The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!

Summary:  The bottom line from the Iranian assassination caper = it’s already worked, further demonizing Iran’s image in the mind of the American public — maintaining support for the permanent war establishment of massive military/intel/homeland security spending and the slow erosion of our liberties.  Of course it succeeded.  Conducting information operations against America is the core competency of our defense apparatus.  See the comments for updates.

“How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read.”
— Karl Kraus, Aphorisms and More Aphorisms (1909)


  1. Introduction
  2. The Core Competency of our military/intel/homeland security apparatus
  3. Some of the holes in the story
  4. Chuck Spinney explains the play to us
  5. A retired CIA operative raises some questions
  6. Other experts and sceptics analyze the plot
  7. For more information

(1)  Introduction

  • The holes in the story (listed below) do not matter, as the caper has already succeeded.  It gave another push to the narrative of Iran as a violent amoral irrational nation.
  • The chorus of stenographers pretending to be journalists uncritically repeated the government’s allegations as facts.  Only after the first impression was set in the public’s minds did they follow-up with mild questions about its plausability — just as with Saddam’s nukes.
  • The horde of courtiers pretending to be geopolitical experts immediately followed on with frenzied speculation (guessing, developing the story) about the plot and cries for action.
  • On the fringe, experts and skeptics questioned the story.  The public, having absorbed the story, has moved on.

(2)  The Core Competency of our military/intel/homeland security apparatus

CK Prahalad, and Gary Hamel invented the concept of company’s core competency (Harvard Business Review, May-June 1990).  It has 3 elements (restated from their idealistic format, and generalized so as to apply to government agencies):

  1. A core competency applies to many tasks undertaken by the agency.
  2. It advances key goals of the agency.
  3. Competitors (internal and external) cannot do this as easily and skillfully.

More broadly and simply:

A core competence is a combination of complementary skills and knowledge bases embedded in a group or team that results in the ability to execute one or more critical processes to a world class standard.
— “Is your core competence A MIRAGE?“, Kevin P. Coyne, Stephen J. D. Hall and Patricia G. Clifford, McKinsey Quarterly, Issue 1 (1997)

Conducting information operations to manipulate the American public has been a core competency of the Defense-Intel agencies since WWII.  With so much practice, they have become quite skilled.  The bomber gap, the missile gap, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, teaching us to wet our pants at every mention of al Qaeda, Iraq’s WMDs, smearing Wikileaks — and now Iran.

For more about this:

  1. The Core Competence of America’s Military Leaders, 22 May 2007 — Working their magic after the Iraq War
  2. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!, 2 September 2009
  3. 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  4. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  5. The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!, 13 July 2008 — Info Ops shaping our view of Iran
  6. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  7. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
  8. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  9. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  10. The US government successfully smears Wikileaks, while America sleeps, 22 October 2010

(3)  Some of the holes in the story

Attacks on the US and Saudi Arabia on American soil — this was a high-profile, high-stakes operation.

  1. Why would Iran recruit someone like Manssor Arbabsiar, with no relevant skills or experience, not known to them, known to be at best marginally competent (per the San Antonio Daily News)?
  2. Why would Iran use the telephone lines to communicate vital details of the plot from Iran to America.  Those lines must be closely monitored?
  3. Why would Iran use the US bank wire transfer system to move money from Iran.  Those transactions must be closely monitored?

(4)  Chuck Spinney explains the play to us

{Spinney is a retired DoD analyst, one of the best.  This is posted with his permission.}

US Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference on 11 October where he claimed Federal authorities had 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 (NYT, October 11). The vagueness and innuendo in the language of the complaint filed with the federal court reek of a half-baked sting operation.

For example, attacking the embassy of Saudi Arabia is mentioned as merely a “possibility” of bombing foreign government facilities of Saudi Arabia and “another country” located “within and outside of the United States.” Israel is not even mentioned in the complaint; the closest reference being the aforesaid reference to “another country.” And the plot hinged on the information supplied by a supposed assassin for hire, who was in reality a confidential source of the DEA, posing as a member of than international drug cartel, and who had agreed to work for the DEA after being convicted on an unrelated narcotics charge. While the possibility that this was another hokey FBI/DEA sting operation has been covered widely in the mainstream press, the idea of this plot being a false flag operation, taking the form of a half-baked plot designed to be uncovered, has been conspicuous by its absence.

