Monday, October 31, 2011

Once again--Rumors of an Israeli Attack on Iran

Once again we are receiving numerous reports of an imminent Israeli attacks on Iran. These stem from Israel in both the Hebrew and English Press, echoed by organizations in the U.S. such as the Washington Times. The latest features the pronouncements of Amos Gilad, Defense Ministry Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs Amos Gilad

Quoting from an article in <,7340,L-4140625,00.html>:

"[Gilad claims that] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are extremely concerned by the Iranian threat. . . .'You need to know what issues to prioritize. In my opinion – it's the Iranian front,' he told students at the Ashkelon College. His statements were made in response to a Yedioth Ahronoth article claiming that Netanyahu and Barak were seemingly pushing for action against Iran. "

What is interesting about this article is that it also quotes Israeli military figures, who oppose action against Iran.

"According to a Nahum Barnea article in Yedioth Ahronoth, published on Friday, the heads of the armed forces – Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo, Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen share the opinion of their predecessors and are opposed to taking action against Iran at this time. Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan had previously stated that a strike against Iran was 'a foolish idea' and warned against the disastrous consequences that would follow such action – an all out regional war."

It would thus seem that there is a split between the politicians and the military on the advisability of an attack on Iran.

This makes the rise in rumors about such an attack highly suspicious. Either they are specious, or if true, the seem to show a political rather than a military or security necessity. The Washington Times quotes Amir Oren, military analyst for Ha'aretz:

"Mr. Oren offered another insight that he says may point Mr. Netanyahu toward military action against Iran. Although the prime minister failed to make any enduring mark on history during his previous term or so far during his present term, Mr. Netanyahu may see Iran as an opportunity to achieve his Churchillian moment,' Mr. Oren wrote. 'The day is not far off, Netanyahu believes, when Churchill will emerge from him.' <>

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota

Monday, October 17, 2011

William O. Beeman interview on Iranian "Plot" to assassinate Saudi ambassador

William O. Beeman interview with Ahmed Tharwat in Minneapolis on Iranian "plot" to assassinate Saudi ambassador.

U.S. Officials Peddle False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims Analysis by Gareth Porter*

U.S. Officials Peddle False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims
Analysis by Gareth Porter*

Commentary by William O. Beeman: Virtually no Iranian specialist fully believes the Obama administration's account of Iranian-American Mansour Arbabsiar's story of an assassination plot on the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Both the FBI and the CIA (with new Iran detractor Petraeus at the helm) have issued questionable or false information about this case, especially their claims that Mr. Arbabsiar was being controlled or directed by Iran's Central authorities. President Obama, in my opinion, is making a huge error in embracing this questionable information.

WASHINGTON, Oct 17, 2011 (IPS) - Officials of the Barack Obama
administration have aggressively leaked information supposedly based
on classified intelligence in recent days to bolster its allegation
that two higher- ranking officials from Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Corps (IRGC) were involved in a plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador
Adel al-Jubeir in Washington, D.C.

The media stories generated by the leaks helped divert press attention
from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence of any official
Iranian involvement in the alleged assassination plan, contrary to the
broad claim being made by the administration.

But the information about the two Iranian officials leaked to NBC
News, the Washington Post and Reuters was unambiguously false and
misleading, as confirmed by official documents in one case and a
former senior intelligence and counterterrorism official in the other.

The main target of the official leaks was Abdul Reza Shahlai, who was
identified publicly by the Obama administration as a "deputy commander
in the Quds Force" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Shahlai
had long been regarded by U.S. officials as a key figure in the Quds
Force's relationship to Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq.

The primary objective of the FBI sting operation involving Iranian-
American Manssor Arbabsiar and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
informant that was started last June now appears to have been to use
Arbabsiar to implicate Shahlai in a terror plot.

U.S. officials had learned from the DEA informant that Arbabsiar
claimed that Shahlai was his cousin.

