Iranian Terror Plot in US Foiled

The Justice Department claims to have disrupted a major Iranian-backed terrorist attack in the United States.

 

The Justice Department claims to have disrupted a major Iranian-backed terrorist attack in the United States.

NYT (“U.S. Accuses Iranians of Plotting to Kill Saudi Envoy“):

Federal authorities foiled a plot by men linked to the Iranian government to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and to bomb the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Israel in Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a news conference on Tuesday.

The men accused of plotting the attacks were Manssor Arbab Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, according to court documents filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York. Both men are originally from Iran, Reuters reported.

There is “no basis to believe that any other co-conspirators are present in the U.S.,” Mr. Holder said.

He said the men were connected to the secretive Quds Force, a division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that has carried out operations in other countries. He said that money in support of the plot had been transferred through a bank in New York, but that the men had not yet obtained any explosives.

Mr. Shakuri is still at large, according the Reuters. Mr. Arbabsiar, a naturalized American citizen, was arrested in late September.

Mr. Holder said the Mexican government had been instrumental in the investigation.

Iran reacted immediately to the news, calling the accusations a fabrication.

ABC News (“Iran ‘Directed’ Washington, D.C., Terror Plot, U.S. Says“):

FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a “significant terrorist act in the United States” tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.

The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an announcement today that the plan was “conceived, sponsored and was directed from Iran” by a faction of the government and called it a “flagrant” violation of U.S. and international law.

“The U.S. is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions,” Holder said. He said the White House will be meeting with federal agencies before announcing “further action” in regards to Iran.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said the arrest of a suspect in the plot shows the U.S. will “bring the full weight of [the] law to bear on those responsible” and that “any attempts on American soil will not be tolerated.”

The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

This is a breaking story, so this is all I know at the moment. Obviously, this is huge. Relations with Iran have been awful going back to the fall of the Shah and the subsequent Hostage Crisis in 1979. Tensions have been especially high in recent years over Iran’s nuclear program. But this ratchets things up several notches. It’s one thing to support terrorist activity in the region, which Iran has done from almost the beginning of its ayatollah-led regime. It’s quite another to direct plots against targets on American soil.

FP’s Blake Hounshel points to the full complaint, in PDF format, on the CBS News site.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    So we have the next stage in U.S. – Israeli efforts to engineer a war with Iran. Who wants to lay odds these guys were “encouraged” to engage in a terrorist attack by agents of our own government?

  2. @Ben Wolf: That might be the biggest load of conspiracy theorist bullcrap I’ve heard in a while.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Not to diminish the serious of the plot or to nitpick but was this really a terrorist plot? Or a plot for a political assassination which is not synonymous with a terrorist plot? Frankly, I’m puzzled over what objectives the Iranians might have in executing such an operation.

    Whom would such a plot terrorize? Us? The Saudis? The Israelis? One would think that the objective of a terrorist plot would be to instill terror in someone.

    It would seem to me that the target audience for such assassinations and destruction of embassies would be to raise the stock of the Iranian oligarchs within Iran and in the Middle East more generally. It would further seem to me that such plots are pretty desperate moves to accomplish those objectives.

    It’s certainly no way to make friends.

  4. Jay Tea says:

    @Dave Schuler: The plot apparently involved the use of bombs on US soil — as well as against the Israeli and Saudi embassies. That’s close enough for me.

    J.

  5. MBunge says:

    And just to be a jerk, this story broke with Rush Limbaugh still on the air. He had virtually nothing to say about it and Sean Hannity has spent the 1st 40 minutes of his show bitching about Occupy Wall Street. That’s right, Rush and Sean can’t even bring themselves to immediately condemn an Iranian plot to commit violence on U.S. soil because they can’t instantly link it to some criticism of Obama and the Democrats.

    Mike

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Jay Tea, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be upset about it. I’m saying that the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the U. S. wouldn’t terrorize me. It might make me angry, though. What about you?

  7. mantis says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    So we have the next stage in U.S. – Israeli efforts to engineer a war with Iran. Who wants to lay odds these guys were “encouraged” to engage in a terrorist attack by agents of our own government?

    That’s an awful lot of conclusions to jump to with no evidence.