A false flag operation occurs when party ‘A’ attacks party ‘B’ while engineering the blame for the attack to be hung on a third party ‘C.’

It is the exposure of “C” in the plot that is important in a false flag operation, and understanding a false flag operation turns on the question of who, (what country or organization) stands to gain from an exposure of “C’s” involvement in the plot — and exposure, which in this case, would precipitate a US-Iranian crisis that might possibly lead to a war?

The following three references provide information that may help you orient yourself to this ominous possibility.

The following section is an email from Ray Close now circulating widely on the internet. Mr. Close served in the CIA operations side of the house at high levels, including being assigned as the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. Close explains why he thinks whoever concocted this plot wanted it to be exposed in order to precipitate a major U.S.-Iranian crisis.

Item #2:  “The implausibility of an Iranian plot“, OpEdNews, 14 October 2011 — An essay by scholar/writer Esam Al-Amin that, in effect, builds on Close’s argument by identifying potential beneficiaries. I do not know if Al-Amin had access to the Close email.

Item #3:  “Officials concede gaps in U.S. knowledge of Iran plot“, Reuters, 12 October 2011

Some defenders of the complaint may be tempted to dismiss the arguments of Close and Amin as mere speculation — and to an extent they represent speculations, albeit by knowledgable men. But to dismiss such arguments on these grounds would be to apply a double standard, because Reuters reports that US officials, speaking on background, have admitted that the evidence supporting the allegation of high-level Iranian involvement is both scanty and wildly speculative, to put it charitably. It says unnamed US officials have acknowledged their confidence in the allegation of high-level Iranian involvement was derived inferentially from analysis and understanding of how the Iranian Quds Force operates, and that it was “more than likely” that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani knew about and approved the plot.

They insisted that it was not a rogue operation, but acknowledged that other parts of Iran’s factionalized government, including President Amadinejad, may not have know about it.

Item #4:  “Used-car salesman as Iran proxy? Why assassination plot doesn’t add up for experts“, Christian Science Monitor, 12 October 2011 — “The US has blamed the specialist Qods Force in an Iran assassination plot. But those who track the group say the plot doesn’t reflect the careful planning, efficiency, and strategy the Qods Force is known for.”

Experts on Iran and the Quds force, like Gary Sick of Columbia, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Office, and Alireza Nader of the RAND Corp., say the details of the plot just don’t make sense and are entirely out of character for either Khamenei and Suleimani.

In other words, the allegation of high-level Iranian involvement is based on speculative possibilities that deviate from observed patterns of behaviour, not facts. Moreover, the claim is that these speculative possibilities were derived from analyses and appreciations of the inner workings of post-Shah Iran made by the US intelligence community. Not doubt that shakiness of this allegation is one reason why the complaint filed in the New York court only names the obscure Mr. Shakuri as the only co-conspirator in Iran.

So — the Obama Administration wants the American people and the world to believe the same Intelligence community that

  1. disgraced itself in Iraq and has performed so poorly in Afghanistan, and
  2. failed utterly to predict the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 (when Iran was our close ally and was flooded with US operatives), now has a far more reliable cultural appreciation of the inner working of the Iranian revolutionary regime, with which the US has had only limited relations.

The inferences are so reliable, in fact, that Mr. Obama, Mr. Holder and Ms. Clinton, lawyers all, would have the American people believe their inferences are sufficient to dismiss any legal limitations of circumstantial evidence and reasonable doubt surrounding a question relating to war or peace for a country that is already over-extended in wars in the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

The absurdity and danger implicit in this kind of thinking, coupled with the government’s track record of fixing intelligence to fit its preconceived policies, elevates the question of a false flag to a level of legitimacy that should but won’t be investigated.

(5)  A retired CIA operative raises some questions

From:      Ray Close  (long-time Arab specialist, former CIA Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia)
Date:       October 13, 2011
Subject:  Questions about alleged Iranian plot

Because it is a PDF document, I have to ask you to download the attachment, which is a true copy of the Amended Complaint written and signed by FBI Special Agent Robert Woloszyn and filed before the judge of the Southern District of New York on 11 October 2011 concerning the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. It is not a long document.