In September 2008, the Treasury Department designated Shahlai as an
individual "providing financial, material and technical support for
acts of violence that threaten the peace and stability of Iraq" and
thus subject to specific financial sanctions. The announcement said
Shahlai had provided "material support" to the Mahdi Army in 2006 and
that he had "planned the Jan. 20, 2007 attack" by Mahdi Army "Special
Groups" on U.S. troops at the Provincial Coordination Center in
Karbala, Iraq.

Arbabsiar's confession claims that Shahlai approached him in early
spring 2011 and asked him to find "someone in the narcotics business"
to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the United States, according to the
FBI account. Arbabsiar implicates Shahlai in providing him with
thousands of dollars for his expenses.

But Arbabsiar's charge against Shahlai was self-interested. Arbabsiar
had become the cornerstone of the administration's case against
Shahlai in order to obtain leniency on charges against him.

There is no indication in the FBI account of the investigation that
there is any independent evidence to support Arbabsiar's claim of
Shahlai's involvement in a plan to kill the ambassador.

The Obama administration planted stories suggesting that Shahlai had a
terrorist past, and that it was therefore credible that he could be
part of an assassination plot.

Laying the foundation for press stories on the theme, the Treasury
Department announced Tuesday that it was sanctioning Shahlai, along
with Arbabsiar and three other Quds Force officials, including the
head of the organisation, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, for being
"connected to" the assassination plot.

But Michael Issikof of NBC News reported the same day that Shahlai
"had previously been accused of plotting a highly sophisticated attack
that killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq, according to U.S. government
officials and documents made public Tuesday afternoon".

Isikoff, who is called "National Investigative Correspondent" at NBC
News, reported that the Treasury Department had designated Shahlai as
a "terrorist" in 2008, despite the fact that the Treasury announcement
of the designation had not used the term "terrorist".

On Saturday, the Washington Post published a report closely
paralleling the Issikof story but going even further in claiming
documentary proof of Shahlai's responsibility for the January 2007
attack in Karbala. Post reporter Peter Finn wrote that Shahlai "was
known as the guiding hand behind an elite militia of the cleric
Moqtada al Sadr", which had carried out an attack on U.S. troops in
Karbala in January 2007.

Finn cited the fact that the Treasury Department named Shahlai as the
"final approving and coordinating authority" for training Sadr's
militiamen in Iran. That fact would not in itself be evidence of
involvement in a specific attack on U.S. forces. On the contrary, it
would suggest that he was not involved in operational aspects of the
Mahdi Army in Iraq.

Finn then referred to a "22-page memo that detailed preparations for
the operation and tied it to the Quds Force…." But he didn't refer to
any evidence that Shahlai personally had anything to do with the

In fact, U.S. officials acknowledged in the months after the Karbala
attack that they had found no evidence of any Iranian involvement in
the operation.

Talking with reporters about the memo on Apr. 26, 2007, several weeks
after it had been captured, Gen. David Petraeus conceded that it did
not show that any Iranian official was linked to the planning of the
Karbala operation. When a journalist asked him whether there was
evidence of Iranian involvement in the Karbala operation, Petraeus
responded, "No. No. No… [W]e do not have a direct link to Iran
involvement in that particular case."

In a news briefing in Baghdad Jul. 2, 2007, Gen. Kevin Bergner
confirmed that the attack in Karbala had been authorised by the Iraqi
chief of the militia in question, Kais Khazali, not by any Iranian

Col. Michael X. Garrett, who had been commander of the U.S. Fourth
Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December
2008 that the Karbala attack "was definitely an inside job".

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, is on the list
of those Iranian officials "linked" to the alleged terror plot,
because he "oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this
plot" , as the Treasury Department announcement explained. But a
Reuters story on Friday reported a claim of U.S. intelligence that two
wire transfers totaling 100,000 dollars at the behest of Arbabsiar to
a bank account controlled by the FBI implicates Soleimani in the
assassination plot.