    @Dave Schuler:

    Whom would such a plot terrorize? Us? The Saudis? The Israelis?

    With bomb attacks? I would guess the goal is to terrorize all three. The US, SA, and Israel are Iran’s top three enemies, after all.

  8. Jay Tea says:

    @Ben Wolf: Because, of course, Obama and Holder are so at the beck and call of Israel and the neocons.

    Whatever drugs you’re on — you willing to share?

    J.

  9. John Burgess says:

    Saudi-Iranian relations have been in a downward spiral of late. Saudis accuse Iran of instigating the riot that took place, in the Eastern Province of the KSA last week. There, Shi’a actors shot at and threw petrol bombs at Saudi security forces, injuring 11 officers and three others.

    Of course, this US-based plot cannot be in reaction to the Saudi actions, but it could well be part of the same anti-Saudi effort. Saudi-Iranian relations ebb and flow; it looks like they’ll be ebbing for a while.

  10. @MBunge:

    Why do you subject yourself to those men?

  11. Jay Tea says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Because he’s desperate for things to bitch about. Or he’s being paid by Media Matters to listen and take copious notes.

    J.

  12. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    Why doesn’t it make sense for Mike Bunge to listen to the leadership of the opposition party?

  13. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler: Would other Quds operations survive such rational scrutiny? I don’t think so, or at least don’t know. My recollection is that their operations tend to foment chaos, more than strategic results. This is a thirty-two year revolutionary movement that has little to show.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Like Dave I’m baffled by this. What in god’s name did they think they would accomplish? This attack, if carried out, would have been an act of war.

    It undercuts severely the notion that Teheran is fundamentally a rational regime.

  15. To be fair, let’s make absolutely sure the government is behind this before jumping to conclusions. We’ve been hoodwinked by day one conclusions before.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ben Wolf: I suspect there may be several explanations. I doubt that the Mullahs had anything to do with it – they are not that stupid. More likely Ahmadinejad who is falling from favor with the Mullahs set it up to get the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to react thinking that reaction would be enough to keep him in power.

  17. Jay Tea says:

    @michael reynolds: Show of strength. They can hit out at their enemies, even in the US, and their enemies — especially the US — can’t do a damned thing about it.

    And “fundamentally a rational regime?” Please tell me you’re being facetious.

    J.

  18. John Burgess says:

    The criminal complaint–unless wholly pulled from the air–suggests that this was not an FBI-instigated sting. It also makes it clear that somebody in Iran was at least willing to pay for the operation.

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    It is an act of war Harry, and they have been doing acts of war against our soldiers for years now.

    Time to stomp a mud hole in that crap hole.

  20. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: It’s an interesting point and like Michael Reynolds, I’m baffled at what the political calculus for the Iranians would be. I’m characterizing it as terrorism almost entirely on the basis of “bomb the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Israel in Washington.”

  21. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Why do you subject yourself to those men?”

    They’re on where I work and I can’t get away from them. The only benefit of it is that I realize how many people in politics DON’T listen to Rush or Sean on a regular basis. Not just liberals but conservatives and the media elite in general.

    Mike

  22. MBunge says:

    And by the way, Sean’s now 90 minutes into his show and still nothing on Iran planning a terror attack on U.S. soil.

    Mike

  23. ponce says:

    Maybe Iran finally got its nuclear weapons program going so they aren’t afraid of us anymore?

  24. Ben Wolf says:

    Every “terrorist” bust we’ve made in the last five years involved federal law enforcement encouraging and providing logistical support to the alleged terrorists, then arresting them at the very last minute. That plus the fact two administrations have been busily spinning the line Iran represents some sort of threat to us, just like Iraq did. The real question is how any of you can believe the government line.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    I, too, wonder what in the hell the Iranians were hoping to accomplish with this (assuming, of course, that Holder is correct that this was an Iranian-backed plot).

  26. Ben Wolf says:

    Let’s just accept what we’re told here without question. It worked great with the last president, and there’s absolutely no reason we should learn from our mistakes anyway. Iraq, err Iran, here we come!

    “We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said at a press conference in Washington with Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

    Anyone who trusts this government after it says that with a straight face needs their head examined.

  27. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ben Wolf: I became politically aware during the Vietnam war and haven’t believed a thing the government told me for 45 plus years.

