Before I get into the thicket of this allegedly foiled terror plot, I’ve got to say the whole thing stinks to high heaven. I’m not saying that two Iranians might not have wanted to try to off a Saudi Arabian diplomat (jury’s out on that). But to link this to the Revolutionary Guards or the Iranian government (“an international conspiracy by elements of the Iranian government”) is beyond preposterous.
Here is how the U.S. attorney linked the alleged plotters to the Iranian government:
He said the men were connected to the secretive Quds Force, a division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps…According to the complaint, other conspirators based in Iran were aware of and approved the plan…
Which means precisely what? And what evidence do we have of official government involvement? We’ll have to wait and see on that. But I strongly doubt it. While I have no love or respect for the Iranian regime, to think that they would as stupid as the Justice Department is making them out to be beggars belief. Not to mention the Mexican drug cartels, millions in funds transferred through the U.S. banking system. The whole thing strikes me as beyond belief.
Iranian-American Prof. Muhammad Sahimi, and a noted regime critic, writing at Teheran Bureau agrees:
Based on a purely cost-benefit analysis, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that the IRI could have benefited from such a plot as is alleged. At a time when (a) international pressure on Iran is mounting in response to its gross human rights violations, (b) the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran are showing signs of working, (c) the IRI is deeply worried about the fate of its strategic partner in Syria, the government of Bashar al-Assad, (d) tensions with Turkey are increasing over its hostile policy toward the Assad regime, and (e) a fierce power struggle is underway within Iran between the supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is essentially impossible to believe that the IRI would act in such a way as to open a major new front against itself.
Moreover, although the IRI has carried out assassination operations beyond Iranian borders…they targeted Iranian dissidents, not foreign diplomats. Even at the height of the assassination wave, the IRI did not go after non-Iranians. It is keenly aware that it is under the American microscope. It is thus hard to believe that the IRI would actually embark on such a useless assassination involving a low-level, non-player individuals, [and] dealing with people [i.e. Mexican drug runners] that they do not know.
…The indictment against Arbabsiar and Shakuri claims that they are members of the Quds force, and given the discipline that the Quds force has demonstrated in its operations throughout the Middle East, I still find it difficult to believe that they would embark on what seems to be a useless, dangerous, and relatively easy-to-discover operation.
Thus, at this point, I find the claim that the IRI was involved in the plot highly unlikely. The more information that becomes available, the more it appears like a frame-up of Manssor Arbabsiar…
I’m beginning to think of this as a Tonkin Gulf-type incident, which Lyndon Johnson used as a pretext to begin U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Then again, remember Bush’s escalations after 9/11 and what suffering they brought the U.S., Iraq and Afghanistan? What could Obama have in store? Who knows. But I think the “success” of the Bin Laden and Al-Awlaki murders has emboldened him to break out the guns from the U.S. arsenal.
He wouldn’t even have to do that if he chose not to. Israel is itching at the bit for a chance to take on the Ayatollahs. We’ve already supplied them with enough bunker buster bombs to make a tunnel all the way to Cleveland (or wherever the opposite side of the earth is from Qoms or Natanz). A shooting war? I don’t know. But you can be damn sure that Obama is after something far more disruptive to Iran than ratcheting up economic sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards, which he announced today.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.