Alleged Iran/Mexico narco-mullah assassination plot is a head-scratcher

From the FBI website, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, center, joined by Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco at a press conference about an alleged Iranian assassination plot Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Sebastian Rotella at Pro Publica:

The alleged Iranian plot to use Mexican cartel gunmen to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington is one of the strangest, most serious terrorism cases to surface in years, a mix of seemingly credible evidence and unlikely scenarios that departs dramatically from Iran’s past record of global terrorist activity.

Gary Sick of Columbia's School of International Affairs has a similar take on his blog.

Iran has never conducted — or apparently even attempted — an assassination or a bombing inside the US. And it is difficult to believe that they would rely on a non-Islamic criminal gang to carry out this most sensitive of all possible missions. In this instance, they allegedly relied on at least one amateur and a Mexican criminal drug gang that is known to be riddled with both Mexican and US intelligence agents.

Whatever else may be Iran’s failings, they are not noted for utter disregard of the most basic intelligence tradecraft, e.g. discussing an ultra-covert operation on an open international line between Iran and the US. Yet that is what happened here.

Perhaps this operation is just as it appears. But at a minimum both the public and the Congress should demand more detailed evidence before taking any rash or irreversible action.

The conspiracy theorist response would be that all of this is a fabricated diversion from "Fast and Furious." But even if the allegations are real, the timing sure doesn't pass my sniff test. Just hours before subpoenas issued to Holder et al over the "gun-walking" scandal?

Update: Bob Mackey's New York Times piece describes it as reminiscent of a Tarantino script. And the story keeps getting weirder.


  1. An odd combination of Iranian Fundamentalism and central American drug gangs?

    It seems the old quote was right.

    History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

  2. Of course, it could be that the operation did originate from Iran, but was not officially approved at the top level. There are many different factions in Iran, and some ultra-zealot in the Revolutionary Guards or whatever may have decided to run this without official approval.

    1. I kind of agree that we don’t need an extra layer of conspiracy on this.  As it is, an element of  the Iranian goverment were attacking the Saudis by using Mexicans that they didn’t know were US informants.   Suggesting it was a Democratic  plot to distract the Republicans by pretending the Iranians were attacking the Saudis by using Faux Mexicans cartel members is not  exactly Occam’s razor. 

    2. Of course, it could be that the operation did originate from Iran, but was not officially approved at the top level. There are many different factions in Iran, and some ultra-zealot in the Revolutionary Guards or whatever may have decided to run this without official approval.

      Well, the Revolutionary Guard might be the top level.  They certainly don’t hesitate to dictate to the rest of the government, which hastens to obey.

  3. Hey, be fair, we needed a story about those evil narco-Mexicans that didn’t involve us selling them guns and we needed a story about the Iranians that didn’t involve our actions in the middle east largely strengthening their position.

    It seemed only efficient to combine the two…

  4. I wonder if this is really to give the Saudis cover to crack down on their Shiite minority. It is a bothersome fact that the Shiites in Saudi Arabia live on top of the oil, and the Saudis have never been fond of the Shiites. After all, while the allegation is that they planned the action to happen in the United States, the alleged intended target is Saudi. Maybe we shouldn’t be such U.S. homers in this analysis.

  5. This is no doubt weird, but there’s so much pearl-clutching and vapors-getting in the news today over this, as though the United States has never used a cruise missile to eliminate a threat, while accepting the potential for collateral damage.

  6. this is pathetic. i wonder if ANYBODY in the us of a is dumb enough to fall for that spiel?

    next, it’ll be penguin ninjas hellbent on destroying the redwood forest to cause a climate change,  so your administration has no choice but to deploy troops to the antarctis, somewhere
    in the region of the old aleut village of dunnothenamebutecholocationsaidtheresoilunderneath.

  7. It’s a new tactic, called “implausible deniability”. When planning a covert operation, you make it so completely ludicrous that if you get caught you can go “Yeah, right, as if that would ever happen.”

    “OK, it’s going to go down like this. Team A, dressed as clowns, will infiltrate the conference center, while Team B paddle through the sewers on inflatable love dolls. The infiltrators will then spray the VIPs on the podium with rat pheromones, at the same time that team B throws open the access panels to the sewer system. In the confusion, the snipers will take out the ambassador, and then make their escape in the supercharged Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.”

  8. There’s a lot of history along these lines that people who are calling it strange forget, or never knew.
    1) Iran passed a fatweh and contracted the killing of Imam  Rashad Khalifa in Tucson Az in 1990.
    2) Iran conducted an attack in the USA (San Diego) against the wife of Capt. Will Rogers III, commanding officer of the USS Vincennes as revenge for the shooting down of the Iran Air Airbus.
    3) This one is bit less forgiving for people to forget. It was Iran that passed a fatwah and contracted the attempted killingof Salmon Rushde. He was in hiding for 10 years running from his assassins.
    4) Iran and Saudia Arabia have been a loggerheads for some time. All one has to do is look up the  various attacks during Haj after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    I think most people who think this strange are making a few key errors based on prescient observation. They observe that the US has made some rather poor foreign policy choices. Because of the power of the United States, they view the US as the focus of evil in the modern world. To borrow a phrase from the dust bin of history….And so they think that if the US were to lose power, evil doing in the world will be lessened. Unfortunately this is not the case. When the corrupt global cop goes away, all the corrupt cop wanna be’s come out of the woodwork. That could very well be what is going on. The decline of the American hegemon will not bring peace. It will bring new levels of chaos not dreamed up or seen for generations.

    1. Could you point to some information about your points number 1 and 2? I’m just learning about these incidents for the first time, so I could be wrong, but the idea of Iran being behind them seems like a minority view at best.

