought was a member of the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico.”
“Over a series of meetings, details emerged of a conspiracy that involved members of the Iranian government to pay $1.5m for the assassination of Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir on US soil.”
The Amended Complaint against the two men states that Arbabsiar transferred nearly $100,000 to a FBI undercover bank account and received ‘thousands of dollars’ to pay for his expenses related to the plot. He was also accused of using interstate commerce to transfer money “with the intent that a murder be committed”. The complaint described how he traveled to Mexico and met with an undercover agent (CS-1) who posed as an associate of a “violent international gang”. Yet an article in the New York Times describes Arbabsiar as incapable of carrying out such responsibilities.
Although Arbabsiar “stands accused by federal prosecutors of running a global terrorist plot that stretched from Mexico to Tehran”, the plot was directed by the elite Quds Force of Iran’s IRGC. According to the New York Times article, “many of his old friends and associates in Texas seemed stunned at the news, not merely because he was not a zealot, but because he seemed too incompetent to pull it off.”
The jury is still out on what this all really means. Because the public is not privy to the government intelligence, we can only conjecture on the implications of this announcement, balanced with what we know of the larger environment. But apparent incompetence does not minimize the threat or marginalize the credibility of the plot. A man like Arbabsiar might be an ideal choice for such a mission as a man who can be easily manipulated, and tempted by rewards that would have otherwise eluded him in his job as a used-car salesman.
Despite some strange inconsistencies, the plot looks feasible. Iran is the world’s most aggressive exporter of terror, sponsoring Hezbollah and Hamas, and having a hand in some of the most egregious terror plots in recent history going back to 1979. Their complicity in terror included the kidnapping and torture of Western officials in Lebanon in the 1980s, the 1983 attacks on the US Embassy and the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in Athens in 1985, and two deadly bombing attacks in Buenos Ares in 1992 and 1994. The list goes on.
Iranians have also been very active in establishing their presence in the Western Hemisphere, sending Spanish speaking units to Venezuela, to the Tri-Border area of South America (the place where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet), to Mexico (where they have developed relationships with the drug cartels and gangs), and in growing pockets throughout the United States. The largest of these is in Dearborn, Michigan, where the Arab Muslim population represents more than 34% of the city’s population..
What Next? For years, Ahmadinejad has been threatening the West with destruction, the victory of Islam over other faiths, and the imposition of Shari’ah law to replace democratic governments. Through its surrogates Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran now has access to all aspects of the American life. This plot demonstrates how broad is its reach..
Iran has recently become noticeably more aggressive. Its achievements in the development of nuclear capability have been impressive, despite the distractions of sabotage by the Stuxnet computer virus and the mysterious deaths of some of its lead scientists. It has extended its military outreach far beyond its borders and its threatening posture has become more aggressive.
The added threat of a nuclear Iran should give the world pause. Over the years, Iran has often proven its ability to attack Western targets with impunity, in symbolic acts of violence that have taken hundreds of lives.
America’s Response The timing of the announcement, at the same moment that the Congressional subpoenas were being served on Attorney General Holder’s office, is interesting. If the US government has, as many are accusing, used the announcement of this plot to distract America’s attention from the scandals now facing the administration, those who sought to do so will be disappointed. Underestimating the intelligence of the American people has never been a wise strategy. Better to recognize that Americans are not so easily fooled and are smart enough to follow more than one story at a time.
The President promised transparency in his administration. Up to now, transparency has not been one of this administration’s defining characteristics. Given the significance of this plot and the probability that this is just one of several (or many) more in the Iranian terror pipeline, this would be a good time to start being open with the American people.
What the American people need more than anything, in this election year, is a sense that the Administration a) knows what it is doing in the war on terrorism that is coming to a town near you, and b) that they can be empowered to prepare themselves appropriately by knowing as much about the developing threat as possible.
Up to now, the administration has adopted a policy of outreach and appeasement towards Iran. The statements that the President and his administration have uttered against Iran since Monday have been weak, promising sanctions but requesting a coalition of other countries to confront the threat.
In this election year, Americans will determine their choice of president based, in part, on their sense of security in their own communities. A strong show of leadership against this real and present danger is absolutely essential if we are to begin successfully confronting the threat posed by Iran.
The revelation of the plot at the beginning of the campaign season adds another dimension to the race for the White House. Where the economy and jobs were commanding center stage until now, a third actor – homeland security – has now joined the cast of characters and will need to be addressed decisively by all the candidates, including the President.