"While details are still classified," wrote Mark Hosenball and Caren
Bohan, "one official said the wire transfers apparently had some kind
of hallmark indicating they were personally approved" by Soleimani.

But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers
could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire
transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign
country, according to the FBI's account. It would be impossible to
deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.

"I have no idea what such a 'hallmark' could be," said Paul Pillar, a
former head of the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center who was also
National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East until his retirement
in 2005.

Pillar told IPS that the "hallmark" notion "pops up frequently in
commentary after actual terrorist attacks,", but the concept is
usually invoked "along the lines of 'the method used in this attack
had the hallmark of group such and such'."

That "hallmark" idea "assumes exclusive ownership of a method of
attack which does not really exist," said Pillar. "I expect the same
could be said of methods of transferring money."

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist
specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition
of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the
Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
Gareth Porter
5552 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA 22207
H: 703 532-0124
C: 703 600-9057

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The CIA and the Iran Caper

How Petraeus Fueled the Plot
The CIA and the Iran Caper
by RAY McGOVERN; was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, in his accustomed role as unofficial surrogate CIA spokesman, has thrown light on how the CIA under its new director, David Petraeus, helped craft the screenplay for this week’s White House spy feature: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
In Thursday’s column, Ignatius notes that, initially, White House and Justice Department officials found the story “implausible.” It was. But the Petraeus team soon leapt to the rescue, reflecting the four-star-general-turned-intelligence-chief’s deep-seated animus toward Iran.
Before Ignatius’s article, I had seen no one allude to the fact that much about this crime-stopper tale had come from the CIA. In public, the FBI had taken the lead role, presumably because the key informant inside a Mexican drug cartel worked for U.S. law enforcement via the Drug Enforcement Administration.
However, according to Ignatius, “One big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,         the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”
Ignatius adds that, “It was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance, but he offers no example of what that intelligence was. He only mentions a recorded telephone call on Oct. 4 between Iranian-American cars salesman Mansour Arbabsiar and his supposed contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly an official in Iran’s Quds spy agency.
The call is recounted in the FBI affidavit submitted in support of the criminal charges against Arbabsiar, who is now in U.S. custody, and Shakuri, who is not. But the snippets of that conversation are unclear, discussing what on the surface appears to be a “Chevrolet” car purchase, but which the FBI asserts is code for killing the Saudi ambassador.
Without explaining what other evidence the CIA might have, Ignatius tries to further strengthen the case by knocking down some of the obvious problems with the allegations, such as “why the Iranians would undertake such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly poor tradecraft.”
“But why the use of Mexican drug cartels?” asks Ignatius rhetorically, before adding dutifully: “U.S. officials say that isn’t as implausible as it sounds.”
But it IS as implausible as it sounds, says every professional intelligence officer I have talked with since the “plot” was somberly announced on Tuesday.
The Old CIA Pros
There used to be real pros in the CIA’s operations directorate. One — Ray Close, a longtime CIA Arab specialist and former Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia — told me on Wednesday that we ought to ask ourselves a very simple question:
“If you were an Iranian undercover operative who was under instructions to hire a killer to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., why in HELL would you consider it necessary to explain to a presumed Mexican [expletive deleted] that this murder was planned and would be paid for by a secret organization in Iran?
“Whoever concocted this tale wanted the ‘plot’ exposed … to precipitate a major crisis in relations between Iran and the United States. Which other government in the Middle East would like nothing better than to see those relations take a big step toward military confrontation?”
If you hesitate in answering, you have not been paying attention. Many have addressed this issue. My last stab at throwing light on the Israel/Iran/U.S. nexus appeared ten days ago in “Israel’s Window to Bomb Iran.”
Another point on the implausibility meter is: What are the odds that Iran’s Quds force would plan an unprecedented attack in the United States, that this crack intelligence agency would trust the operation to a used-car salesman with little or no training in spycraft, that he would turn to his one contact in a Mexican drug cartel who happens to be a DEA informant, and that upon capture the car salesman would immediately confess and implicate senior Iranian officials?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to suspect that Arbabsiar might be a double-agent, recruited by some third-party intelligence agency to arrange some shady business deal regarding black-market automobiles, get some ambiguous comments over the phone from an Iranian operative, and then hand the plot to the U.S. government on a silver platter – as a way to heighten tensions between Washington and Teheran?
That said, there are times when even professional spy agencies behave like amateurs. And there’s no doubt that the Iranians – like the Israelis, the Saudis and the Americans – can and do carry out assassinations and kidnappings in this brave new world of ours.
Remember, for instance, the case of Islamic cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who was abducted off the streets of Milan, Italy, on Feb. 17, 2003, and then flown from a U.S. air base to Egypt where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.