      1.  I tried to look up any good sources and was not able to. I’m going off memory. So I’ll share my memories. I was a student at the UofA ’87 to ’91. Rashid was a real “freak of the Old Pueblo”. Tucson had a lot of crazy people all with their special qualities. Rashid thought the Quran has numerical codes in it along the lines that numerologist Jews think the same of the old testament. He went on to say he was a prophet, then he said that he was a prophet on the same level of Mohamed. THAT’s when the Iranians put a price on his head. There was a large Iranian student body and they had several pro Iranian student organizations. When the fatwah was passed against Rashid it made the news here because he was a local and because the fatwah was a death sentence. I asked the Iranian student union guy at his booth if Iran would really kill the guy. He responded that within a year, he would be killed.  As for Sharon Williams ( I think that was her name). I could have sworn that Iran actually took active credit for that strike and openly stated it as revenge for the Airbus downing by her husbands ship.

  9. As people have said, the TIMING is, if nothing else, extremely suspicious.

    As usual Glen Greenwald’s take is disturbing but probably dead-on.

    Someone kind of touched on this, but calling this a terror plot is a bit of a stretch. It’s an attack of a foreign diplomat on (differently) foreign soil. If mere possibility of collateral damage is enough to call something terrorism, then our wars and drone strikes are terrorism. (Hmmmmmmm?)

    This might just be another case of FBI basically handing plans and means to some hapless angry schmuck and then proudly crying that they thwarted terrorism.

    I want firm evidence Quds is involved before we start demonizing Iran. (Yet again.)

  10. If there is one thing we have learned from terrorist attacks, it’s the more implausible, farfetched and outlandish the plot seems, the more likely it is to be true.

    1. We have not ‘learned’ that. The vast majority of terror attacks are conducted by Islamists against their fellow Islamic population. The ratio is 1000’s to 1 in the number of attacks of Islamist against Islamic vs Islamist vs Westerner. We do see signs of US Government involvement in this case with the US Government setting up a puppet Mexican assassin to contract with. We’ve seen things like this before and it could very well be a total setup. It could also be a well placed interception. Unfortunately the US press is so in love with reading from government talking points we don’t know, and won’t know for some time. All we do know is the US Government, and the Iranian government will both try to play this to the maximum in their favor. The question is what is the real nature of this event? Is it the US Government upping the terror alert just before a major scandal erupts (Fast and Furious) as we have seen before, as with the underwear bomber occurring during the time when strip search machines were being evaluated for deployment? Or is this a pretext to garner world opposition against the Iranian government? I doubt this is a pretext for war. We no longer have the force levels deployed in the region for this sort of thing. Is it the real thing? I’m ready to believe anything once I see some good solid information. As for trying to read the tea leaves based on allignment of interests. Well that’s impossible right now.

  11. I myself  havent read the whole Iran-Zetas Soap opera (It would make an intresting telenovela), but the first thing that pops in my mind (dont know why) its the infamous episode between Oprah and a certain post on a pedophile victims internet forum….
    In other words…
    The DoJ got trolled and they getting all Oprah on it.

  12. Thanks. I did find some references to a fatwa against Rashad, but they talk about a fatwa issued by Saudi clerics, not Iranian, and that did not explicitly call for assassination. (Lots of Christians are into Bible numerology too, by the way.)

    1.  Rashad did not make many friends outside of Tucson.  It was a period of Iran passing many rulings against people with death as the punishment. Salmon Rushde was the most famous. Amazingly mr Rashad’d mosque is still operating on the corner of 6th street and Park Ave in Tucson. It still has “Happiness is Submission to God” plastered on the side. For me it’s always an education into human nature in all the ways we figure people have to die in order to further our ideals. We’re really quite sick as a species.

  13. Totally “Loony Tunes”…  Elmer Fuddish, Daffy Duckish, Foghorn Leghornish…..  And I’m just referring to the DOJ and FBI here……

  14. Wait, people are really buying that story?  It sounds like some of the kooky false-flag shit that G. Gordon Liddy kept trying to get Nixon to approve. 

  15. Tit for tat, right? So we should just hire some Saudi opium runners to assassinate, oh I don’t know, say the ambassador to Venezuela. Fair’s fair.

  16. Its the perfect thing for finishing off Civil Liberties in the US. Combine the War on “Terror” with the War on “Drugs”…

  17. The US Attorney General seems so upset about this supposed conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US. Fair is fair, the USA has no problems with assassinating foreign political figures, even their own citizens, using explosives.

    I’m sure the government of Iran has proof showing the ambassador is an enemy combatant. Of course, this evidence is a state secret, and they are not required to show it. We should just trust them that he was a very bad man. (end sarcasm)

  18. They’re right, this is one of the most strangest, most serious terrorism cases to surface in years.  One nation wants to use local resources to kill a single individual working counter to that nation’s interests, without any particular emphasis on spreading fear (also known as: terror).

    We used to call these things “assassinations.”  I guess brown people can’t even jaywalk without it being labeled “terrorism.”

  19. I still don’t understand why this is a “terror plot” or terrorism. Must everything be reduced to or labeled as terrorism to grab the attention of the people? Are we all supposed to say, “OMG terrorism averted! Thank God for the patriot act!” 

    As far fetched or complex as it is, it just sounds like a straight up conspiracy to assassinate a dude.

  20. Frankly, this entire alleged “plot” sounded extremely fishy the first time I read about it. I think it is meant to serve two purposes: distract from the “Fast and Furious” scandal and provide another excuse for Obama to attack Iran in time to influence the 2012 elections.

    Even if we accepted this absurd story as true, isn’t the outrage coming from Washington more than just a little hypocritical?

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