  28. Rick Almeida says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    Time to stomp a mud hole in that crap hole.

    You first, hero.

  29. michael reynolds says:

    It’s good to be skeptical. But I don’t know of a foreign policy lie from the Obama administration. Does anyone? Or is this just a generalized skepticism?

  30. Ron Beasley says:

    @James Joyner: The Mullahs are theoretically in charge of Iran but I don’t think they knew about this. Ahmadinejad and the Quds Forces do act autonomously from time to time. Ahmadinejad is on the outs with the Mullahs and I have to wonder if this was an attempt to get the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to react and strengthen Ahmadinejad’s position.

  31. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: They lied in 2010 when they stated were were not running operations in Yemen and the only reason we found out was due to wikileaks. We ordered the illegal wiretapping of U.N. representatives, also revealed by wikileaks. We were told all “combat” personnel were pulled from Iraq only to find ten thousand still there being referred to as a “stabilization and rapid response” force. We’ve been repeatedly told about foiled terrorist plots which only developed because we were behind them, finding deranged people in mosques and talking them into setting bombs.

    The Bush administration was even worse on this score but still . . .

  32. mantis says:

    Let’s just accept what we’re told here without question.

    There’s a middle ground between accepting everything you’re told without question and immediately jumping to conspiracy theories with no evidence. That middle ground is where most of us live.

  33. ponce says:

    But I don’t know of a foreign policy lie from the Obama administration. Does anyone?

    Here’s a one from Obama’s Cairo speech:

    Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

  34. Paul Felix Schott says:

    Department of Justice
    Office of Public Affairs
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Tuesday, October 11, 2011
    Two Men Charged in Alleged Plot to Assassinate Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States

    WASHINGTON – Two individuals have been charged in New York for their alleged participation in a plot directed by elements of the Iranian Government to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the United States with explosives while the Ambassador was in the United States.

    The charges were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder; FBI Director Robert S. Mueller; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

    A criminal complaint filed today in the Southern District of New York charges Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force, which is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad.

    Both defendants are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official; conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives); and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries. Arbabsiar is further charged with an additional count of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

    Shakuri remains at large. Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29, 2011, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and will make his initial appearance today before in federal court in Manhattan. He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison if convicted of all the charges.

    “ The criminal complaint unsealed today exposes a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives,” said Attorney General Holder. “Through the diligent and coordinated efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we were able to disrupt this plot before anyone was harmed. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously and bring those who have violated any laws to justice.”

    “The investigation leading to today’s charges illustrates both the challenges and complexities of the international threat environment, and our increased ability today to bring together the intelligence and law enforcement resources necessary to better identify and disrupt those threats, regardless of their origin,” said FBI Director Mueller.

    “The disruption of this plot is a significant milestone that stems from months of hard work by our law enforcement and intelligence professionals,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who helped bring about today’s case.”

    “As alleged, these defendants were part of a well-funded and pernicious plot that had, as its first priority, the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, without care or concern for the mass casualties that would result from their planned attack,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Today’s charges should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground.”

    The Alleged Plot

    The criminal complaint alleges that, from the spring of 2011 to October 2011, Arbabsiar and his Iran-based co-conspirators, including Shakuri of the Qods Force, have been plotting the murder of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. In furtherance of this conspiracy, Arbabsiar allegedly met on a number of occasions in Mexico with a DEA confidential source (CS-1) who has posed as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar arranged to hire CS-1 and CS-1’s purported accomplices to murder the Ambassador, and Shakuri and other Iran-based co-conspirators were aware of and approved the plan. With Shakuri’s approval, Arbabsiar has allegedly caused approximately $100,000 to be wired into a bank account in the United States as a down payment to CS-1 for the anticipated killing of the Ambassador, which was to take place in the United States.

