Category Archives: torture

Home / Politics / torture
111 Posts

Iraq Redux?

Iran: the Neocons Are At It Again

by RALPH NADER

The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul’s inimitable words, “lie their way into invading Iraq” in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.

With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.

While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran’s alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.

Israelis in the know have much to say. Defense minister, Ehud Barak, responded to PBS’s Charlie Rose’s question “If you were Iran wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?” with these words:

“Probably, probably. I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear as well as North Korea, not to mention the Russians.”

The Iranian regime, with a national GDP smaller than Massachusetts, is terrified. It is surrounded by powerful adversaries, including the U.S. military on three of its borders. President George W. Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, one of the three “axis of evil,” and Teheran knows what happened to Iraq after that White House assertion. They also know that North Korea inoculated itself from invasion by testing nuclear bombs. And all Iranians remember that the U.S. overthrew their popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed the dictatorial Shah who ruled tyrannically for the next 27 years.

Recently, Iran has experienced mysterious cyber sabotage, drone violations of its air space, the slaying of its nuclear scientists and the blowing up of its military sites, including a major missile installation. Israeli and American officials are not trying too hard to conceal this low level warfare.

Israel military historian—strategist Martin van Creveld said in 2004, that Iranians “would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face.” Three years later he stated that “the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China….We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us…thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.”

U.S. General John Abizaid is one of numerous military people who say that the world can tolerate a nuclear Iran—which, like other countries, does not wish to commit suicide.

Using the “Iranian threat,” served Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on his first tour of duty back in 1996, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made a big point of the forthcoming Iranian bomb.

Somehow the Iranians, who were invaded in 1980 by a U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein, resulting in a million casualties, and who have not invaded anybody for 250 years, are taking a very long time to build a capability for atomic bomb production, much less the actual weapons.

In mid-2011, Meir Dagan, recently retired head of Israel’s “CIA,” repeated his opposition to a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, adding it would engulf the region in a conventional war.

He further took the Israeli government to task for failing “to put forth a vision,” noting that “Israel must present an initiative to the Palestinians and adopt the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal, reiterated since, that would open full diplomatic relations with some two dozen Arab and Islamic countries in return for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 borders and recognition of a Palestinian state.

The war-mongers against Iran have often distorted Iranian statements to suit their purpose and kept in the shadows several friendly Iranian initiatives offered to the George W. Bush Administration.

Flynt L. Leverett, now with Brookings and before a State Department and CIA official, listed three initiatives that were rejected. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban. The U.S. declined the offer. Second, in the spring of 2003, top Iranian officials sent the White House a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve questions regarding its weapons programs, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. This proposal was rebuffed and ignored.

Third, in October 2003, European officials secured an agreement from Iran to suspend Iranian uranium enrichment and to pursue talks that Mr. Leverett said “might lead to an economic, nuclear and strategic deal.” The Bush administration “refused to join the European initiative, ensuring that the talks failed,” he added.

A few days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran was developing a capability for making nuclear weapons someday but was not yet building a bomb. So why is the Obama Administration talking about a western boycott of Iran’s oil exports, so crucial to its faltering, sanctions-ridden economy? Is this latest sanction designed to squeeze Iranian civilians and lead to the overthrow of the regime? Arguably it may backfire and produce more support for the government.

Backing the Iranian regime into such a fateful corner risks counter-measures that may disrupt the gigantic flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Should that occur, watch the prices of your gasoline, heating bill and other related products go through the roof—among other consequences.

Isn’t it about time for the abdicatory Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibilities? It owes the American people comprehensive, public House and Senate hearings that produce knowledgeable testimony about these issues and all relevant history for wide media coverage.

The drums of war should not move our country into a propagandized media frenzy that preceded and helped cause the Iraq invasion with all the socio-cide in that country and all the costly blowbacks against U.S. national interests?

It is past time for the American citizenry to wake up and declare: Iran will not be an Iraq Redux!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

Terror Attacks, U.S.-Israeli War Games Raise the Prospects for War

Amid rising tensions over bogus Western claims that Iran plans to build nuclear weapons, upcoming American war games with Israel have the potential of escalating into a deadly confrontation.