Please read paragraphs 22, 23 and 24, for starters. Note: “CS-1” is the FBI’s Confidential Informant, presumably a Mexican, who is described by Special Agent Woloszyn as a man “posing as an associate of a sophisticated and violent drug-trafficking cartel”. As far as I can determine, neither the FBI nor Attorney General Eric Holder has provided any evaluation of this man’s reliability or trustworthiness. It seems that the accuracy of the entire account depends solely on the assessment of this confidential source by one FBI Special Agent — unless we are being asked to accept a radically abbreviated and simplified version of the case history.

The scum-bag that this murder was being requested and was going to be paid for by a secret group in Iran?

Then ask yourself a very simple question, please: 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 scum-bag that this murder was planned and would be paid for by a secret organization in Iran?

Why identify yourself at all? If (for some implausible reason) an explanation of some kind was absolutely necessary, why not employ a very simple cover story that the ambassador had violated the honor of your sister, and you were willing to pay a high price to avenge this dishonor?

Why give the intended murderer incriminating information that could be enormously damaging to the government of Iran if the agent betrayed you or if he were apprehended and chose to confess? Isn’t that something that any ten-year-old would know instinctively?

Conclusion: This was not a professional murder-for-hire operation.

The Iranians are certainly not idiots. Also, no faction in Iran today, as far as I can see, would have anything to gain at this time from taking such a risk. Who ever concocted this tale wanted the “plot” to be exposed, and for only one simple purpose that I can surmise: to precipitate a major crisis in relations between Iran and the United States. It seems to me that our analysis of the case should, therefore, start with a simple calculation: what other government in the Middle East would benefit most from a serious deterioration in Washington’s relations with Teheran? Who, in fact, would like nothing better than to see those relations take a big step in the direction of military confrontation?

Until all the answers are known, it is my frank opinion that the Obama administration made a very serious error by blowing this incident up into a major international crisis.

Considering the multitude of other critical problems that America presently faces, and the utter impossibility of even contemplating any level of military conflict in another Muslim country in the Middle East, it should obviously be the objective of U.S. national policy at this point in time to avoid destabilizing incidents, not to stir up confrontations like this.  Even if the allegations prove to be true, it was a mistake to make such a spectacular accusation without being prepared at the same time to present irrefutable evidence to the world to prove the case, and then to be prepared to take carefully considered counter-action that is consistent with our calculated national security objectives with regard to Iran.

As it is, we have made a huge issue without any apparent plan to manage the consequences or to turn the situation to our advantage. There is a time-honored and proven rule of defense and security policy: if you are not in a position to control and manage a situation to your advantage, then keep your mouth shut and play your cards close to your chest.  Do not walk stickly and carry a big soft, as some wise national leader once advised.

(6)  Other experts and sceptics analyze the plot

(a) Would Iran Really Want to Blow Up the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.?“, Max Fisher (Assoc Editor), The Atlantic, 11 October 2011 — “The alleged Iranian plot would make great material for a spy novel, but it would go against Iran’s own interests and past behavior”

(b) Questions about the alleged Iranian plot“, CNN, 12 October 2011 — “A number of Iran analysts are expressing doubt over the alleged plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Here are some excerpts.”

(c) Something just doesn’t add up…“, Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 14 October 2011 — Opening:

Unless the Obama administration (and in particular, Attorney General Eric Holder), has more smoking gun evidence than they’ve revealed so far, they are in danger of a diplomatic gaffe on a par with Colin Powell’s famous U.N. Security Council briefing about Iraq’s supposed WMD programs, a briefing now known to have been a series of fabrications and fairy tales.

The problem is that the harder one looks at the allegations about Manour Ababasiar, the fishier the whole business seems.

(d) FBI Account of ‘Terror Plot’ Suggests Sting Operation“, Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, 13 October 2011 — Opening:

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.

(e)  Marcy Wheeler, posting at EmptyWheel, has written several posts following the drug connection evidence in great detail.  This may originally have been some form of drug deal with people in Iran, which US agents manipulated into a terror plot (perhaps without the Iranians even knowing).

Update:  here is brief report of her research, well-worth reading:  “Significant Holes in U.S. Legal Case Against Alleged Iran Plotter“, The Atlantic, 17 October 2011 — “The criminal complaint against Manssor Arbabsiar, who is said to have targeted the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. for assassination on behalf of the Iranian government, has several conspicuous gaps in its most pivotal and controversial arguments.”

