by Pepe Escobar
No one ever lost money betting on the dull predictability of the US government. Just as Occupy Wall Street is firing imaginations all across the spectrum - piercing the noxious revolving door between government and casino capitalism - Washington brought us all down to earth, sensationally advertising an Iranian cum Mexican cartel terror plot straight out of The Fast and the Furious movie franchise. The potential victim: Adel al-Jubeir, the ambassador in the US of that lovely counter-revolutionary Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
FBI Director Robert Mueller insisted the Iran-masterminded terror plot “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script”. It does. And quite a sloppy script at that. Fast and Furious duo Paul Walker/Vin Diesel wouldn’t be caught dead near it.
The good guys in this Washington production are the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the words of Attorney General Eric Holder, they uncovered “a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on US soil with explosives”.
Holder added that the bombing of the Saudi embassy in Washington was also part of the plan. Subsequent spinning amplified that to planned bombings of the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires.
The Justice Department has peddled quite a murky story - Operation Red Coalition (no, you can’t make that stuff up) - centered on one Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old holding both Iranian and US passports and an Iran-based co-conspirator, Gholam Shakuri, an alleged member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps's (IRGC) Quds Force.
Arbabsiar allegedly had a series of encounters in Mexico with a DEA mole posing as a Mexican drug cartel heavy weight. The Iranian-American seems to have been convinced that the mole was a member of the hardcore Zetas Mexican cartel, and reportedly bragged he was being “directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government”, including a cousin who was “a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform”.
On top of it, he told the DEA mole that his Iranian government buddies could come up with “tons of opium” for the Mexican cartel (an Afghan connection, perhaps). Then they discussed a “number of violent missions" complete with Arbabsiar bragging about bombing a packed Washington restaurant used by the Saudi ambassador.
Holder characterised the whole thing as a $1.5m “murder-for-hire” plan. Arbabsiar was arrested only a few days ago, on September 29, at JFK airport in New York. He allegedly confessed, according to the Justice Department. Shakuri for his part is still at large.
Holder was adamant: “The United States is committed to hold Iran accountable for its actions.” Yet he stopped short of stating the plot was approved by the highest levels of the Iranian government. So what next? War? Hold your horses; Washington should first think about asking the Chinese if they’re willing to foot the bill (the answer will be no.)
Predictably, the proverbial torrent of US “officials” came out with guns blazing, spinning everything in sight. An alarmed Pentagon will be increasing surveillance over the Quds Force and “Iran’s actions” in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. Former US ambassadors stated that, “it’s an attack on the United States to attack this ambassador”. Washington is about to impose even more sanctions against Iran; and Washington is urgently taking the matter to the UN Security Council.
What next? A R2P (“responsibility to protect”) resolution ordering NATO to protect every House of Saud minion across the world by bombing Iran into regime change?
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at least introduced a little bit of common sense. “I think the US government is busy fabricating a new scenario and history has shown both the US government and the CIA have a lot of experience in fabricating these scenarios… I think their goal is to reach the American public. They want to take the public’s mind off the serious domestic problems they’re facing these days and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country.” Iran has not even established yet that these two characters are actually Iranian citizens.
The Iranian government - which prides itself on a logical approach to diplomacy - would have to have been inoculated with a terminal Stuxnet-style foolishness virus to behave in such a counterproductive manner, by targeting a high-profile foreign policy adviser to King Abdullah on American soil. The official Iranian news agency IRNA described the plot as “America’s new propaganda scenario” against Iran.
As for the Washington mantra that “Iran has been insinuating itself into many of the struggles in the Middle East”, that’s undiluted Saudi propaganda. In fact it’s the House of Saud who’s been conducting the fierce counter-revolution that has smashed any possibility of an Arab Spring in the Persian Gulf - from the invasion and repression of Bahrain to the rash pre-emption of protests inside Saudi Arabia’s Shia-dominated eastern provinces.
The whole thing smells like a flimsy pretext for a casus belli. The timing of the announcement couldn’t be more suspicious. White House national security advisor Thomas E. Donilon briefed King Abdullah of the plot no less than two weeks ago, in a three-hour meeting in Riyadh. Meanwhile the US government has been carrying not plots, but targeted assassinations of US citizens, as in the Anwar al-Awlaki case.
So why now? Holder is caught in yet another scandal - on whether he told lies regarding Operation Fast and Furious (no, you can’t make this stuff up), a federal gun sting through which scores of US weapons ended up in the hands of - here they come again - Mexican drug cartels.
So how to bury Fast and Furious, the economic abyss, the 10 years of war in Afghanistan, the increasing allure of Occupy Wall Street - not to mention the Saudi role in smashing the spirit of the Arab Spring? By uncovering a good ol’ al-Qaeda style plot on US soil, on top of it conducted by “evil” Iran. Al-Qaeda and Tehran sharing top billing; not even Cheney and Rumsfeld in their heyday could come up with something like this. Long live GWOT (the global war on terror). And long live the neo-con spirit; remember, real men go to Tehran - and the road starts now.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is named Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
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