A miscalculation, or deliberate provocation by the West designed to maneuver the Iranians into “firing the first shot,” could have disastrous consequences far beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf.

That provocation wasn’t long in coming.

Despite an agreement reached by Iran with the P 5+1 group of nations (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany), to restart talks in Turkey over the nuclear issue, the CIA-Mossad-MEK terror campaign took a dark turn this week; a sign that the imperialist powers, spearheaded by the United States, aim to scupper negotiations even before they start.

On Tuesday, an Iranian university professor, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was murdered after two assailants on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs to his car.

Analyst Richard Silverstein wrote on the Tikun Olam web site Wednesday that “my own confidential Israeli source confirms today’s murder was the work of the Mossad and MEK, as have been a number of previous operations I’ve reported here.”

Silverstein averred that “the method recalls another series of assassinations that occurred of Fereidoun Abbassi Davani (who was seriously wounded) and his colleague Majid Shahriari (who was killed). Today’s killing occurred two years to the day after the assassination of another scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi.”

According to Fars News Agency, the blasts which killed Roshan “also wounded two other Iranian nationals in Seyed Khandan neighborhood in Northern Tehran.”

The scientist”s driver, Reza Qashqavi, who was severely injured in the blast, “died of his wounds in Resalat Hospital a few hours later,” Fars reported.

What makes Roshan’s murder especially troubling is that according to political analyst Seyyed Mohamed Marandi, the “IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] officials had met him [Ahmadi Roshan] earlier.”

Marandi charged that all of the Iranian scientists who had been targeted and then subsequently murdered in terrorist attacks “have had their names given by the IAEA to third parties,” Press TV reported.

“It is obvious that Western intelligence agencies are carrying out these attacks, or if the Israelis are carrying them out, it is with the knowledge of the Europeans and Americans. Because these agencies are very closely aligned to one another, they cooperate extensively, they exchange information,” Marandi said.

While no one has claimed authorship of the terrorist outrage, the Associated Press reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz testified in closed session to the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that America’s proxy, Israel, was engaged in sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program through a series of “unnatural acts.”

“2012 is expected to be a critical year for Iran,” Gantz told the committee, citing “the confluence of efforts to advance the nuclear program, internal leadership changes, continued international pressure and things that happen to it unnaturally.”

Roshan was the fourth scientist killed in a series of assassinations since January 2010 and follows a series of attacks on defense and nuclear facilities.

In early November, a massive bomb blast at the sprawling Bid Ganeh missile base 25 miles west of Tehran killed upwards of 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a senior leader of Iran’s missile program.

Later that month, a huge explosion was reported at Iran’s uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. Though Iranian officials denied an attack took place, The Times reported that “satellite imagery … clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction.”

U.S. officials, as is their wont, responded in typical fashion–they blamed the victims.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she had “no information one way or the other” about the scientist’s murder, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Iran for their “provocative rhetoric” and issued a categorical denial that the U.S. was organizing terrorism inside the Islamic Republic.

However, in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ma’ariv daily, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that “Washington is preparing to undertake any measure to thwart Iran’s nuclear program,” Xinhua reported.

“We’ve said and I say again that all options are open … President (Barack) Obama clearly and consistently says that he will do everything and resort to all necessary means to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and he means every word,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro’s statement, if not quite an open admission, is a sign of Washington’s boundless hypocrisy as it supposedly wages a so-called “War on Terror” while organizing terrorist attacks on governments it has targeted for regime change.

Iran, and China, Strike a Defiant Note

With a new round of economic sanctions targeting Iran’s ability to sell its oil on international markets signed into law by President Obama last week, and with the European Union threatening to do the same, it was unlikely that the Iranian government, or their principle trading partner, would sit idly by and allow the West to damage their respective economies.

Although The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said that “the goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse,” the quote was quickly yanked from their web site.

The Post claimed the earlier account was “incorrectly reported” and that “an updated version clarifies the official’s remarks,” a fallacious climb-down that revealed far more than Washington intended to say the least!

The European Union announced that a meeting of foreign ministers would be held January 23, a week earlier than originally planned, to finalize an agreement on a comprehensive oil embargo.

