The Obama Administration is accusing the Iranian regime of being behind a foiled plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil and to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies. The Iranians sought to use the Mexican drug cartels as cover, allowing them to wage war while hidden in the shadows. If this is what Iran is willing to do without nuclear weapons, what will the regime do when it gets the bomb?
Manssoor Arbabsiar, a naturalized citizen, was arrested on September 29 at JFK International Airport, which was ironically the target of another terrorist plot in 2007 with strong connections to Iran. A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Al-Quds Force, the regime’s primary arm for covert operations, was also charged. This second individual, Gholan Shakuri, is in Iran.
Attorney General Eric Holder left no room to doubt the Iranian regime’s role in the terrorist plot. He said the terrorist operation was “conceived, sponsored and was directed from Iran” by top officials. He pointed out the “chilling nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here.”
In the early part of spring, Manssor Arbabsiar was asked by his cousin, a senior Revolutionary Guards official, to recruit a Mexican drug trafficker to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. In May, Arbabsiar made contact with someone who he thought was a member of the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico. Thankfully, that person was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency. The plot changed from a kidnapping to an assassination. Gholan Shakuri and another Revolutionary Guards official met with Arbabsiar in Iran and approved the bombing of a restaurant where the Saudi ambassador often ate. Had this plot gone through, Americans at the restaurant would have been killed and wounded.
The Iranians agreed to pay the informant $1.5 million, beginning with payments of $100,000 in July and August. Presumably, this would be shared amongst the other Zetas members that would take part in the operation. The Iranians also offered to provide tons of opium for the drug cartel that could be resold on the black market. As the plot progressed, there was discussion about bombing the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington D.C., as well as in Argentina. On October 5, Shakuri became impatient and told Arbabsiar, “just do it quickly, it’s late.”
It is unclear why the Iranians hatched the plot at this time. It is possible that the timing had something to do with a looming confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In the spring, a proxy war seemed ready to erupt in Bahrain, where the pro-American, Sunni Royal Family was fighting off an uprising by its majority-Shiite population. The Iranians explicitly threatened Saudi Arabia for supporting the Bahraini Royal Family, and even began recruiting “martyrs” to go fight in the Gulf country. The crisis came to a head in May when Iran dispatched a flotilla to Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council said it would not allow it to enter the waters. Ultimately, Iran backed down.
The assassination plot also may have been a reaction to a revelation from documents released by Wikileaks. In November 2010, Wikileaks revealed that the Saudi ambassador urged the U.S. to attack Iran and “cut off the head of the snake.”
The plot makes the words of Robert Noriega, a former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, seem prescient. In testifying to the House Homeland Security Committee in July, he predicted that Hezbollah would carry out an attack in the Western Hemisphere if it was confident that Iran’s fingerprints could be hidden.
“If our government and responsible partners in Latin America fail to act, I believe there will be an attack on U.S. personnel, installations or interests in the Americas as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe they are capable of such an operation without implicating their Iranian sponsors in the crime,” Noriega said.
Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, have an extensive network in the United States. The Iranian regime’s capabilities to carry out acts of terrorism on American soil have long been greater than that of Al-Qaeda. The fact that the Iranians tried to work through the Zetas drug cartel shows that the regime wants to wage war while wearing a mask.
It is Iran’s modus operandi to cloak its role in terrorist operations. The aforementioned 2007 plot against JFK International Airport serves as an additional example. In Iraq, the Iranians often carried out attacks patterned after those of Al-Qaeda in Iraq so that the Sunni terrorists would get the blame. In 2008, the Iranians used Hezbollah to reach out to Azeri terrorists in a plot to bomb the Israeli embassy in Baku. This created two layers of cover for the regime. Its Syrian allies used the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Fatah al-Islam for the same purpose and tried to make it appear as if Sunni extremists were behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The intended use of the Zetas to carry out this latest terrorist plot on American soil is in keeping with Iran’s strategy.
The foiled plot bolsters the lawsuit against Iran and Hezbollah for alleged involvement in the 9⁄11 attacks. Three eyewitnesses have been brought forth. The first has direct knowledge of Iranian training of Sunni terrorists. He also says that Iran had designed a plan to crash airliners into New York City and Washington D.C. The second provides testimony that the operations chief of Hezbollah trained the 9⁄11 hijackers. The third claims to have been present at meetings in 2001 between officials from the regime, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda to prepare for the attacks. In light of the pattern described above and this latest plot, the lawsuit’s allegations don’t seem so far-fetched.
The plot underscores why Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. The Iranian military has practiced carrying out a detonation of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse, an attack which could cripple the U.S. while potentially leaving no evidence of Iranian involvement. Even if Iran does not use a nuclear bomb, it is scary to think of what the regime will do when it has a nuclear deterrent. It must be emphasized that Iran put together this plot on American soil before it even had the protection of a nuclear arsenal. Once it gets a weapon, Iran will be emboldened and become much more aggressive.
Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, and this terrorist plot should not be surprising. What should be surprising is that there are those who think a nuclear Iran can be tolerated.