(f) The very scary’ Iranian Terror plot“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 13 October 2011 — Opening:

The most difficult challenge in writing about the Iranian Terror Plot unveiled yesterday is to take it seriously enough to analyze it. Iranian Muslims in the Quds Force sending marauding bands of Mexican drug cartel assassins onto sacred American soil to commit Terrorism — against Saudi Arabia and possibly Israel — is what Bill Kristol and John Bolton would feverishly dream up while dropping acid and madly cackling at the possibility that they could get someone to believe it. But since the U.S. Government rolled out its Most Serious Officials with Very Serious Faces to make these accusations, many people (therefore) do believe it; after all, U.S. government accusations = Truth. All Serious people know that. And in the ensuing reaction one finds virtually every dynamic typically shaping discussions of Terrorism and U.S. foreign policy.

(g) The LA Times notices the ‘double standard’ on Iran“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 13 October 2011 — Opening:

Today we have a pleasant and exceedingly rare surprise: a major media outlet noting that the very behavior which the U.S. Government and all Serious People are now righteously condemning is behavior in which the U.S. itself routinely engages.

(h) Obama doubles down“, Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 14 October 2011 — “President Obama is standing firmly behind the administration’s allegations, but without offering any new evidence to support them.”

Update:  (i) The CIA and the Iran Caper“, McGovern (Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 years), CounterPunch, 14-16 October 2011 — To bolster its case, the government has leaked details about the CIA’s involvement in the case.  This raises more questions.

(7)  For more information

See the FM Reference Page Will the US or Israel attack Iran?

24 thoughts on “The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!”

  1. Who cares? Iran’s regime must be decapitated and their nuclear capabilities destroyed. If this is what we need to do in order to do our f-n job, then so be it. Frankly, I don’t like the idea that we think we need a cover story.

    They took our hostages in Tehran, bombed our embassy in Beirut, call us the “Great Satan” and claim that they will destroy us. That’s enough.

    1. This is how wars start. Both sides have grievances, going far into the past. Neither gives any weight to those of the other side. After all, our moves are just — perhaps even desired by God (who, oddly, is cited as a supporter for both sides). Tit for tat, growing intensity amidst jingoism and cheering by both sides, until the end.

      FZ1999 below gives some of the history of US-Iran.

      As for Iran’s nukes —

      (1) Post-WWII history shows that that nukes are the only guarantee of sovierengy and defense against invasion. We have bombed and invaded many countries — but not North Korea.

      (2) I am always astonished at how people treat government statements as gospel, despite their long history of error and outright lies. They have said Iran is a few years from having — but they have been saying that for 27 years. Since 1984! For details see Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again) . Must we be so gullible?

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  3. This is an opinion piece, and leans heavily on conspiracy mongers such as Greenwald and Walt. If the author believes the unnamed beneficiary of tension between the US and Iran is Israel, why not say so? Could it be because there are other “beneficiaries”, starting with Saudi Arabia, but the author is intent on plugging away at the Israeli angle? Or more likely still, could it be because the author hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about? His main point about the low-level craft of the perpetrators has been addressed by far more knowledgeable people than any of those sources referred to – who are all, except the columnists, conveniently unnamed.

    Quite what this nonsense is doing on FM is beyond me. Oh wait, Greenwald’s on the blogroll.

    1. (1) Most of this is not opinion, but analysis of the weaknesses and contradictions in the government’s case — which has been uncritically accepted by most of the geopolitical community and news media. Despite the government’s well-proven history of lies in such things.

      (2) The reason the beneficiaries are not discussed in detail is that we can only guess at such things. US leaders seeking war with Iran. US military-defense-homeland security agencies, seeking to jutify their budgets — beneficiaries of perpetual fear and war. As you note, Israel and Saudi Arabia. We can list these, but lack the data to go anywhere with this.

      (3) Dismissing people with such broad lables — “conspiracy monger” — means nothing to me. Greenwald has a history of presenting solid data and sound analysis. You might not share his values, nor like his conclusions. But using a label to brush him aside seems silly to me.

      (4) I cite a wide range of sources — as well as simple logic — as a preemptive defense to the “the author hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.”

      (5) Who are these “far more knowledgeable people” who have explained why this makes sense? Some cites would be appreciated; it’s always valuable to see both sides of the debate.

  4. Since Frank C believes that state vs. state conflict can be justified by a Hatfield-McCoy tit for tat logic, perhaps he could better understand the Iranian regime (and Iranian society)’s hatred for the US once he considers that:

    1. We overthrew a democratically elected government in 1953 and installed a military officer as dictator under the ancestral title of Shah.