While the EU and some Asian oil-buying nations are caving-in to Washington’s demands, America’s geopolitical rival and largest creditor, China, has rejected calls to put the squeeze on Tehran.

With U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Beijing this week, The Washington Post reported that the former Kissinger Associates henchman in Obama’s cabinet “is expected to press China’s leaders to reduce the country’s oil imports from Iran.”

He is unlikely to find a receptive ear, however.

China’s vice foreign minister responsible for U.S. relations, Cui Tiankai, said on Monday that “the normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue. We should not mix issues of different natures, and China’s legitimate concerns and demands should be respected.”

Having blasted the new sanctions regime imposed last week, China, the third largest buyer of Iranian crude, said new restrictions would not affect business in the least.

The Associated Press reported that “about 11 percent of China’s oil imports in 2011 came from Iran, or about 560,000 barrels per day, a flow that increased in the latter half of the year, according to oil industry analysts Argus Media.”

“The daily average for November was 617,000 barrels,” AP reported, “close to a third of Iran’s total oil exports of 2.2 million barrels a day, Argus said,” a sign that China is hardly intimidated by U.S. threats.

Rejecting U.S. and European claims that normal business relations with the Islamic Republic provided financial support for its nuclear program, Cui declared that “argument does not hold water.”

“According to this logic,” the vice minister said, “if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?”

Cui’s pointed remark was an obvious jab at the U.S. sanctions regime which targeted Iraq for more than a decade prior to the 2003 invasion. Sanctions, which former UN official Dennis Halliday called “genocide” back in 1999, were estimated to have caused the death of upwards of 1.7. million people, including some 500,000 children, a “price” which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said was “worth it.”

Undeterred by American threats, Press TV disclosed Sunday that “a senior Iranian lawmaker says the aim of the upcoming naval drills by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is to prepare for the potential closure of the strategic Hormuz Strait.”

Iranian naval officials announced January 5 that they “would be holding a major military maneuver in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in February.”

“IRGC’s Naval Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said the drills, the seventh in a series of military exercises dubbed the Great Prophet, will be different compared to previous naval maneuvers held by the IRGC,” Press TV reported.

Pointedly, the deputy head of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Esmail Kowsari, said that “the military maneuver has been designed to prepare the armed forces for receiving the order to shut down the strait within the shortest time possible.”

The semiofficial Iranian news outlet also reported Sunday that the “Commander of Iran’s Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan announces plans to hold a massive military maneuver in the near future.”

“In line with the global developments and their own interests,” Pourdastan told Press TV, “Western countries are, today, using soft war [tactics] as the core of their strategy and it is [only] natural for us to have a defense [tactic] when the enemy starts a war.”

On Monday, Fars News Agency reported that IRGC Commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, reiterated his earlier warning that “any enemy move, even the slightest aggressions, against the Islamic Republic would be reciprocated with a destructive response and will endanger the interests of the aggressor all around the world.”

Mounting U.S.-NATO Threats

Iran’s announcement that they will hold new naval exercises, followed a report by The Daily Telegraph that the UK will deploy “the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer,” and this “will send a significant message to the Iranians because of the firepower and world-beating technology carried by the warship.”

In November, The Guardian disclosed that “Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran.”

In a controlled leak, Ministry of Defence officials told The Guardian that “military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.”

During the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Diego Garcia was used by the the U.S. Air Force as a launch pad for B-2 stealth bombers during the initial phase of Washington’s “shock and awe” campaign over Baghdad.

It now appears those contingency plans have moved off the drawing board with the deployment of the HMS Daring towards the Persian Gulf.

The Telegraph disclosed that the ship “has been fitted with new technology that will give it the ability to shoot down any missile in Iran’s armoury. The £1 billion destroyer, which will leave Portsmouth next Wednesday, also carries the world’s most sophisticated naval radar, capable of tracking multiple incoming threats from missiles to fighter jets.”

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond warned Iran that “any blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be ‘illegal and unsuccessful’.”

According to the Telegraph, naval sources have said that “more British ships could be sent to the Gulf if required. The second Type 45, HMS Dauntless, will also be available to sail at short notice.”