In 2009, Italian prosecutors convicted 23 Americans, mostly CIA operatives, in absentia for the kidnapping after reconstructing the disappearance through their unencrypted cell phone records and their credit card bills at luxury hotels in Milan.
Then, there was the suspected Mossad assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at a hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19, 2010, with the hit men seen on hotel video cameras strolling around in tennis outfits and creating an international furor over their use of forged Irish, British, German and French passports.
So one cannot completely rule out that there may conceivably be some substance to the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.
And beyond the regional animosities between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there could be a motive – although it has been absent from American press accounts – i.e. retaliation for the assassinations of senior Iranian nuclear scientists and generals over the last couple of years within Iran itself.
But there has been close to zero real evidence coming from the main source of information — officials of the Justice Department, which like the rest of the U.S. government has long since forfeited much claim to credibility.
Petraeus’s ‘Intelligence’ on Iran
The public record also shows that former Gen. Petraeus has long been eager to please the neoconservatives in Washington and their friends in Israel by creating “intelligence” to portray Iran and other target countries in the worst light.
One strange but instructive example comes to mind, a studied, if disingenuous, effort to blame all the troubles in southern Iraq on the “malignant” influence of Iran.
On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. Petraeus in Baghdad would give a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” providing detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.” Petraeus’s staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed.
Oops. Small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.
At that point, adding insult to injury, the Iraqis announced that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate the U.S. claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.” Ouch!
The Teflon-clad Petraeus escaped embarrassment, as the David Ignatiuses of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) conveniently forgot all about the promised-then-canceled briefing. U.S. media suppression of this telling episode is just one example of how difficult it is to get unbiased, accurate information on touchy subjects like Iran into the FCM.
As for Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, some adult adviser should tell them to quit giving hypocrisy a bad name with their righteous indignation over the thought that no civilized nation would conduct cross-border assassinations.
The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has been dispatching armed drones to distant corners of the globe to kill Islamic militants, including recently U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki for the alleged crime of encouraging violence against Americans.
Holder and Obama have refused to release the Justice Department’s legal justification for the targeted murder of al-Awlaki whose “due process” amounted to the President putting al-Awlaki’s name on a secret “kill-or-capture” list.
Holder and Obama have also refused to take meaningful action to hold officials of the Bush administration accountable for war crimes even though President George W. Bush has publicly acknowledged authorizing waterboarding and other brutal techniques long regarded as acts of torture.
Who can take at face value the sanctimonious words of an attorney general like Holder who has acquiesced in condoning egregious violations of the Bill of Rights, the U.S. criminal code, and international law — like the International Convention Against Torture?
Were shame not in such short supply in Official Washington these days, one would be amazed that Holder could keep a straight face, accusing these alleged Iranian perpetrators of “violating an international convention.”
America’s Founders would hold in contempt the Holders and the faux-legal types doing his bidding. The behavior of the past two administrations has been more reminiscent of George III and his sycophants than of James Madison, George Mason, John Jay and George Washington, who gave us the rich legacy of a Constitution, which created a system based on laws not men.
That Constitution and its Bill of Rights have become endangered species at the hands of the craven poachers at “Justice.” No less craven are the functionaries leading today’s CIA.
What to Watch For
If Petraeus finds it useful politically to conjure up more “evidence” of nefarious Iranian behavior in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, Lebanon or Syria, he will. And if he claims to see signs of ominous Iranian intentions regarding nuclear weapons, watch out.
Honest CIA analysts, like the ones who concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003 and had not resumed that work, are in short supply, and most have families to support and mortgages to pay.
Petraeus is quite capable of marginalizing them, or even forcing them to quit. I have watched this happen to a number of intelligence officials under a few of Petraeus’s predecessors.
More malleable careerists can be found in any organization, and promoted, so long as they are willing to tell more ominous — if disingenuous — stories that may make more sense to the average American than the latest tale of the         Iraninan-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel-plot.
This can get very dangerous in a hurry. Israel’s leaders would require but the flimsiest of nihil obstat to encourage them to provoke hostilities with Iran. Netanyahu and his colleagues would expect the Obamas, Holders, and Petraeuses of this world to be willing to “fix the intelligence and facts” (a la Iraq) to “justify” such an attack.
The Israeli leaders would risk sucking the United States into the kind of war with Iran that, short of a massive commitment of resources or a few tactical nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Israel could almost surely not win. It would be the kind of war that would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like minor skirmishes.
Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He can be reached at:
A version of this article first appeared on

