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The World Today – Ex-CIA warns US ‘dangerously wrong’ on Iran 12/10/2011

Ex-CIA warns US ‘dangerously wrong’ on Iran

Eleanor Hall reported this story on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 12:22:00

ELEANOR HALL: Now to the United States where a former intelligence analyst is warning the Obama administration to step back from blaming Iran for the foiled assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

The US attorney-general says Iran is behind what would have been a blatant act of international terrorism and which investigating authorities said was intended to be a prelude to other attacks.

The Iranian regime is denying any involvement in the plot and says the allegations are US propaganda.

At a press conference announcing the plot and the charging of two Iranians, attorney-general Eric Holder said that the US would “hold Iran accountable for its actions”.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also warned that the US will consider ways to isolate Iran from the international community.

HILLARY CLINTON: This kind of action which violates international norms must be ended and other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to Iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

But a former CIA analyst with decades of experience studying Iran, says the US may have got this dangerously wrong.

Robert Baer spent 21 years working as a CIA case officer in the Middle East.

When he spoke to me this morning, he said this plot does not appear to him to be driven by the Iranian government and he says the US administration must now step back from its comments and open a direct diplomatic channel with the Iranian regime or risk igniting an uncontrollable war.

Robert Baer, were you surprised when you heard about this assassination plot?

ROBERT BAER: Oh absolutely. I mean right now is not the time for Iran to provoke the United States. We’re on edge already vis-à-vis Iran and it came as a total surprise to me.

ELEANOR HALL: The Iranian authorities have dismissed this as US propaganda; is it credible that the Iranian government is behind it?

ROBERT BAER: I don’t think it’s credible, not the central government, there may be a rogue element behind it. This doesn’t fit their modus operandi at all. It’s completely out of character, they’re much better than this. They wouldn’t be sending money through an American bank, they wouldn’t be going to the cartels in Mexico to do this. It’s just not the way they work.

I’ve followed them for 30 years and they’re much more careful. And they always use a proxy between them and the operation, and in this case they didn’t. I mean it’s the, either they’re shooting themselves in the foot or there’s pieces of the story, I don’t know what they are.

ELEANOR HALL: Well the US attorney-general is alleging that it’s the Iranian government and has warned that the US will take further action against Iran; what could he mean by that? What form could that action take?

ROBERT BAER: Well if they had gone through with this and set off a bomb in a Washington restaurant and attacked the Israeli embassy and the rest of it, that’s a casus belli, they could have gone to war with Iran.

And will they move? Sanctions are not working, they’ve done all the sanctions they can, are they going to move to some sort of naval blockade, an embargo? I can’t tell you.

But if they truly believe the central government was going to launch an attack inside the United States like this, they have to do something now that they’re on the record.

ELEANOR HALL: Well they are on the record. They’re now saying that they will take further action. It’s surely not likely that they would launch a war?

ROBERT BAER: There could be retaliatory attacks or, you know, hit/bomb a Quds Force base in Tehran, any number of things of course which would lead to a huge escalation.

I just cannot get over the fact though, and I have to come back to this, the Iranians are not that sloppy to plan something like this and then call back to Tehran. So I can’t explain what’s going on here.

ELEANOR HALL: So are you suggesting that the US attorney-general is actually speaking out too soon in blaming the Iranian government?

ROBERT BAER: I think he is. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the administration sort of backing down from this in the coming days.

On the other hand, if they increase the rhetoric, we are looking at an escalation which is uncontrollable.

ELEANOR HALL: And which could lead where?

ROBERT BAER: It could lead to a conflict in Iran. I mean, if we were to launch an embargo, there’s a limited amount of troops in Iraq, would the Iranians retaliate against them? Would they retaliate against us in any number of places?

This is the problem, you know, Iran truly is the third rail of American foreign policy and no-one’s done anything over the years to ameliorate relations with Iran.

ELEANOR HALL: If it’s not Iran behind this assassination plot, what are the possibilities?

ROBERT BAER: You could have an individual claiming it’s the Iranian government, an Iranian radical. You might actually have a radical in Tehran attempting to frame the government.

ELEANOR HALL: And to what extent should the Saudis be concerned about such a plot against their ambassador in the US, whether it’s driven by the official authorities of Iran or not?

ROBERT BAER: I think that they should be worried about attacks inside Saudi Arabia, and again that goes back to escalation.

ELEANOR HALL: Well Iran and the Saudis have long been rival powers in the region, but are the various Arab Spring uprisings ratcheting up the tensions between the two?