    2. The Shah’s regime built up the most notorious foreign and domestic intelligence service in the Middle East, famous for its torture methods and mass detention centres. Americans were at the core of SAVAKs founding. Thousands of people were assassinated by SAVAK and its attendant agencies, and hundreds of thousands were imprisoned and tortured. (see: The Life and Times of the Shah by Gholam Afkhami, at Amazon)

    3. After the Iranian revolution, our war industries supplied gross quantities of weaponry to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, including chemical precursors that were used by Saddam at Halabja where thousands of Kurdish civilians were slaughtered. (see Wikipedia)

    This is basic history and well known. The fact that Frank C does not know it, and instead believes he has something to gain from yet another conflict in the Middle East, reveals how many blithering clowns hold the title of American Citizen-Consumer in the 21st century.
    FM note: Thanks for posting this important history!

  5. Over here in England, this story sank almost without trace pretty soon after it hit the airwaves. Probably the only impression it left on most people was that Iran might have had something to do with some sort of assassination plot involving some kind of ambassador in the US. But maybe that’s all the perpetrators of this obvious scam wanted to achieve at this stage.

    However, it was priceless to wake up on the morning when the story broke and hear even the BBC newsreader relaying the details in words and a tone of voice that said to anyone with half an ear for newspeak: “Oh come on, America, this story reeks like a sack of week-old fish.”

    Most newspapers took a similar tack. Short of prefacing their bulletins with the words, “Please excuse us but the Special Relationship obliges us to repeat this nonsense,” the irritation of the UK national media couldn’t have been clearer.
    FM reply: Thanks for the info on the reception of this by our cousins across the sea. I wonder about the reaction in other nations — in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Does the US government have much credibilityy in these matters? Esp after telling us about Saddam’s nukes.

  6. My initial response was similar to QuadRant. Yes, the US government has tried to create a media storm about this incident but to borrow a line, “this story reeks like a sack of week-old fish” and isn’t going to reach critical mass without a lot of screaming red-hot empty rhetoric from Iran. Since the Iranian government loves a good pissing match as much as the US government, this probably seemed like a good bet at the time.

    But the journalists are doing their job slightly better than usual this time and the so-called plot has such obvious stupid gaping holes that I would have said that the story was DOA until I looked at the responses you’ve received so far. Since your readership probably has a far larger knowledge of foreign affairs than is average for the US public, it is particularly disheartening to see that 2 of the first 5 comments have favored the US government.

    To respond to Barry’s comment, FM quite obviously doesn’t believe this ridiculous plot supports Israel, it supports the permanent state of war that benefits quite a few people in the US.

  7. Do you feel that this will lead to war with Iran? After all it is common throught history that leaders often distract their populations with outside threats, real or imagined.

    1. We can only guess at our leaders’ plans. My guess is that they do not intend to attack Iran at this time, but are preparing the groundwork for this at a later time. Meanwhile, these info ops maintain the state of fear and preparedness necessary to support the Long War — with its massive funding for DoD, intel, and homeland security AND continued erosion of our rights.

      BUT — these things can easily spin out of control. We might make a mistake, leading to escalation. Iran might escalate, perhaps unwisely in magnitude or nature. Either or both might result in the acceleration of threats that leads to war. It’s happened often enough in the past. It’s the primary risk of these strategies.

  8. Another question is what will Russia and China do if we do attack Iran? WW3 with nuclear holocaust?

    1. Nobody will start — or risk starting — an atomic war. It’s a fantasy of the geopolitical community, giving them a thrilling relief from the routine.

      Using Chet Richard’s typology (in his great book “If We Can Keep It”) of strikes, raids, and occupations, we might raid Iran’s atomic facilities — but nothing more. I doubt the US and Israel together (not that we’re likely to act jointly) could do more against Iran.

      After which Iran might respond, perhaps using their proxies — or non-allied enemies of the US. Giving man pads to the Tailiban, or other Sunni jihadists. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Unifying our Islamic enemies in exchange for delaying Iran’s atomic program might be a strategic loss for the US. We cannot keep attacking Islamic States without ill long-term consequences.