As Global Research reported in December, the United States has significantly increased military aid to Israel in preparation for an all-out war with Iran and that “the Pentagon dispatched some 100 military personnel to Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to assist Israel in setting up a new sophisticated X-band early warning radar system as part of a new and integrated air defense system.”

Although “casually heralded as ‘military aid,'” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, “the project consisted in strengthening the integration of Israel’s air defense system into that of the US, with the Pentagon rather than Israel calling the shots.”

In a new development, Russia Today reported last week that “thousands of American troops are being deployed to Israel, and Iranian officials believe that this is the latest and most blatant warning that the US will soon be attacking Tehran.”

“Under the Austere Challenge 12 drill scheduled for an undisclosed time during the next few weeks,” RT disclosed, “the Israeli military will together with America host the largest-ever joint missile drill by the two countries.”

An anonymous Israeli official told the Associated Press “the drill would test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel has deployed the ‘Arrow’ system, jointly developed and funded with the U.S., designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from Israel.”

While U.S. and Israeli officials have called the drills “routine,” RT reported that “following the installation of American troops near Iran’s neighboring Strait of Hormuz and the reinforcing of nearby nations with US weapons, Tehran authorities are considering this not a test but the start of something much bigger.”

Iranian fears are fully justified.

With the United States and NATO ringing Iran with military bases and with the U.S. beefing-up arm sales to its regional allies, including recently announced plans to sell some $30 billion of advanced F-15SA war planes to Saudi Arabia and “bunker buster” bombs to the UAE, the stage is set for a confrontation.

In this context, the murder of an Iranian scientist just as a new round of talks were announced, is a clear sign that Washington is hell-bent on imposing its control over the Persian Gulf–through aggressive war–as part of long-standing plans to ensure imperial hegemony over the energy-rich regions of of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Analysis: Alleged Assassination Plot Doesn’t Fit Past Iranian Behavior

 

Analysis: Alleged Assassination Plot Doesn’t Fit Past Iranian Behavior

An embassy staffer peers through a glass door at an entrance of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC, on October 11, 2011. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

On Tuesday, a grim-faced U.S. attorney general and the FBI director accused Iranian intelligence officials in an alleged $1.5 million scheme to kill Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia in a bombing at a restaurant in the capital.

The federal indictment has escalated an already fierce conflict between the United States and Iran, alleging a brazen decision by Iranian officials to shed blood on U.S. soil and an ominous convergence of threats from separate worlds: Iran’s far-flung terror apparatus and the Zetas, a drug cartel founded by former Mexican commandos.

The evidence seems strong in some ways. Investigators tracked wire payments amounting to nearly $100,000 allegedly from the Quds Force, the foreign operations unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They caught a suspected Iranian officer on tape giving orders to a Texas operative working with a supposed representative of the Zetas who, in reality, was a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant.

The alarming charges reinforce concerns among Western government officials and experts about signs of growing activity by Iran and its proxy, the militant group Hezbollah, in Latin America.

“Hezbollah and Iran have been masters at identifying existing organized crime groups in front line areas and exploiting them,” Michael Braun, a DEA former operations chief who led investigations of the nexus between drugs and terror, said in an interview. “Hopefully, this is going to be a turning point for many in government regarding what the DEA has been saying about Iran and Hezbollah for the past five years.”

But the account in the indictment clashes with the past behavior of the Zetas and the Quds Force. Both the cartel and the espionage unit have calibrated their murderous operations to avoid direct confrontation with the United States. Although the masterminds of the five-month-long plot seem powerful and dangerous, the plot as described by prosecutors unfolded atypically.

“If it weren’t for things like large amounts of money being deposited, and a guy floating around whom I assume they know to be a member of the Quds Force, I would say it just doesn’t feel right,” said Charles Faddis, a former CIA counterterrorism chief, “beginning with the selection of a target in downtown D.C. It’s so clearly an act of war that it’s hard to imagine why the Iranians would sign on to that. And the tradecraft seems amateurish and sloppy. It’s crazy.”

The chief suspect is Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, an Iranian-American used-car salesman. He has been in the United States since the late 1970s and has been married to two U.S. citizens, both of them Latinas, according to documents and officials. He became a U.S. citizen last year, according to officials.