ROBERT BAER: I think they are because if you look at something like Syria, Iran, no matter what they say, supports the minority regime. My contention is we’re sitting on a volcano in the Middle East. But that’s all could be ignited by this kind of tension. And people in the White House, that’s exactly what they don’t need going into an election.

ELEANOR HALL: So what’s your advice right now to the president?

ROBERT BAER: Well I think he made a huge step in this press conference in the wrong direction. You know, now is the time we should have a back channel to Iran, figure out who these people are, a red line, like we used to have with the Soviet Union, and sort this out. We need a direct channel to the Iranians to talk this through.

ELEANOR HALL: And the way that you’re speaking at the moment, this is a really serious point of crisis?

ROBERT BAER: I think it’s an act of war. If that bomb had gone off, if indeed this was a real plot, it had gone off, it would have been an act of war and the United States would have been forced to respond with military… an attack. There would have been no question in my mind.

So were we that close to a war with Iran? I don’t know.

ELEANOR HALL: But at this point you’re saying actions need to be taken to step it back, from the United States?

ROBERT BAER: Absolutely. We could not control the consequences of a war with Iran, it’s uncontrollable.

Look, all these scenarios are worst case, and fortunately they rarely come about and I hope we step back on this one.

ELEANOR HALL: Robert Baer, thanks very much for joining us.

ROBERT BAER: Thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s former CIA analyst Robert Baer. His most recent book on Iran is called Dealing with the Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. And you can listen to a longer version of that interview on our website.

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.”

Saudi Woman Sentenced to 10 Lashes for Driving, Others Await Trial

Source: My Right2Dignity Initiative.

Breaking News: We have received unfortunate news about a Saudi lady, Shaimaa, who was called in court for driving her car, she has attended three sessions in Jeddah and they have sentenced her for 10 lashes. She rejected the verdict and will appeal in court. This is completely unacceptable and certainly breaks laws and regulations as well as international treaties that Saudi Arabia has signed. Two other ladies have been called to court, Ms. Najlaa Al Hariri was forced to sign a pledge not to drive again and is scheduled to appear in court for trial in one month in Jeddah and another lady is under trial in the Eastern Province. What is happening to our women today is unfortunate and violates the rule of law and legal rights and is contrary to the reformist direction that was launched by The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. We deplore what has happened and what is happening, and we appeal to The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, to look into our [Saudi women driving] issue which has long been silenced and which has caused shedding off our rights, and our dignity. A right that was promised to be granted to us by King Abdullah and one which has been legitimized by laws and codes yet was seized by so-called customs. We declare [once again] that there is no legal provision that criminalize women for driving their cars, and which if found, would legally be considered a flagrant violation of women rights and would infringe treaties and conventions that was signed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such as the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We hereby announce that The Initiative will offer lawyers, if needed, for any woman who is subjected to legal accusations for driving her car, and we shall continue this until The King hears our voices. We will send telegrams to The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, on the issue of Ms. Najla Al Hariri for driving her car, and other ladies who have been interrogated or prosecuted for driving their cars. We hope that other citizens who denounce the above incidents will communicate with officials by sending telegrams or by callingTelegraph on 969 from any phone owned by the person to bring our collective voices to key decision-makers.

Signed, My Right2Dignity Initiative

Source: My Right2Dignity Initiative.

وردتنا اخباء مؤسفه عن استدعاء السيدة شيماء لمحاكمتها بسبب قيادتها سيارتها و حضرت ثلاث جلسات في المحكمة قبل الحكم عليها بالجلد عشر جلدات ، هذا الامر بالتأكيد غير مقبول تماما و قد كسر القوانين و اللوائح و المعهدات الدولية التي وقعت عليها المملكة العربية السعودية ، مثل معاهدة سيداو ،، كذلك تم استدعاء سيدتين أخريين للمحاكمة بسبب قيادة السيارة ، احداهن في رلمنطقة الشرقية و الأخرى السيدة نجلاء حريري التي اجبرت على توقيع تعهد بعدم القيادة و حددت لها جلسة في المحكمة الشهر القادم في جدة ،، ما يحدث مع نساءنا اليوم شيء مؤسف و مخالف للقواعد الشرعية و القانونية و يخالف بالوقت ذاته التوجهات الإصلاحية التي دشنها خادم الحرمين الشريفين. ونحن نشجب ما حدث ويحدث ونناشد خادم الحرمين الشريفين بالنظر لموضوعنا الذي طال السكوت عنه وأريقت كرامتنا مرات ومرات بسبب مطالبتنا بحق شرعي بشر به الملك عبدالله و كفلته كل القوانين والشرائع وصادرته أعراف ما أنزل الله بها من سلطان. ونعلن مرة أخرى أنه لا يوجد أي نص قانوني يجرم أو يمنع قيادة المرأه للسيارة وأنه لو وجد فسيعد انتهاك صارخ لحقوق المرأة ونقض لكل المعاهدات والمواثيق الدولية التي وقعتها المملكة العربية السعودية ومنها اتفاقية سيداو لازالة كافة أشكال التمييز ضد المرأة. وهنا نعلن أن المبادرة ستتكفل بتوكيل محامين لأي سيدة تتعرض لمسائلة قانونية عند قيادتها للسيارة ولن نمل حتى يصل صوتنا لخادم الحرمين الشريفين. مبادرة حقي كرامتي