      Also, my guess is that after 27 years of US predictions that Iran will have nukes in a few years — an attack on Iran will kick-start their program into high gears. Then they will have nukes in a few years. Like British schoolchildren in 1900, Iran’s kids will collect dimes to fund the nuke program as a national imperative.

    2. whirlwind21, WW3 ended around twenty years ago and my personal opinion is that WW4 is about to end in very funny way thanks to your malfunctioning political apparatus.

  9. Thank you for replying to me.

    I wouldn’t have commented at all if it weren’t for the snide undertone of “cui bono” in this piece, and although not named, it is obviously Israel that the writer has in mind. That is where conspiracy is mongered. Walt and Greenwald have what you might call form in this area.

    I also think it is naive in the extreme to believe that anyone in the region wants to see a military confrontation between the US and Iran.

    Like QuadRant, I too am in England and (s)he is right about the BBC’s approach to the story, though I take issue with the term “most newspapers”. I think I know which ones he is referring to. The cynicism found over here, however, is rather irrelevant to the truth.

    I might add that a substantial number of people around the world believe “9-11 was an inside job”. I find that interesting, but only from a psychological point of view.

    I have no particular insight into the facts of this case, any more than might FM. However you may be aware by now that the US has presented the UN Gen Sec with a dossier on the case, which suggests to me that there is significant evidence. I note that several US allies, including the UK, have seen this evidence and spoken up accordingly, whatever tone the media may take.

    A little note for FZ1999: Hitler was democratically elected. Mossadeq was his country’s Nasser and at a time of the highest Cold War tension, he was considered a great threat to the stability of the region. That doesn’t mean removing him was the right thing to do, but it helps to see it in historical context.

    As far as other commentators go, you might start with Thomas Joscelyn, Michael Ledeen and Ken Allard. They are experts on Iran and seem unsurprised by these events.

    I find some of FM’s articles informative and thought-provoking. This one is not much better than what you’d find on counterpunch.

    1. “snide undertone of ‘cui bono’ in this piece”

      To what are your referring? This is why I ask people to reply to quotes. And why is asking who benefits “snide”? It’s the first step to investigating any crime.

      Re: Stephen Walt — His work with John Mearsheimer about Israel’s influence in the US is highly documented. Much more so than the rebuttals by his critics, such as Jeffrey Goldberg. In fact, the experts I know in geopolitics and US politics all broadly agree with their theory. Due to the power of the Israel lobby, they hesitate to speak out. This is a commonplace in US history. We saw a similar phenomenon with respect to Taiwan until Nixon went to China.

      “I also think it is naive in the extreme to believe that anyone in the region wants to see a military confrontation between the US and Iran.”

      Yes, as I have said repeatedly on this thread and in posts back to 2007. As have most of the articles I cited. What’s your point?

      “However you may be aware by now that the US has presented the UN Gen Sec with a dossier on the case, which suggests to me that there is significant evidence.”

      That’s an astonishing statement after SecState Powell’s presentation to the UN about Iraq, plus the many previous examples of US government lies. Such as the Tonkin Gulf incident. Your confidence is IMO unwarranted.

      “I have no particular insight into the facts of this case, any more than might FM”

      What is your recommendation with respect to stories like this? Passively accept the government’s story? Or attempt to analyze it as best we can with the available data. Your critique makes no specific references to content in this post, or to the articles cited. Only some ad hominem attacks and hand-waving. Other than that, nothing.

      “That doesn’t mean removing him was the right thing to do, but it helps to see it in historical context.”

      I don’t believe you understand his point. We know the *US* had reasons to remove him. The relevant historical context Fz1999 cites is that many of Iran’s people resent a foreign infidel power working to overthrow their government. As would we.

      “A little note for FZ1999: Hitler was democratically elected.”

      You don’t cite any similarity between Hitler and Mossadeq. SO this is just a classic Goodwin’s Law violation. What’s your point? That the US can overthrow any leader we want because Hitler existed?

    2. Let’s look at the three experts you mention. From a very brief look at their recent articles I see:

      Thomas Joscelyn (Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Long War Journal), in his article in the Weekly Standard on 11 October. A very careful and precise (as usual) statement of what the US accusations mean. Note that he specifically states repeatedly “if true”, “alleged plotting”, “according to the FBI”, “according to the complaint”. No matter what the outcome, this analysis will hold up.

