It's not like we just ignore them until they do something to piss us off.
What was your prediction about Iran sending assassins to DC to kill the Saudi ambassador?
Iran Says Saudi Plot Defendant Belongs to Exile Group
(By RICK GLADSTONE, The New York Times, October 18, 2011)
Iran injected a new twist on Tuesday into the week-old American accusation of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, asserting that one of the defendants really belongs to an outlawed and exiled opposition group.
The defendant, Gholam Shakuri, identified by the Justice Department as an operative of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, is actually a “key member” of the Mujahedeen Khalq, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.
The agency did not explain the group’s possible motive but left the implication that the plot was a bogus scheme meant to frame and ostracize Iran.
It said Mr. Shakuri, who is at large, had last been seen in Washington and in Camp Ashraf, the group’s enclave in Iraq. “The person in question has been traveling to different countries under the names of Ali Shakuri/Gholam Shakuri/Gholam-Hussein Shakuri by using fake passports including forged Iranian passports,” Mehr said.
American officials did not immediately comment on the Mehr report. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, reiterated the American view in a daily press briefing in Washington that “this was a serious breach of international law and that Iran needs to be held accountable.”
The opposition group itself dismissed the Mehr report as nonsense. Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed response that “this is a well-known tactic that has been used by the mullahs in the past 30 years where they blame their crimes on their opposition for double gains.”
The group, also known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is regarded by Iran as a violent insurgent organization with a history of assassinations and sabotage aimed at overthrowing the Islamic government that took power in 1979. While the group claims to have renounced violence a decade ago, it is still classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department, but not by Britain or the European Union. It maintains a headquarters in Paris.
Mehr said it had learned what it called the new information about Mr. Shakuri from Interpol but was not more specific. Calls and e-mailed queries to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, were not immediately returned.
If Mr. Shakuri were in fact a member of the opposition group, it would be an embarrassing turn for the United States, which announced the suspected plot with some fanfare a week ago in a televised news conference by Attorney General Eric. H. Holder Jr., who said American investigators believed high officials in Iran’s government were responsible.
The Justice Department has accused Mr. Shakuri and Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized Iranian-American citizen from Corpus Christi, Tex., of conspiring to hire assassins from a Mexican drug gang for $1.5 million to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.
American officials have acknowledged the suspected plot sounds hard to believe but asserted they have the evidence to back it up. Saudi Arabia, apparently accepting the accusation as fact, has accused Iran of a “dastardly” scheme, and other American allies say they regard the accusation seriously.
Britain has gone farther than others, announcing on Tuesday it had ordered British banks to impound any assets of the two defendants as well as three other Iranian officials in the Quds Force suspected of running the plot.
Since Mr. Holder’s news conference, Iran has sought to counter the accusation with a mix of verbal counterattacks, accusing the Obama administration of concocting the plot to divert attention from other problems, conspiring with Israel to malign Iran and driving a wedge into Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Iran scholars in the United States have said the suspected plot, while sounding far-fetched and amateurish, is not implausible. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said it could reflect an attempt by Iran’s security forces to retaliate for what they view as American-hatched plots carried out within Iran.
“It is suggesting, if true, that they’re trying to meet pressure with pressure,” he said. “From their perspective, the United States is involved in Iran’s internal affairs.”
If you are saying that I routinely preach that the Iranians are saints, you have misread my posts. Iranian support of their proxies in Lebanon and Iraq is pretty well understood. That they attempted something in the US does show that they are trying to step up their game (or that they are trying to create a game changer somewhere) but it doesn't change the fundamental situation to one where we're going to see a hot war. To me it implies some level of desperation for such an ambitious project to be planned so ineptly. So what's driving that desperation? To me that is more of a question than what provocation is needed for war.
All that said, if you had asked me on 9/12/2001 if we were going to go to war with Iraq in the next year, I would have laughed at the question and you would have had an entry for your book ... but I wouldn't find it amusing.
What Will It Take to Go To War With Iran?
