October 2011, Week 2


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Wed, 12 Oct 2011 23:09:50 -0400
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Is Iran's Alleged Cash-for-Assassinations Plot Too
Implausible to Be True?

By Paul Mutter 
Foreign Policy in Focus 
October 12, 2011


Today, US Attorney General Eric Holder reported that an
FBI-DEA action, "Operation Red Coalition," has
successfully prevented a campaign of Iranian terrorist
attacks in the US and Argentina. Attorney General
Holder and law enforcement personnel all assert that
the operations were approved at highest levels of the
Iranian government, but refer to "factions of the
Iranian government" rather than "the Iranian
government" as being responsible. Despite the saber-
rattling, it appears that the US government does not
want to completely assign blame for the attack on
Iran's top leadership.

A criminal complaint has been filed, based off of an
FBI affidavit presented to a New York judge, charging
five Iranians, including several Iranian-Americans,
with plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to
the US, Adel Al-Jubeir. They are also suspected of
seeking to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in both
DC and Buenos Aires.

Purportedly undertaken in the spring with the blessing
of high-level Iranian officials, an Iranian-American
naturalized citizen named Mansour Arbabsiar approached
a DEA informant (referred to only as "CS-1")
masquerading as a member of "Drug Cartel #1," which ABC
reports is probably the Mexican-based Los Zetas Cartel.
As to why Mansour approached cartels, he is said to
have been ordered to by his superiors "because people
in that business are willing to undertake criminal
activity in exchange for money."

US media reports that Mansour also promised CS-1 to
supply his/her cartel with "tons of opium" as part of
their deal, though this has not been mentioned in any
of the papers made public by the Justice Department.

CS-1 is described as "a paid confidential source" who,
in exchange for having unspecified State Department
charges dropped against him/her, agreed to become a
mole for the DEA. The report discloses that CS-1 is on
federal payrolls and is regarded as a "reliable" source
of intelligence, and that some of the exchanges between
Mansour took place in Mexico. The DEA's informant
policies are extremely well-kept secrets, and also very
expensive and controversial. And like the FBI's
informant programs that have exposed numerous alleged
terrorist plots, this plot was, apparently, held
together by the informant, who presented himself as an
explosives expert and promised to deliver C-4 for the

Working through Mansour, the group in Iran was said to
have sent US$100,000 (obtained from the Iranian
government) to CS-1 as a "down payment" on a US$1.5
million assassination contract. When CS-1 suggested
that an attack on the ambassador in a restaurant would
also kill US civilians, Mansour replied that "sometime
[sic], you know, you have no choice," a point that US
officials have (somewhat hypocritically, as Glenn
Greenwald points out, given our "collateral damage"
record overseas) reiterated time and again to try and
demonstrate that the Iranians are somehow unbalanced

Regarding this portrayal, one is reminded of how in the
late 1980s Batman comic series "A Death in the Family,"
the writers were able to end the storyline where the
Joker -- yes, the Joker --became the Iranian ambassador
to the UN (in order to kill UN ambassadors, of
course!). You see, the Iranians are crazy, and so's the
Joker! Batman and Superman, of course, stop him (kind
of), just as the DEA and FBI stopped the Quds Force
(kind of).

The complaint asserts that one of the alleged plotters,
Gholam Shakuri, is a colonel in the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), specifically in the
Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC the US designated a
foreign terrorist organization in 2007. Mansour also
made allusions to CS-1 that he also had a "high-
ranking" cousin in the Quds Forces, "a general" with
covert ops experience in Iraq "wanted" by the US.
Gholam is said to be this man's deputy. Other Quds
Force members were also involved and allegedly
identified by Mansour, though the US government refuses
to publicly disclose specific information about such

Mansour was recently arrested at JFK airport and,
according to the complaint, waived his Miranda rights
to give interviews to US authorities, which form the
basis of the testimony in addition to statements by

The allegations of this plot surface at a very tense
time in US-Iranian relations. With a presidential
election approaching, candidates are grandstanding to
"show" their "toughness" towards Iran. The IRGC is
being accused of having a hand in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Yemen and Bahrain's civil conflicts, the later two of
which Saudi Arabia has intervened in, partly in the
name of "containing" Iran. Furthermore, US politicians
and media outlets are increasingly questioning Iran's
alleged ties to al Qaeda, support for Hamas and
Hezbollah, and the progress of Tehran's nuclear
program. The Israeli government is also rattling sabers
over the program, which the last US National
Intellignece Estimate on concluded Iran is years away
from producing nuclear weapons.

The announcement also comes at a tense time for
Attorney General Holder, who has recently come under
fire over the failure of a US government gun-running
program involving Mexican cartels called Operation Fast
and Furious. Undoubtedly, Operation Red Coalition will
boost his standing among members of Congress. Whether
it deters them from their investigation of his part in
Operation Fast and Furious is another thing entirely.
Even with the arrest of Mansour, we can likely expect
to see more complaints from US politicians that the
Obama Administration is "undermining" US security by
being "weak" in the face of Iran.

Secretary of State Clinton told reporters that this
plot "crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to
account for." Attempting to perhaps inject a bit of
levity into what is, by any standards, an outlandishly
roundabout, Blofeld-esque plot, said in a press
conference that "The idea that they would attempt to go
to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to
kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up,

The Iranian government has not tried to make light of
the incident, though. They have refuted the
allegations, accussing the US of running "a comedy
show" and of trying to drive a wedge between Riyadh and
Tehran (as though there wasn't one a mile thick
already). Saudi Arabia will be recalling its ambassador
to Iran, Reuters reported.

The Cable reports that executive branch departments are
"developing new measures against the Iranian government
that are to be announced 'within hours,'" including new
international sanctions. Members of Congress are
reported to be pushing for a new round of sanctions
against Iran as well.

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L.
Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to
Foreign Policy In Focus.


Saudi Arabia, Iran and a Middle East Proxy War

By Anne Penketh 
The Foreign Desk 
The Independent
October 12, 2011


Whatever the truth of the amazing US allegations
against Iranian agents accused of plotting to kill the
Saudi ambassador to the United States on American soil,
they have served to highlight the proxy war between
Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

The Saudis sent troops to Bahrain, where they openly
intervened with the blessing of the Gulf Cooperation
Council to curb a revolt by the Shia-led majority, and
have abandoned Bashar al-Assad in Syria in the hope
that his departure from power would put an end to the
influence of Iran in the neighbourhood.

The Saudis are also worried about Iranian influence in
Iraq under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, seen as a
"stooge" of Iran by the Saudis, according to Tom
Lippmann, a former Washington Post journalist who is
bringing out a book on Saudi Arabia next month.

At home, the Saudis have hinted that Iran was behind
clashes in its Shia-dominated oil-rich province earlier
this month, where more than a dozen people were

King Abdullah has been urging the US to "cut off the
head of the snake" (Iran) over its nuclear programme
since 2008, according to Wikileaks.  In fact a
Wikileaks cable says that it was the Saudi ambassador
to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, who "recalled the
King's frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran
and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. He
told you to cut off the head of the snake." Jubeir was
to have been the target of the assassination plot
revealed by US authorities that allegedly involved the
fanatical Iranian al Quds force and a Mexican drugs

The Americans have resisted military action but the
calls for armed intervention will grow louder because
of electoral politics in the US. The Obama
administration needs to tread carefully, and to produce
undisputable evidence to convince allies that it is
time to isolate the Iranian regime still further.
Because this proxy war in the Middle East is not just
between Iran and Saudi Arabia -  after all, who has
been responsible for the assassinations of Iranian
scientists on Iranian soil?


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