      Ken Allard (former Dean of the National War College) on National Review, 14 October: “Iran and the Cartels”. He repeats the government’s statements then goes to discuss (accurately) the competence and power of the Cartels (there are many similar articles on the FM website; see the Nations reference page, click on Mexico). Like Joscelyn, this will hold up no matter what the outcome.

      Michael Ledeen (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, noted historian), article at PajamasMedia, 12 October. He discusses Iran’s history and ongoing conflict with us. Suiting the venue, it’s incendiary in tone, some of the assertions are disputed — but he says nothing about this incident. Again, no matter what the outcome his article will hold up. Oddly, many of his statements apply equally well to the US (does he realize this?).

      None of these three provide any substantial analysis of the incident. Mostly they focus on repeating the message that Iran is an enemy.

      In this they act, as do most US geopolitical experts, as echo chambers for whatever the narrative the US government wants pushed. That’s been the history since WWII, for deep institutional reasons (ie, to do otherwise is professional near-suicide, risking instant marginalization). In this our geopolitical experts tend to act like Communist Party members in the old days. Extoll Hitler on Monday; denounce him as evil incarnate on Tuesday.

      Just as our guys did, to lesser degree, with Gaddafi. Evil. Good guy. Evil. But whatever he was, we have always been at war with EastAsia.

  10. Just wanted to thank you for this very deep, analytic & detailed post about this extremely fishy story. Very useful right about now.

  11. I wouldn’t dismiss the theory that this is an Iranian psy-op against US, mainly because I think US intelligence can pull off more believable false flag operation if they really want to.

  12. Let us suppose that a nation has more than one interest, and more than only one agency. Can some parts of it benefit from the same events that harm other parts of it?

    1. Yes. In fact, that’s the rule, not the exception. Nations are not a unitary entity, but a collection of parts. We are stronger to the extent that we see our fortune, our fate, as a whole. But over short time horizons — perhaps including a lifetime — that’s a grand illusion.

      But then so much of life is a grand illusion. How do I gain from the time and resources spent raising my children? As a wise man says at the conclusion of Shaw’s You Never Can Tell:

      It’s unwise to be married; it’s unwise to live; and it’s unwise to die.

  13. A look at attorneys who love the government more than the Constiution

    As the Constitution dies, attorneys throw dirt on the grave. Attorneys who explain why our rights are illusions, evaporating before the power of the government. Judges who form an appreciative audience for specious explanations of why the Constitution’s words mean nothing. Many of both groups pretend to be conservatives and libertarians.

    (1) Anwar al-Aulaqi Apparently Killed by Drone in Yemen“, Kenneth Anderson, 30 September 2011 — Excerpt:

    One thing that does appear quite settled as far as the US government’s position is concerned, however, is that it is simply inapposite to talk about this as “summary execution upon nothing more than the order of the President” — it’s simply not the correct legal frame. Ben Wittes names a number of these factors in his Lawfare discussion of the process that is due in this matter. I’d say that among other things, the “summary execution without due process” meme fails to take account of

    1. taking up operational roles in armed conflict against the United States;
    2. fleeing to places beyond the bounds of law enforcement that might serve to arrest Al-Aulaqi if he had been in the territorial US;
    3. the existence of robust domestic legal authorities for undertaking lethal action even against a US citizen (it is not as if this was not understood as a possibility in the Cold War);
    4. acknowledgment that the US was willing to consider ways to accepting surrender and coming into custody that would allow judicial review; an
    5. a lengthy judicial opinion that refused to take a simplistic view of due process in this very case (in either direction, simply targetable combatant or US citizen denied due process) irrespective of whether one thinks the outcome correct or not.

    The first of this list is priceless. The government’s accusations are fact, so he must die. The last is equally sad, tame judges passivity legitimize the government’s executions without warrant or trial.

    (2) Who May Be Killed? Anwar al-Awlaki as a Case Study in the International Legal Regulation of Lethal Force“, Robert Chesney (U of Texas School of Law), Yearbook of International Humanitarian (2010) — Abstract:

    Anwar al-Awlaki is a dual Yemeni-American citizen who has emerged in recent years as a leading English-language proponent of violent jihad, including explicit calls for the indiscriminate murder of Americans. According to the U.S. government, moreover, he also has taken on an operational leadership role with the organization al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), recruiting and directing individuals to participate in specific acts of violence. Does international law permit the U.S. government to kill al-Awlaki in these circumstances?