    According to the criminal complaint, the IRCG is an arm of the Iranian military that is composed of a number of branches, one of which is the Qods Force. The Qods Force conducts sensitive covert operations abroad, including terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings, and is believed to sponsor attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq. In October 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Qods Force for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

    The complaint alleges that Arbabsiar met with CS-1 in Mexico on May 24, 2011, where Arbabsiar inquired as to CS-1’s knowledge with respect to explosives and explained that he was interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia. In response, CS-1 allegedly indicated that he was knowledgeable with respect to C-4 explosives. In June and July 2011, the complaint alleges, Arbabsiar returned to Mexico and held additional meetings with CS-1, where Arbabsiar explained that his associates in Iran had discussed a number of violent missions for CS-1 and his associates to perform, including the murder of the Ambassador.

    $1.5 Million Fee for Alleged Assassination

    In a July 14, 2011, meeting in Mexico, CS-1 allegedly told Arbabsiar that he would need to use four men to carry out the Ambassador’s murder and that his price for carrying out the murder was $1.5 million. Arbabsiar allegedly agreed and stated that the murder of the Ambassador should be handled first, before the execution of other attacks. Arbabsiar also allegedly indicated he and his associates had $100,000 in Iran to pay CS-1 as a first payment toward the assassination and discussed the manner in which that payment would be made.

    During the same meeting, Arbabsiar allegedly described to CS-1 his cousin in Iran, who he said had requested that Arbabsiar find someone to carry out the Ambassador’s assassination. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar indicated that his cousin was a “big general” in the Iranian military; that he focuses on matters outside Iran and that he had taken certain unspecified actions related to a bombing in Iraq.

    In a July 17, 2011, meeting in Mexico, CS-1 noted to Arbabsiar that one of his workers had already traveled to Washington, D.C., to surveill the Ambassador. CS-1 also raised the possibility of innocent bystander casualties. The complaint alleges that Arbabsiar made it clear that the assassination needed to go forward, despite mass casualties, telling CS-1, “They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed], if the hundred go with him f**k ‘em.” CS-1 and Arbabsiar allegedly discussed bombing a restaurant in the United States that the Ambassador frequented. When CS-1 noted that others could be killed in the attack, including U.S. senators who dine at the restaurant, Arbabsiar allegedly dismissed these concerns as “no big deal.”

    On Aug. 1, and Aug. 9, 2011, with Shakuri’s approval, Arbabsiar allegedly caused two overseas wire transfers totaling approximately $100,000 to be sent to an FBI undercover account as a down payment for CS-1 to carry out the assassination. Later, Arbabsiar allegedly explained to CS-1 that he would provide the remainder of the $1.5 million after the assassination. On Sept. 20, 2011, CS-1 allegedly told Arbabsiar that the operation was ready and requested that Arbabsiar either pay one half of the agreed upon price ($1.5 million) for the murder or that Arbabsiar personally travel to Mexico as collateral for the final payment of the fee. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar agreed to travel to Mexico to guarantee final payment for the murder.

    Arrest and Alleged Confession

    On or about Sept. 28, 2011, Arbabsiar flew to Mexico. Arbabsiar was refused entry into Mexico by Mexican authorities and, according to Mexican law and international agreements; he was placed on a return flight destined for his last point of departure. On Sept. 29, 2011, Arbabsiar was arrested by federal agents during a flight layover at JFK International Airport in New York. Several hours after his arrest, Arbabsiar was advised of his Miranda rights and he agreed to waive those rights and speak with law enforcement agents. During a series of Mirandized interviews, Arbabsiar allegedly confessed to his participation in the murder plot.

    According to the complaint, Arbabsiar also admitted to agents that, in connection with this plot, he was recruited, funded and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran’s Qods Force. He allegedly said these Iranian officials were aware of and approved of the use of CS-1 in connection with the plot; as well as payments to CS-1; the means by which the Ambassador would be killed in the United States and the casualties that would likely result.

    Arbabsiar allegedly told agents that his cousin, who he had long understood to be a senior member of the Qods Force, had approached him in the early spring of 2011 about recruiting narco-traffickers to kidnap the Ambassador. Arbabsiar told agents that he then met with the CS-1 in Mexico and discussed assassinating the Ambassador. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar said that, afterwards, he met several times in Iran with Shakuri and another senior Qods Force official, where he explained that the plan was to blow up a restaurant in the United States frequented by the Ambassador and that numerous bystanders could be killed, according to the complaint. The plan was allegedly approved by these officials.