Some years ago, Arbabsiar befriended a Corpus Christi, Texas, woman whose nephew he believed to be a member of the Zetas cartel, according to officials. The nephew was actually a confidential DEA informant “with direct access to key leadership elements” of the Zetas and the rival Gulf cartel, according to a U.S. law-enforcement official.

Arbabsiar told investigators that he recruited the informant in May at the direction of Arbabsiar’s cousin in Iran, a general in the Quds Force, according to the indictment. The informant advised his DEA handlers, who launched an undercover operation with the FBI. The informant met with the suspect in Mexico to develop the plot, officials say.

Arbabsiar’s record includes only minor traffic violations, and he apparently was not a veteran of the drug underworld. Some U.S. officials are puzzled that Iran would deploy an apparently inexperienced operative for a sensitive, potentially disastrous mission.

“I’m getting the impression this is a one-off, opportunistic thing,” said a U.S. national security official who requested anonymity. “From what I’ve seen, this is not a highly trained guy. He had the language, the connections, the ability to travel. His personal situation put him in a position where he was useful. I didn’t get the sense he was a hardened criminal.”

The investigation identified the Iranian general and his deputy, a colonel in the Quds Force who allegedly directed and funded the conspiracy with almost $100,000 wired from a foreign bank to an account set up by the FBI in New York, making the implications grave, officials say. In addition, Treasury Department officials have implicated two top officials of the Revolutionary Guard Corps in the plot. Arbabsiar cooperated after his arrest in late September, allowing the FBI to intercept his phone conversations with the Iranian colonel, Gholam Shakuri, who has been indicted and remains a fugitive.

“The investigators feel there’s a deep connection into the Iranian security establishment,” the national security official said. “The question is: Do you have elements of that apparatus going rogue here? Can you control the Quds Force or smaller entities within it? Or is there a new attempt by the Iranians to come after us?”

Iran has targeted U.S. troops through paramilitary proxies such as Shiite militants in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to counterterrorism experts. In past terrorist attacks, Iranian spies carefully chose locales where weak security forces and an infrastructure of local accomplices enabled them to conceal their tracks, according to Western intelligence officials.

Iran has been blamed for bloody car bombings in Argentina of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and a Jewish community center in 1994, but corruption, ineptitude and political manipulation prevented a complete resolution of those cases. The Quds Force allegedly worked with Hezbollah in those Argentine attacks as well as an aborted bombing in 2008 of the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan, which neighbors Iran. Azeri police arrested alleged plotters including Iranian diplomats and a veteran Lebanese Hezbollah operative dispatched from South America for the mission, according to Western intelligence officials and the Azeri court charges.

The Iranian plot in Washington allegedly involved discussion of attacks on the Israeli and Saudi embassies in addition to the assassination of the ambassador.

In contrast to operations in nations such as Argentina or Iraq, spectacular attacks on heavily-guarded diplomatic targets in Washington would risk rapid discovery by U.S. authorities and demand major retaliation. Moreover, an alliance between Iranian Islamic extremists and the ruthless capitalists of Mexican cartels for an act of terrorism would be unprecedented — “a monumental leap of faith,” as former DEA official Braun put it.

Western counterterrorism officials say Iranian intelligence has established a growing presence in Latin America, which has large Arab immigrant communities. Iranian and Hezbollah operatives have expanded their roles in crime, fundraising and recruitment in longtime outposts such as Venezuela and the area where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. A DEA investigation in 2009 identified a Hezbollah operative in Mexico who had drug connections and access to a stockpile of military arms allegedly stolen from Iraq, according to court documents.

“I believe the Hezbollah-Iranian presence in Latin America constitutes a clear threat to the security of the U.S. homeland,” Roger Noriega, a former top State Department official on Latin American affairs, testified in July at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

But U.S. diplomats downplay the warnings about Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the hemisphere, saying it consists mostly of fundraising. Even officials who take the Iranian threat seriously say they have not seen previous indications of a close partnership between Iranian spies and Mexican drug mafias.

“The main question is: Is there any conceivable way that Mexican DTOs [drug-trafficking organizations] would cooperate with the Quds Force?” a U.S. intelligence official said. “”It doesn’t make good business sense.”