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Porter--FBI Account of "Terror Plot" Suggests Sting Operation

FBI Account of "Terror Plot" Suggests Sting Operation 

Porter--FBI Account of "Terror Plot" Suggests Sting Operation 
Analysis by Gareth Porter*

Commentary by William O. Beeman: The alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington becomes increasingly tangled and shady. Gareth Porter examines the actual FBI documents leading to the arrest of Mr. Arbabsiar, the supposed perpetrator of the plot. Note: nothing happened! No explosives were purchased, no explosions or killings took place, and Mr. Arbabsiar has not even been indicted. This has everyone puzzled. The possibility that this was an FBI sting operation is a more than reasonable theory. 

WASHINGTON, Oct 13, 2011 (IPS) - While the administration of Barack Obama vows to hold the Iranian government "accountable" for the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the legal document describing evidence in the case provides multiple indications that it was mainly the result of an FBI "sting" operation.

Although the legal document, called an amended criminal complaint, implicates Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar and his cousin Ali Gholam Shakuri, an officer in the Iranian Quds Force, in a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, it also suggests that the idea originated with and was strongly pushed by a undercover DEA informant, at the direction of the FBI. 

On May 24, when Arbabsiar first met with the DEA informant he thought was part of a Mexican drug cartel, it was not to hire a hit squad to kill the ambassador. Rather, there is reason to believe that the main purpose was to arrange a deal to sell large amounts of opium from Afghanistan. 

In the complaint, the closest to a semblance of evidence that Arbabsiar sought help during that first meeting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador is the allegation, attributed to the DEA informant, that Arbabsiar said he was "interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia". 

Among the "other things" was almost certainly a deal on heroin controlled by officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Three Bloomberg reporters, citing a "federal law enforcement official", wrote that Arbabsiar told the DEA informant he represented Iranians who "controlled drug smuggling and could provide tons of opium". 

Because of opium entering Iran from Afghanistan, Iranian authorities hold 85 percent of the world's opium seizures, according to Iran's Fars News Agency. Iranian security personnel, including those in the IRGC and its Quds Force, then have the opportunity to sell the opium to traffickers in the Middle East, Europe and now Mexico. 

Mexican drug cartels have begun connecting with Middle Eastern drug traffickers, in many cases stationing operatives in Middle East locations to facilitate heroin production and sales, according to a report last January in Borderland Beat. 

But the FBI account of the contacts between Arbabsiar and the DEA informant does not reference any discussions of drugs. 

The criminal complaint refers to an unspecified number of meetings between Arbabsiar and the DEA informant in late June and the first two weeks of July. 