From what little I know of this "plot," it appears to be one guy who may or may not have some connection with the Iranian regime colluding with a bunch of undercover FBI operatives posing as contacts with the Mexican drug cartels to concoct a crazy scheme to blow up the Saudi ambassador. I'm not sure what "solid intelligence" the US has on this guy's relationship with the Iranian regime, but given the US government's past record on other such "solid intelligence," I remain highly skeptical.
In addition, many legal systems in the world do not recognize the validity of arrests resulting from these types of "sting" operations -- they view such operations as a form of entrapment. One more reason why some outside the US regard this revelation as less-than-convincing.
And for those who might think that this constitutes an act of war by Iran against the US, let me pose this hypothetical. Suppose the US had a very important industrial program that was deemed vital to national security interests. Further, let's suppose that Iran devised a computer virus that substantially interfered with that industrial operation -- in fact, interfered with it to such an extent that our national security was seriously compromised. Would Iran's act of unleashing that computer virus be considered an act of war?
You know little of the plot and are not sure of what intelligence the US government developed, but you are skeptical.
As for your "hypothetical," yes, the act of unleashing the computer virus could be and should be considered an act of war.
The answer doesn't change either when the virus is identified as Stuxnet and the victim is revealed to be Iran's nuclear program.
Finn dAbuzz wrote:You know little of the plot and are not sure of what intelligence the US government developed, but you are skeptical.
Given that the government hasn't disclosed many details, I think skepticism, at this point, is the only rational position.
I don't, but to each his own.
Finn dAbuzz wrote:As for your "hypothetical," yes, the act of unleashing the computer virus could be and should be considered an act of war.
The answer doesn't change either when the virus is identified as Stuxnet and the victim is revealed to be Iran's nuclear program.
Then you'd agree that Iran has a good reason to declare war on us, even if we don't have a good reason to declare war on Iran.
I agree that the US would be wise to consider why this plot was hatched, and your comments in that regard are more than welcome. You don't need to reply only to the original question.
U.S. Denies Iran Claims That Saudi Plot Defendant Belongs to Exile Group
(Scott Shane, The New York Times, October 19, 2011)
Obama administration officials on Wednesday denied Iranian news reports that a man charged in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is actually an agent of an exiled Iranian opposition group.
“We note that these reports originate solely with Iranian state media sources, which have a documented history of fabricating news stories,” said Rhonda H. Shore, a State Department spokeswoman.
American officials said they are sure that the man, Gholam Shakuri, is an officer of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, as asserted in the criminal complaint unveiled last week by the Justice Department.
Mr. Shakuri is charged, along with an Iranian-American former used-car dealer, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, with plotting to hire a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador for $1.5 million. American officials say $100,000 for the plot was transferred from a bank account associated with the Quds Force. Mr. Arbabsiar is in American custody, but Mr. Shakuri’s whereabouts are not known.
The Iranian news reports said that Interpol, the international law enforcement agency, had discovered that Mr. Shakuri was “a key member” of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq. Also known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the group is regarded by Iran as a terrorist organization and has a history of sabotage and assassination aimed at overthrowing the Islamic government of Iran.
The group claims to have renounced violence. It is classified by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization, but it is lobbying to be removed from that list, as Britain and the European Union have already done with their similar lists.
An Interpol spokeswoman declined to comment. But an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Interpol had discovered no link to the opposition group, calling the Iranian news report “pure fiction.”
The first report of the supposed Mujahedeen Khalq connection of Mr. Shakuri, by Iran’s Mehr News Agency on Tuesday, included what was supposedly his passport number, saying that the passport was issued in Washington. American officials said that Mr. Shakuri is not a United States citizen and does not have an American passport. They said the reference might be to an Iranian passport issued by the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.
A breakaway faction from the Mujahedeen Khalq was incorporated into Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps when it was established in 1980, so it is conceivable that some current members of the guard were affiliated with the opposition group more than three decades ago.
Experts on Iran have said that the alleged assassination plot seemed uncharacteristically sloppy for the Quds Force, and American officials suggested that Iran is now putting out disinformation to exploit skepticism about the plot. But they say that intercepted phone calls, bank transfers and other evidence tie the plot directly to Quds Force officials.