The Zetas of Mexico have massive firepower and formidable systems of communications and intelligence gathering. Mexican cartels have built trafficking networks from Atlanta to Los Angeles; they have been accused of killing U.S. Border Patrol agents, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent based in Mexico and people connected to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

In contrast to the bloody turf wars in Mexico, however, Mexican gangsters have largely avoided shootouts and major killings north of the border. They and their corrupt allies in Mexican law enforcement have a keen understanding of a U.S. mentality in which such violence, not to mention links to Islamic terrorism, would trigger a backlash.

The use of Mexican gunmen would certainly make it harder to trace the plot back to Iran. But experts and officials said they doubt that Mexican traffickers would become embroiled with Iran in a kamikaze-like attack that could incite the wrath of the U.S. government. In the wiretapped conversations, the informant posing as a Zetas hit man told Arbabsiar that the planned bombing in Washington might kill many bystanders, including U.S. senators dining at the restaurant frequented by Ambassador Al-Jubeir.

According to the Department of Justice, the Iranian-American allegedly responded: “They want that guy [the ambassador] done [killed]; if the hundred go with him, f**k ’em.”

Arbabsiar apparently did not realize that his interlocutor’s willingness to engage in the slaughter was suspicious. It is harder to believe, however, that chiefs of the crack Quds Force would have been so unsophisticated – or relied on Arbabsiar to hire Mexican triggermen with whom they had not worked in the past, some officials said.

“Assuming they wanted to run an op and have the Mexican cartels take point, they have Hezbollah guys all over South America they have been working through a long time,” said Faddis, the former CIA official. “They have a million other hard-wired ways to get in contact with the cartels.”

A potential explanation: The Iranian-American suspect may have been trying sell the Quds Force on a plan beyond his capacity to execute.

“He may have been trying to bilk them,” Faddis said. “Maybe they got involved to the point of trying to figure out what he can deliver, and it turns out U.S. law enforcement is all over him.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has become a veritable state within a state, Western intelligence officials say. The elite force’s dominance of Iran’s politics and economy has been accompanied by factional infighting, mafia-like moneymaking and sloppy tradecraft. Two IRGC officials were implicated in arms trafficking last year in Nigeria, and one was arrested. The year before, Italian police arrested two alleged Iranian operatives who were wiretapped discussing arms deals and espionage against opposition figures with bosses at the Iranian embassy in Rome and in Tehran.

“When you are dealing with the Iranians, there is often no such thing as the Iranian government but multiple power centers,” Faddis said. “Sometimes they do things that don’t make sense or are contradictory.”

Torture is Systemic in Afghan Prisons, UN Report Finds — News from Antiwar.com

Torture is Systemic in Afghan Prisons, UN Report Finds

 John Glaser On October 10, 2011

Detainees in Afghan prisons are hung from the ceilings by their wrists, severely beaten with cables and wooden sticks, have their toenails torn off, are treated with electric shock, and even have their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness, according to a study released Monday by the United Nations.

The study, which covered 47 facilities sites in 22 provinces, found “a compelling pattern and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment” during interrogation by US-supported Afghan authorities. Both US and NATO military trainers and counterparts have been working closely with these authorities, consistently supervising the detention facilities and funding their operations.

The report detailed instances where detained suspects not yet charged with crimes signed confessions only after days of torture, sealing their fate as a convict in Afghanistan.

Before the report was published, the Afghan government got word of its findings and officials sternly denied the claims of torture. Gen. John R. Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, saw a draft of the report and halted transfers of suspected insurgents to 16 of the 47 facilities uncovered in the report.

The Afghan government claims that although the torture was widespread and systemic, they do not condone torture. It has reportedly set up an “assessment unit” to look into the issue and has already dismissed some of the employees at one particularly abusive facility. No prosecution for the torturers has yet been initiated.

The negligence of the US and NATO administrators, and of the Obama administration in Washington, overseeing the detention facilities in Afghanistan could be prosecutable, although chances for accountability in that respect are very remote. The revelations may trigger restrictions on US aid to Afghanistan, under a provision of law called the Leahy law.