What transpired in those meetings remains the central mystery surrounding the case. 

The official account of the investigation cites the testimony of the informant (referred to in the document as "CS-1") in stating, "Over the course of a series of meetings, ARBABSIAR explained to CS-1 that his associates in Iran had discussed a number of violent missions for CS-1 and CIS-1's purported criminal associates to perform." 

The account claims that the mission discussed included murdering the ambassador. But no specific statement proposing or agreeing to the act is attributed to Arbabsiar. "Prior to the July 14 meeting, CS- 1 had reported that he and Arbabsiar had discussed the possibility of attacks on a number of other targets," the account states. 

The targets are described as involving "foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country…located either in or outside the United States", without mentioning any discussion of the Saudi ambassador. 

Both that language and the absence of any statement attributed to Arbabsiar imply that the Iranian- American said nothing about assassinating the Saudi ambassador except in response to suggestions by the informant, who was already part of an FBI undercover operation. 

The DEA informant, as the FBI account acknowledges in a footnote, had previously been charged with a narcotics offence by a state in the U.S. and had been cooperating in narcotics investigations – apparently posing as a drug cartel operative – in return for dropping the charges. The document is notably silent on whether the conversation was recorded. 

A former FBI official familiar with procedures in such cases, who spoke to IPS anonymously, said the FBI would normally have recorded all such conversations touching on the possibility of terrorism. 

The absence of quotes from any of those meetings suggests that they do not support the case being made by the FBI and the Obama administration. 

The account is quite explicit, on the other hand, that the Jul. 14 and Jul. 17 meetings were recorded at FBI direction. Statements quoted from those transcripts show the DEA informant trying to induce Arbabsiar to indicate agreement to assassinating the Saudi ambassador. 

The informant is quoted as saying he would need "at least four guys" and would "take the one point five for the Saudi Arabia". He declared that he "go ahead and work on the Saudi Arabia, get all the information we can". 

At one point the informant says, "You just want the, the main guy." And at the end of the meeting, he declares, "[W]e're gonna start doing the guy". 

The fact that not a single quote from Arbabsiar shows that he agreed to assassinating the ambassador, much less proposed it, suggests that he was either non-committal or linking the issue to something else, such as the prospect of a major drug deal with the cartel. 

Arbabsiar's quotes from a Sep. 2 phone conversation referring to the cartel as "having the number for the safe" and "once you open the door that's it" could refer to a drug transaction that had been discussed, while the FBI account suggest those quotes refer to the assassination and "other projects" with the Iranian group. 

At the Jul. 17 meeting, the DEA informant presented a plan to blow up a restaurant to kill the ambassador, with the possible deaths of 100-150 people, eliciting a lack of concern on the part of Arbabsiar about such deaths. 

During a visit to Iran in August, Arbabsiar wired two equal payments totalling $100,000 to a bank account in New York. But he was still under the impression that he was about to cash in on a deal with the cartel. 

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Arbabsiar had told an Iranian-American friend from Corpus Christie, Texas, "I'm going to make good money." 

There is also circumstantial evidence that Arbabsiar may have even been brought into the sting operation to help further implicate his cousin Gholam Shakuri in the terrorist plot. 

Arbabsiar met with his cousin Shakuri in late September and told him that the cartel was demanding that he, Arbabsiar, go to Mexico personally to guarantee payment. That demand from the DEA was an obvious device by the FBI to get Shakuri and his associates in Tehran to demonstrate their commitment to the assassination. 

The FBI account indicates that Shakuri told Arbabsiar that he was responsible for himself if he went to Mexico. That statement would have been a warning sign for Arbabsiar, if he still believed he was dealing with one of the most murderous drug cartels in Mexico, that he would be risking his own life for a group that was no longer taking responsibility for him. 

Yet Arbabsiar flew to Mexico as if unconcerned about that risk. 