In what appeared to be a new line of counterattack on Wednesday, Iran’s top judicial official, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, authorized an investigation into what he called “crimes perpetrated by the U.S. administration against Iranian and Muslim nations,” the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. It also quoted him as saying that the assassination-plot accusations “are based on the old hostile American-Zionist attempt to sow discord among Muslims.”
Tehran's Domestic Discontents
(By RAY TAKEYH, The New York Times, October 20, 2011)
Iran’s response to Washington’s accusations that Tehran was involved in a bizarre assassination plot on U.S. soil discloses more about the Islamic Republic than its maladroit penchant toward violence. The reaction of Iran’s opposition as well as its establishment figures suggests a more tenuous relationship between the Islamist regime and Iranian nationalism than generally thought.
It has long been widely assumed that many Iranians, faced with foreign condemnation and escalating pressure, would rally around the flag. Yet they have not. The rupture between the regime and its people seems so fundamental that not even impudent accusations from abroad can be turned to the leadership’s advantage.
All this casts the regime’s quest for nuclear weapons in a different light. The Islamic Republic desires the bomb not so much to revive nationalist élan but to sustain its power by coercing concessions from the international community.
The reaction of Iran’s elites to the latest accusations must distress the guardians of the revolution. In a pointed rebuke to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President Mohammad Khatami warned against conduct that could jeopardize Iran’s security and territorial integrity. The prominent activist Abbas Abdi also declared that “even if this is a fabrication, we should not ignore the consequences.” In an even more expansive indictment, Ali Younesi, a former minister of intelligence who is a respected national figure, warned that Iran “must avoid policies that produce enemies and harsh rhetoric, for they do not serve our national interests.” The more muted popular reaction similarly suggests that the regime cannot rely on external enemies to burnish its tarnished national standing.
The Islamic Republic’s shaky relationship with Iran’s sense of nationalism should not be surprising. The founder of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, bequeathed his adherents an ideology whose starkest result was to create a division between the oppressors and the oppressed. Iran was not merely a nation seeking independence and autonomy within the existing international order. The Islamic revolution was a struggle between good and evil, a battle for moral redemption and genuine emancipation from the tentacles of the West. Even during the Iran-Iraq war, clerical pronouncements and propaganda often presented the struggle as an assault on Islam and the Prophet’s legacy by the profane forces of disbelief.
In sum, the Islamic Republic has spent the last three decades seeking to sever its links with Iran’s past. The pre-Islamic period is depicted as a pagan era, while the centuries of monarchy are seen as an age of repression and pillage. Politicians ranging from the presidential aid Esfandiar Mashaei to Muhammad Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, who have invoked nationalistic themes have been disparaged and disciplined. The system’s legitimacy is said to be predicated on divine approbation as determined by the clerisy.
Iran today is a land of paradox and contradiction: a sophisticated, highly nationalistic population is ruled by hard-line religious ideologues averse to their own country’s history. When the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his allies find themselves ostracized by the international community they cannot draw on a nationalist reservoir to fortify their rule.
Iran’s quest for nuclear arms cannot be attributed to a desire to deter an invasion. No country is plotting to invade Iran and no state challenges its right to exist, as Iran has done with Israel. Nor can one suggest that nationalist impulses propel the clerical autocrats toward constructing a nuclear arsenal. Iran’s nuclear calculations can best be understood through the prism of parochial politics.
Nuclear weapons can provide the beleaguered theocracy with immunities and concessions that prolong its life. Should Iran obtain the bomb, a chorus of international voices would stress that a state armed with such weapons cannot be left to nurture its grievances in isolation. Iran would have to be reintegrated into the global order as a means of mitigating the danger it poses to the international system. Arms control discussions would ensue, and Iran would be pressed to reduce its arsenal, or at least open up its facilities to inspections. Under such circumstances not only would the prevailing sanctions regime collapse but trade and commerce would likely resume.
For a regime that cannot reform its economy, establish its legitimacy through free and fair elections or anchor its power on a convincing nationalist narrative, the pursuit of nuclear weapons makes a degree of political sense. In time they may provide Iran with a path back to global acceptability, rekindle international investment and become the only means by which Khamenei can salvage his republic.