    Part I opens with a discussion of what we know about AQAP, about al-Awlaki himself, and about the U.S. government’s purported decision to place him on a list of individuals who may be targeted with lethal force in certain circumstances.

    Part II then explores objections to killing al-Awlaki founded in the U.N. Charter’s restraints on the use of force in international affairs. I conclude that a substantial case can be made, at least for now, both that Yemen has consented to the use of such force on its territory and that in any event the conditions associated with the right of self-defense enshrined in Article 51 can be satisfied.

    Part III then turns to objections rooted in IHL and IHRL, beginning with the question whether an attack on al-Awlaki would fall within IHL’s field of application. I conclude that the threshold of armed conflict has been crossed in two relevant respects.

    1. {I}t has been crossed in Yemen itself as between AQAP on one hand and the U.S. and Yemeni governments on the other.
    2. {I}t has been crossed as well with respect to the United States and the larger al Qaeda network – and not only within the geopolitical borders of Afghanistan.

    Building from these premises, I then proceed to consider whether al-Awlaki could be targeted consistent with IHL’s principle of distinction. I conclude that he can be if he is in fact an operational leader within AQAP, as this role would render him a functional combatant in an organized armed group.

    Should the analysis instead turn on IHRL, however, the central issue becomes the requirement of necessity inherent in IHRL’s protection for the right-to-life, and in particular the notion of temporal necessity. I conclude that this requirement is not an obstacle to attacking al-Awlaki insofar as

    1. there is substantial evidence that he is planning terrorist attacks,
    2. there is no plausible opportunity to incapacitate him with non-lethal means, and
    3. there is not good reason to believe that a plausible non-lethal opportunity to incapacitate him will arise before harm to others occurs.

    A second question then arises, however. Must al-Awlaki be linked to a specific plot to carry out a particular attack, or is it enough that the evidence establishes that he can and will attempt or otherwise be involved in attacks in the future without specificity as to what the particulars of those attacks might be? The former approach has the virtue of clarity, yet could rarely be satisfied given the clandestine nature of terrorism. The latter approach necessarily runs a greater risk of abuse and thus perhaps justifies an especially high evidentiary threshold, but in any event it is a more realistic and more appropriate approach (particularly from the point of view of the potential victims of future terrorist attacks).

  14. NYT: "Informer’s Role in Terror Case Is Said to Have Deterred F.B.I."

    Even the FBI, with its specialty in manufacturing fake terrorist attacks, didn’t like this op. Perhaps they thought the NYPD’s first try was too amateurish. Probably the NYPD will manufacture more of these, unless the American people overcome our gullibility.

    Informer’s Role in Terror Case Is Said to Have Deterred F.B.I.“, New York Times, 21 November 2011 — Excerpt (bold emphasis added):

    The suspect had little money to speak of, was unable to pay his cellphone bill and scrounged for money to buy the drill bits that court papers said he required to make his pipe bombs. Initially, he had trouble drilling the small holes that needed to be made in the metal tubes.

    The suspect, Jose Pimentel, according to several people briefed on the case, would seek help from a neighbor in Upper Manhattan as well as a confidential informer. That informer provided companionship and a staging area so Mr. Pimentel, a Muslim convert, could build three pipe bombs while the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department built its case.

    But it was the informer’s role, and that of his police handlers, that have now been cited as among the reasons the F.B.I., which had its own parallel investigation of Mr. Pimentel, did not pursue the case, which was announced on Sunday night in a news conference at City Hall. Terrorism cases are generally handled by federal authorities.

    There was concern that the informer might have played too active a role in helping Mr. Pimentel,

    … Mr. Pimentel, 27, who lived with his uncle in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood after his mother threw him out recently, appears to be unstable, according to several of the people briefed on the case, three of whom said he had tried to circumcise himself. And Mr. Pimentel, several of the people said, also smoked marijuana with the confidential informant, and some recordings in which he makes incriminating statements were made after the men had done so.

    … Intelligence Division detectives have had Mr. Pimentel … under surveillance for more than two years and made more than 400 hours of secret recordings, but his efforts to make the pipe bombs did not develop until mid-October

    …In the task force, investigators were concerned that the case raised some entrapment questions, two people said. They added that some investigators wondered whether Mr. Pimentel had the even small amount of money or technical know-how necessary to produce a pipe bomb on his own, had he not received help from the informer. …

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