After his arrest on Sep. 29 Arbabsiar waived the right to a lawyer and proceeded to provide a complete confession. A few days later, he placed a phone call to Shakuri which was recorded "at the direction of federal enforcement agents", according to the FBI. 

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

William O. Beeman--U.S. Overreach in Tying Assassination Plot to Iran
William O. Beeman--U.S. Overreach in Tying Assassination Plot to Iran (New America Media)

U.S. Overreach in Tying Assassination Plot to Iran

U.S. Overreach in Tying Assassination Plot to Iran
New America Media, News Report, William BeemanPosted: Oct 12, 2011

The alleged plot on the part of an Iranian-American businessman in Texas to assassinate the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and blow up embassies in Washington and Argentina has created a paroxysm of vituperative condemnation of Iran.

Mansour Arbabsiar’s “plot” would be a minor story in the news — just another crazy plot to blow up buildings and eliminate people the would-be assassins have some grudge against, except for the desire of the U.S. government to tie this to the central authorities in Iran, which they have tried to do immediately and perhaps precipitously.

It is notable that figures such as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton were ready to condemn not the alleged perpetrators of the plot, but the government of Iran itself. "This really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for," Clinton said. Attorney General Eric Holder declared, "The United States is committed to holding Iran responsible for its actions."

These condemnations started even before Arbabsiar, who is an American citizen, has been indicted. His lawyer has already announced that if that happens, he will plead not guilty.

The government claims that Arbabsiar and another individual, Gholam Shakuri, contacted people they supposed were assassins from a Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas, to carry out the plots. The connection to the “assassins” was exposed by a federal-paid drug informant. In fact, nothing actually happened beyond the alleged contacts. No explosives were purchased or placed, and no one was hurt. Moreover, from the information we have at present, the entire case rests on the statement of that one paid drug informant.

The mechanism to make the connection to the Iranian central government is the only one that the United States has ever been able to use to implicate Iranian central authorities in acts they consider anti-American — by tying the incident to the Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Qods force is a shadowy division of the Guard operating with only loose governmental control. They have allegedly been responsible for many killings of anti-government plotters both inside and outside of Iran. Allegedly — because direct evidence for their actions against the United States has never been proven in any definitive way.

In this case, the Obama administration claims to have clear proof of a connection between Arabsiar and Qods Force members. The evidence has not been released, however the government has asserted that Shakuri, now at large, was a member of the Qods force himself.

Most Iranian experts find this story to be far-fetched — at least the part that claims that Iran’s highest leaders either planned or approved such a mission. Such an adventure makes little sense in terms of Iran’s foreign policy, and in terms of rational politics. Virtually all observers of Iran agree that the country’s leaders, whatever rhetoric they might use in public, are exceptionally pragmatic and sober in their political actions. Iran’s leaders are not fools. They know that a violent plot on U.S. soil would be seen as tantamount to war. Moreover, Iran has studiously avoided any direct threat to the United States for decades.

Given the illogic of the U.S. accusations, it is not surprising that Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations and its Foreign Ministry both issued strong condemnations of the allegations put forward by the Department of Justice and Secretary Clinton.

Context is very important in assessing this event. There is currently a bill before Congress calling for increased sanctions against Iran called the Iran Threat Reduction Act. It seems that the timing of these accusations was designed to ensure favorable passage of the bill.

There is great danger for U.S. officials in a situation like this. The accusations against Arbabsiar may prove entirely specious. As a U.S. Citizen, if he is indicted, he will have the right to a full trial, and can question the government on its sources of information. This is not going to be a military tribunal as held in Guantanamo. The potential for embarrassment of the government is very great.

Whatever the truth of this matter, there is no question that the accusations against the Iranian government are overkill. Certainly if Arbabsiar was involved in an assassination plot, and sufficient evidence to indict him can be found, he should be put on trial, but we should certainly be sober and measured before indicting the Iranian government itself for what appears to be a very silly, very idiosyncratic plot.