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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/14/11

The implausibility of an Iranian plot

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Message Esam Al-Amin
Who is really behind it?

On October 11, Attorney General Eric Holder, flanked by the FBI Director and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, accused the government of Iran, specifically the elite Quds battalion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), of plotting to assassinate the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the U.S, Adel Al-Jubeir.

So what do we know about this alleged conspiracy? And what are the facts pertinent to this explosive charge?

1) The alleged conspirator, Mansour Arbabsiar, is a 56-year-old naturalized American of Iranian descent. He has been living in several Texas communities since the late 1970s when he arrived to the U.S. as a student. By all accounts, Arbabsiar led a disorderly life marked by constant failure, whether as a student, husband, father, or businessman.

For over two decades the alleged "mastermind" left behind a trail of successive failed businesses, including a used car lot, a restaurant, a convenience store, and a finance company. One of his friends told the Washington Post that he is "a goofy guy who always had a smile on his face."

Arbabsiar was neither an ideologue nor religious. His nickname among his close friends was "Jack" because of his affinity for Jack Daniel's whiskey. Last year, he was arrested for felony possession of a narcotic. According to public documents, his former wife accused him of spousal abuse and filed a protective order against him in 1991.

2) The complaint (so far it is not even an indictment by a grand jury) charges that Arbabsiar allegedly conspired with a high official of the Quds battalion of the IRGC. According to the complaint he was introduced to this official by his cousin when he visited Iran earlier this year. The government does not explain why his cousin, who was clearly implicated in the alleged conspiracy, was not charged as a co-conspirator.

There is plenty of evidence that the Quds Force has been involved in many militant anti-Western operations in Iraq. It has also been publicly supporting the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance organizations in their struggle with Israel. These activities have earned it the label of "supporter of terrorism" by most Western nations, including the U.S.

But according to Robert Baer, a 21-year veteran CIA operative and analyst, the Quds Force is one of the most professional and disciplined (though deadly) organizations in the Middle East. As reported by CNN, the Quds Force "has never been publicly linked to an assassination plot or an attack on U.S. soil."

Baer confirmed this fact when he said that "in its 30-year history of attacking the West, the Quds Force went out of its way never to be caught with a smoking gun in hand. It always used well-vetted proxies, invariably Muslim believers devoted to Khomeini's revolution."   

He then questioned whether the plot was genuine by asking, "Why didn't the Iranians use tried and tested Hizbullah networks and keep Iranian nationals, much less unknown Mexican narcos, out of it?" 

3) We know from the complaint that the U.S government was actually directing the plot (target, location, method of attack, setting the price of the assassination, bank account information, etc.). Pete Williams, NBC's DOJ correspondent, said that the plot was in fact "a sting operation" directed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the FBI. A recent report published by New York University Law School showed that in the past decade, federal agencies have relied heavily on sting operations, not only in drug busts, but also most significantly in dozens of national security cases "that were planned, financed and executed by the FBI." 

4) According to the official story, we are to believe that, although the price set for the Saudi Ambassador's assassination by a member of a Mexican drug cartel (who was actually a DEA informant) was $1.5 million, the Iranian handlers expected the assassin to carry it out by advancing him only $100,000 (less than 7 percent of the total amount.) 

Moreover, as Baer argued in Time magazine, in three decades of external operations in many countries, the IRGC fingerprints or money transfers were never traced back to Iran, but that Iran has always "enjoyed plausible deniability." Baer further told CNN that, "it would be completely uncharacteristic for Iran to be caught red-handed."

Therefore, such sloppy behavior through traceable money transfers and phone intercepts is simply not credible. It appears to be a deliberate attempt to leave behind as many clues as possible to pin this alleged egregious act on Iran. 

5) Another hole in this puzzle concerns the possible motive Iran could have by sponsoring such a provocative act. Strategically, Iran has never been stronger in the region. It has been the greatest beneficiary of the U.S. debacle in Iraq and its difficulty in Afghanistan. Furthermore, despite the successive international sanctions imposed on Iran, its nuclear and other military programs have been progressing at an increasingly steady pace, while asserting a growing and dominant role in the region. 

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