    In October 2011, according to the complaint, Arbabsiar made phone calls at the direction of law enforcement to Shakuri in Iran that were monitored. During these phone calls, Shakuri allegedly confirmed that Arbabsiar should move forward with the plot to murder the Ambassador and that he should accomplish the task as quickly as possible, stating on Oct. 5, 2011, “[j]ust do it quickly, it’s late . . .” The complaint alleges that Shakuri also told Arbabsiar that he would consult with his superiors about whether they would be willing to pay CS-1 additional money.

    This investigation is being conducted by the FBI Houston Division and DEA Houston Division, with assistance from the FBI New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Glen Kopp and Edward Kim, of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the U.S. State Department provided substantial assistance. We thank the government of Mexico for its close coordination and collaboration in this matter, and for its role in ensuring that the defendant was safely apprehended.

    The charges contained in a criminal complaint are mere allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

    ______________________________________________________________________________
    11-1339 Attorney General

    May We All stay on are Guard
    and may Our Lord GOD Watch Over Us and Guide Us.

    United We Will Always Stand
    In GOD We Trust
    True American Patriots

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

  35. G.A.Phillips says:

    You first, hero.

    I wasn’t thinking about sending troops.But heck if you want to give me some missile keys i’ll go first.

  36. PJ says:

    @Paul Felix Schott: Interestingly, it doesn’t mention bombing the Israeli embassy.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    Hmm. it seems to me that as of so far, the linkage between the plotters and Iran’s “government entities” hasn’t been very well proven. Qods? It seems to me that anyone speaking Farsi could sashay up to these bozos and claim to be part of a double-secret goup in Iran’s intelligence service. What’s the proof that there was actual gov’t involvement?

    Reminds me of the lunatics running around the US hyping alien spaceship conspiracies and claiming backgrounds as CIA agents…..

  38. John Burgess says:

    @PJ: The criminal complaint does mention Israeli embassies, both in DC and Buenos Aires.

    @ grumpy realist: Again, the criminal complaint spells out the connection the FBI claims to have found.

  39. Anderson says:

    As some have already noted, the Iranian gov’t is made of various factions. Assuming that what our feds say is true, the case could be comparable to a rogue CIA element’s trying to assassinate the Iranian ambassador to China.

    Not that Iran would be off the hook for that, any more than the U.S. would be off the hook in my hypo, but it’s a far stretch from these allegations to any implication that “the mullahs” are crazy enough to use nukes, for instance.

  40. Tlaloc says:

    But this ratchets things up several notches.

    or the entire thing is BS. Given the dozens of hyped terror attacks we’ve thwarted only to find out later they were laughably bad attempts by people with no knowledge or connection to any terrorist group, I have absolutely no faith in any of these pronouncements without massive proof.

  41. Robert C. says:

    Who benefits the most from an Israel, USA, Saudia Arabia union or should I say re-union of sorts? Why target Israel, US or Saudi interests here? It would be much easier to target these interests overseas. It seems too convienent for the bomb Iran crowd.

    RC

  42. John Burgess says:

    The cynicism here is truly depressing.

  43. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Dave and James.

    The only motivation I can think of of the top is a desire to bolster the US resolve for “The War on Terror”. They might like it, as it bankrupts us. We are pulling out of Afghanistan. Perhaps they would like us to stay.

    However, the guy they used? I don’t think that clown could run a car wash. Not the sort one finds in 1st-class state-sponsored covert operations that have a hell of a lot at stake. I’m leaning towards idiocy right now. No goal beyond making a mess.

  44. Ron Beasley says:

    @John Burgess:

    The cynicism here is truly depressing.

    What do you expect after years of lies? Johnson lied, Nixon lied. Reagan brought us Iran/Contra. The entire Bush 43 administration was a lie and Obama has been caught in more than a few. There is a lot of profit in war and the military industrial complex is as strong as ever.

  45. Loviatar says:

    @mantis:

    There’s a middle ground between accepting everything you’re told without question and immediately jumping to conspiracy theories with no evidence. That middle ground is where most of us live.

    Overton Window dude, you’re shifting where the middle resides. From your statement I guess the new middle is to accept the Obama administration’s word on things because they are slightly better than the Bush administration.

    I don’t accept that premise when it comes to Obama’s economic policy, civil liberty policies or anything else for that matter, so why should I accept it in this case.

