Claiming that the government of Iran hired a used-car salesman and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and US intelligence agents to organize a hit against a Saudi ambassador on US soil is an insult to our intelligence
By Michael Hoffman
The Austin Statesman newspaper (Oct. 11 online) reported that Manssor Arbabsiar was arrested on a felony drug charge in 2010 and then all charges were dropped by the local prosecutor. Was this done in exchange for some kind of deal to become a patsy in this goofy “plot”? (The Austin Statesman took the report of the arrest down on Oct. 12 — see the “Correction” at the bottom of the page).
Watching Congress and the government’s mouthpiece media buying this story of a "plot" without question, automatically assuming the Federal prosecutor’s case is 100% infallible, that Iran is certainly guilty as charged, and then calling for sanctions and military action in response to what the media are calling (here, here and here): “Iran’s Act of War” — is testimony to the abysmally low mental state of "our" leaders.
Reuters reports that: "Kenneth Katzman, an Iran specialist at the Congressional Research Service, said there were elements of the alleged plot that did not make sense: 'The idea of using a Texas car salesman [suspect Manssor Arbabsiar] who is not really a Quds Force person himself, who has been in residence in the United States many years, that doesn't add up,' Katzman said. 'There could have been some contact on this with the Quds Force, but the idea that this was some sort of directed, vetted, fully thought-through plot, approved at high levels in Tehran leadership I think defies credulity."
As for Arbabsiar, The New York Times writes this morning that he "seems to have been more a stumbling opportunist than a calculating killer. Over the 30-odd years he lived in Texas, he left a string of failed businesses and angry creditors in his wake, and an embittered ex-wife who sought a protective order against him. He was perennially disheveled, friends and acquaintances said, and hopelessly disorganized...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 Christian Science Monitor reports: But Iran specialists who have followed the Islamic Republic for years say that many details in the alleged plot just don't add up. "It's a very strange case, it doesn't really fit Iran's mode of operation," says Alireza Nader, an Iran analyst at the Rand Corp. in Arlington, Va., and coauthor of studies about the Revolutionary Guard.
DOESN'T SERVE IRAN'S INTERESTS IN ANY CONCEIVABLE WAY
"This [plot] doesn't seem to serve Iran's interests in any conceivable way," says Nader. "Assassinating the Saudi ambassador would increase international pressure against Iran, could be considered an act of war ... by Saudi Arabia, it could really destabilize the government in Iran; and this is a political system that is interested in its own survival."
Iran has been trying to evade sanctions, strengthen relations with non-Western partners, while continuing with its nuclear program, notes Nader. He says it is "difficult" to believe that either Qassim Soleimani – the canny commander of the Qods Force – or Iran's deliberative supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, would order such an attack that "would put all of Iran's objectives and strategies at risk."
Muhammad Sahimi, in an analysis for the Tehran Bureau website of the Christian Science Monitor states:"It is essentially impossible to believe that the IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] would act in such a way as to open a major new front against itself."
That view has been echoed by many Iran watchers, who are raising doubts about the assassination plot allegations. "This plot, if true, departs from all known Iranian policies and procedures," writes Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University and principal White House aide during the 1979 Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. While Iran may have many reasons to be angry at the US and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Sick notes in a posting on the Gulf2000/Columbia experts list that he moderates, "it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions."
"Are we to believe that this Texas car seller was a Qods sleeper agent for many years resident in the US? Ridiculous," said Katzman, who authored a study of the Revolutionary Guard in the 1990s. "They (the Iranian command system) never ever use such has-beens or loosely connected people for sensitive plots such as this."
"There is simply no precedent — or even reasonable rationale — for Iran working any plot, no matter where located, through a non-Muslim proxy such as Mexican drug gangs. No one high up in the Quds, the I.R.G.C. command, the Supreme National Security Committee, or anywhere else in the Iranian chain of command would possibly trust that such a plot could be kept secret or carried out properly by the Mexican drug people. They absolutely would not trust such a thing to them, given Iran's undoubted assumption that the Mexicans are penetrated by the D.E.A. and F.B.I. and A.T.F., etc — and indeed this plot was revealed by just such a U.S. informant," Mr. Katzman concluded.
Hamid Serri, an Iranian-American scholar at Florida International University who contributes to Mr. Sick's online forum, suggested another alternate explanation for the plot: that it could have been the work of a non-Iranian intelligence agency or even a terrorist organization with an interest in creating "a confrontation that involves the U.S., Iran and Saudi Arabia."
Referring to the fact that the only money that apparently changed hands before the alleged plot was exposed was $100,000 wired from what was said to be an Iranian-controlled bank account to a man posing as a member of the Mexican cartel Los Zetas (who turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency), Mr. Serri observed that this would be a "cheap price" for an enemy of Iran to pay for the damning headlines that have appeared since the alleged plot was exposed.
$100,000 COULD NOT HAVE BEEN WIRED FROM IRAN
As the Guardian newspaper's diplomatic editor Julian Borger explained, the money could not have been wired directly from Iran, "because such transfers are impossible under U.S. law." So the money must have come from an account in a third country that American officials concluded was under the control of someone in Iran.
Mr. Serri, who is originally from Iran, added that it is perhaps too easy for anyone with an interest in stirring up trouble between the two countries to do so, given the lack of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran.
Once again, this crisis shows the tremendous danger of lack of direct communication between Iran and the U.S. — to the extent that someone with a telephone line in Iran and $100,000 cash in pocket can bring the two countries so close to confrontation. Direct, in-person contact between the national security councils of Iran and the U.S. is a necessity. It's time to grow up.
Another possibility is that such a plot could have been carried out by one of the Iranian exile groups such as the MEK, that have used terror to wage a long, murky struggle to weaken and overthrow Iran's Islamic Republic since it was founded three decades ago.
It's intriguing to know that there are many FBI and DEA agents placed in the Los Zetas drug cartel. How strange that their presence has not radically curtailed drug importations or murders, which are on the increase. The notion that Iranians would use this mechanism to clumsily kill the Saudi ambassador is absurd. It's "Remember the Maine!" and Gulf of Tonkin all over again. Maybe, just maybe, the Israelis have something to do with it? It's got low farce written all over it.
Hoffman is the author of Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare