Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Iranian Murder Plot: A True Attempt or Fabrication?

News spread over the last few days that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps- Quds Forces plotted to assassin the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C. (click here for one of the news stories: If true, this allegation would be more than serious for Iran: it could face diplomatic and economic sanctions, as well as a possible military strike by the United States. Carrying out murder on foreign soil is a serious affair and a violation of sovereignty of the country where the murder is carried out. If this murder plot were true, then a retaliatory strike by the United States against Iran could be justified under international law.
World leaders around the globe seemed to accept the truthfulness of the plotted murder story. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called for accountability for Iran, and stated that Iran's actions were reckless and would undermine international norms. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, stood by the United States' allegations and proclaims Britain's support of its long-standing ally. The French Foreign Ministry called the plot "an outrageous violation of international law." And the Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, an important member of the Saudi royal family, vowed that "someone in Iran" would "pay the price" for this kind of behavior.
However, the alleged Iranian murder plot reads more like a mystery novel than the work of a serious governmental security force. First, there seems to be no apparent motivation for the attempted murder. Although Iran is a predominantly Shi'a state, whereas the Saudis are mostly Sunni Arabs, this fact alone does not justify the attempted murder of a Saudi ambassador. Moreover, the ambassador was not a very prominent member of the Saudi ruling regime, and it is doubtful that Iran would achieve anything significant by eliminating this lone, mid-level Saudi diplomat. Second, even if Iran had wanted to eliminate the Saudi ambassador, it would be ludicrous to plan the attack in the United States, let alone in Washington D.C. Iran could have carried out the attack in any other third country that the ambassador was visiting, such as Jordan or Syria or Yemen - a country which would not have the political and military cache of a super power, like the United States. Third, it is incredulous that the Iranian Quds Forces would attempt to contact a Mexican drug cartel to execute the murder. Quds forces certainly have the necessary training and capability to execute any type of murder, which casts doubt on their willingness to involve Mexican organized crime in this affair. Moreover, Mexican drug cartels are profitable businesses, not interested in entering into risky ventures on American soil, such as the execution of a Saudi ambassador. It is extremely likely that Iranian Quds Forces would have known this about the Mexican drug cartels, as Iranians themselves have faced drug-related problems coming from Afghanistan. Thus, it is more than likely that Quds Forces would have never thought of involving the Mexicans in an attempted murder of a foreign diplomat in Washington D.C. Finally, even if Quds Forces truly had wanted to contract out the execution to a Mexican drug cartel, one would have to wonder about the sloppiness of the alleged operation. Numerous international telephone conversations were taped, where the parties were allegedly conspiring about the murder; moreover, money that was to be paid for the execution was internationally wired. Anyone of the Quds Forces' savvyness would know not to discuss murder plans over international phone lines, and not to wire money into the United States, as these actions would necessarily trigger FBI scrutiny.
In light of the above observations, I have to wonder about the truthfulness of the allegations against Iran in the attempted murder plot. Is this just an American tactic, fabricated in order to increase tension between the United States and Iran, in order to deflect public attention from the ongoing financial and economic crisis within America? Is this similar to the weapons of mass destruction story in Iraq - an allegation fabricated in order to increase public support of an attack on Iraq, in order to oust Saddam Hussein? Hillary Clinton in her remarks was careful to indicate that the American response against Iran would be purely diplomatic and economic (sanctions), and that no military response would be attempted as of now. It is almost as if she did not believe the story herself. Other commentators have pointed out that Iran could very well be the culprit here. Quds Forces have certainly carried out other murders on foreign soil, and this kind of an attack would fit perfectly within the current Iranian regime's provocative tactics. Furthermore, there seems to be some solid proof against the persons involved in the alleged scheme - enough to warrant a federal indictment and the global announcement about the murder plot.
More news and a further investigation into the story are certainly warranted. As of today, I remain skeptical about the veracity of the attempted murder plot, as I curiously await more information.

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