    The middle ground where I live is for the government to provide proof for their assertions before I believe them, particularly in an area which may lead to another war. Right now all we have is a lot of scary, unsubstantiated assertions without any proof, this makes this story worthy of consideration, but definitely not worthy of war talk.

    For those who want to beat the war drum at this time, as said above, you fight this one hero. No you don’t get any missile codes, but I am willing to spring for a one way ticket to Iran.

  46. John Burgess says:

    @Ron Beasley: I expect people to look at situations from several points of view, including one that involves a cool assessment of whether something makes sense in and of itself, before going off on a cynical ‘who benefits’ tear.

    An Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi ambassador makes sense in and of itself. An Iranian plot to blow up Israeli embassies not only makes sense, but has been tried before.

    Yeah, government has been known to lie and it didn’t start with Johnson or Nixon. That’s why we should be skeptical. That’s not why we should be cynical, however, with the default assumption being that someone’s trying to do us over.

    Unless you’re talking about Congress, of course. There, the default assumption should be beyond cynical to simply wondering why they haven’t all been criminally indicted.

  47. Catfish says:

    Send in the drones. Crank up a few B52’s for old times sake.

  48. Rob in CT says:

    And that’s why I’m puzzled/skeptical/suspicious here: it seems like a perfect excuse for our hawks to beat their war drums (see: Catfish and G.A.). And Obama sure could use a foreign enemy right now, couldn’t he?

    Look, I get it that it sounds paranoid. It *is* paranoid. And yet, given recent history, I can’t shake said paranoia.

    If what we’re being told is true, a response is warranted.

  49. Loviatar says:

    @John Burgess:

    That’s not why we should be cynical, however, with the default assumption being that someone’s trying to do us over.

    Call it cynical, distrustful or conspiratorial I don’t care, I will not trust the US government when it comes to these things, not with there track record of overthrowing governments. So yes, my default position is that the US government is “trying to do us over” especially when it comes to the middle east, and in particular Iran.

    For me to believe the US government’s on this issue I need to see proof of the Iranian conspiracy. And I won’t accept the FBI’s usual terrorism case as proof; some nutcase mouths off to his friends that he will rappel down the Hoover Dam and jam a fork in the #2 turbine thereby cutting off water to the Las Vegas strip. FBI then provides the nutcase with supplies, money and logistics all of which he couldn’t have gotten by himself without there help. This is not proof of anything, its entrapment.
    .

    Just a little information on why I don’t trust the US government when it comes to Iran.

    1953 Iranian coup d’état

    The 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup[3]) was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States under the name TPAJAX Project.[4] The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.[5]

    .

    For those who aren’t aware this incident is the beginning of our contentious relationship with the Iranian people. All so the oil companies could purchase cheap Iranian oil.

  50. John Burgess says:

    @Loviatar: I’m well aware of the story of Mosaddegh and do not accept the Wikipedia article as either authoritative or complete. Entirely lacking, for example, is the role of the USSR and the Tudeh Party. You can find some interesting information in Andrew’s & Mitrockhin’s The World Was Going Our Way, taken from KGB files.

    I’m aware, also, of US relationships in the Middle East, as that was my job for 25 years. And while I never served in Iran–they took over the US Embassy on my fourth day as a Foreign Service Officer–I’ve served in the Gulf extensively. Oil has always been important, but it has never risen to the #1 concern of the USG in the region.

    Facts can be fit into many agendas, but that doesn’t make all agendas equally true.

  51. Loviatar says:

    @John Burgess:

    “Oil has always been important, but it has never risen to the #1 concern of the USG in the region.”

    This statement is simply not true, the US just within the last 20 years has fought a war in the middle east solely to defend its oil interests (Desert Storm) .
    .

    I’m going to pass on further commenting on your justifications for the overthrow of the Iranian government as I don’t think the conversation will go well.

    ———-

    Facts can be fit into many agendas, but that doesn’t make all agendas equally true.

    My agenda: right now we have very little proof that the Iranian government is behind this terror plot. Lacking such proof and with the knowledge of previous US incursions into Iranian political life, I think any war talk is premature and should be harshly slapped down. I think fighting 2 and 1/2 wars for now is enough, I don’t want to see a repeat of the drumbeat that drove us into Iraq.

    I hope the facts fit your agenda as well as they seem to fit mine.

  52. CB says:

    @John Burgess:

    beautifully put.

  53. Ben Wolf says:

    Oh gee, the used car salesman/terrorist mastermind was guided every step of the way by American law enforcement. Those who ridiculed me may now offer your apologies. One knee only, mind you.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/suspect-in-alleged-iranian-terrorism-plot-had-key-connections/2011/10/11/gIQAV6rfdL_story.html

  54. John Burgess says:

    @Loviatar: Alas for your parsing of history, even Desert Storm was not primarily about oil, though that was certainly a major factor. The purpose was regional stability. That included an aggressive Iraq and an Iran that was not going to take its stalemate in the Iran-Iraq war as the last statement.

    As we saw since Desert Storm, Iraq never quite gave up its ambitions to destabilize the region; Iran has certainly been stirring the pot since–and before–then.

    While oil is a critical resource, ultimately it is fungible. If we can’t get oil from Saudi Arabia, we can get it from others at perhaps higher costs. Current arrangements are satisfactory, if not ideal. Oil wants to be sold and does no good to anyone–beyond speculators–who simply hold onto it. Having easy access to Saudi oil is a nice thing to have, but it’s not make-or-break issue.

    Far more important to the US than oil is that Saudi Arabia generously grants overflight permission to the USG. Without that permission, no US military operations east of Lebanon and Syria could be conducted. The US is technically incapable of flying around Saudi Arabia in any mass. There are simply not enough tanker aircraft and ships to let that happen. Yes, this shortfall could be rectified, at cost and over time, but for the past 20 years the USG has not seen fit to prepare for that.

  55. An Interested Party says:

    To answer the question of how important oil is to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, we can simply ask the question, “How much involvement would the United States have in Middle Eastern affairs if the region had no oil deposits?”

  56. Ben Wolf says:

    Here’s the formula our law enforcement agencies (if one can call them that without laughing) use to stop Evil Terrorists in the U.S.:

    Step 1). Find a mentally unstable, down on his luck man of middle-eastern decent,
    preferrably one with a Scary Foreign Name

    Step 2). Have an undercover agent approach him, typically through the local mosque

    Step 3). Suggest to the target he “make America pay” for his misfortune and for what it has done to the Muslim world

    Step 4). If successful in radicalizing him, federal agents assist him in planning an attack

    Step 5). Federal agents then arrest the mark, err target, and loudly proclaim they’ve
    Saved America

    But now we have a Step 6 in relation to this latest attack. Without any evidence whatsoever being produced the entire foreign policy/media establishment is abuzz with how Iran has gone too far this time and must be reigned in by whatever means are necessary. That the entire “terrorist plot” sounds like something dreamed up in an episode of The Tick, and that Iran has absolutely nothing to gain by it and much to lose, are completely ignored.

  57. Rob in CT says:

    @John Burgess:

    And the reasons we care so much about “regional stability” in the Middle East? Oil and Israel (and, since 9/11, radical islamist terrorists).

    We probably favor stability everywhere as a general rule, as the status quo is good for us, but there is a difference of degree between how much we care about stability in, say, central Africa and, on the other hand, the Middle East. This is all perfectly understandable, but I don’t really see how you can say that oil isn’t the root of most of our ME policies (Israel being the other biggie).

    edit: what’s this about, exactly:

    since Desert Storm, Iraq never quite gave up its ambitions to destabilize the region

    You mean Saddam Hussein’s dastardly plot to get the Bush II Administration to launch a totally unnecessary war of choice to topple him?

  58. Drew says:

    I watched a football game last night.

    Those guys in the huddle? I know they were secretly talkin’ ’bout me……….

  59. Loviatar says:

    @John Burgess:

    Despite your attempt to muddy the waters you never did answer An Interested Party‘s question.

    How much involvement would the United States have in Middle Eastern affairs if the region had no oil deposits?

    .

    Your following statement is also a lie.

    Desert Storm was not primarily about oil

    You must have really served 35 years in the foreign service, you can so easily and readily lie about the reasons American servicemen were sent to fight and die for,