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack – War Room – Salon.com.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack

America’s most virulent anti-Islam bloggers continue attacking all Muslims, accuse terror victims of anti-Semitism

By Alex Pareene
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack
Wikipedia/AP
>Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller

As a writer, it sure sucks when someone murders a bunch of people based on your ideas. (I mean, I assume that sucks. Weirdly, it’s never happened to me.) So you can understand why right-wing anti-Islam bloggers are all being kind of defensive, these days.

Anders Breivik, the anti-Islam terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, read a lot of American anti-Islam bloggers, many of whom he cited in his lengthy manifesto. Breivik’s favorites included Robert Spencer, a self-proclaimed expert on Islam whose “Jihad Watch” blog was quoted and cited in Breivik’s manifesto, and Spencer’s ally and collaborator Pam Geller, whose “Atlas Shrugs” was similarly recommended by the killer.

So some people have been like, “hey, wow guys, a crazy person took everything you write so seriously that he murdered a bunch of people, in the name of protecting his nation from the creeping ‘Islamization’ of Europe that you guys constantly crow about, maybe you guys should stop and think for a minute about the horrible, hateful things you all write, all the time.” And Spencer and Geller have basically screeched back, “CENSORSHIP!!!!!”

They are now actually fundraising on the fact that they helped inspire a massacre. Or more accurately, they’re begging for money to protect them from the imaginary witch hunt that they claim the liberals will mount. (Is this part of the witch hunt? I am always confused about whether I’m witch-hunting or not, when I call people horrid hateful bigots.) Spencer also signed Geller’s fundraising blog, and if you donate more than $500 to Atlas Shrugs, ThinkProgress reports, they will send you a signed copy of Geller’s book, “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance.” (I assume a coordinated terror attack against radical Islam’s liberal enablers is written off in the pamphlet as impractical.)

People are not responsible for what crazy people do after reading their blog posts for years, obviously (though inciting fear of and hatred for ethnic and religious minority groups tends to be the sort of speech with the bloodiest track record), and Pamela Geller never called on anyone to go out and murder some liberals, to save us from the Islamists. But she has now stopped just short of justifying the attacks, after the fact!

Adam Serwer notes the strong ‘they had it coming’ vibe in Geller’s latest on Norway. From Geller’s post:

 

But the more that is revealed about that youth indoctrination center, the more grotesque the whole story becomes. Of course, the genocidal leftists will twist what I write here; I am not condoning the slaughter in Norway or anywhere. I abhor violence (except in regard to self defense). But the jihad-loving media never told us what antisemitic war games they were playing on that island. Utoya Island is a Communist/Socialist campground, and they clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda.

Only the malevolent media could use the euphemism summer camp and get away with it.

The slaughter was horrific. What these kids were being taught and instructed to do was a different kind of grotesque. There is no justification for Breivik’s actions whatsoever. There is also no justification for Norway’s antisemitism and demonization of Israel.

Those are pretty perfunctory disclaimers against violence. Those dead people clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda! “Antisemitic war games” makes the victims sound like … soldiers preparing to attack Israel, making violence against them conceivably an act of “defense of Israel,” which is, of course, a justification for violence that in Geller’s world is indistinguishable from “self-defense.”

It may surprise you to learn that Geller feels any shame, ever, but she did delete the blatantly racist photo caption that originally accompanied the post. The faces of the camp attendees look, to Geller, “more Middle Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.” (!) In other words: I abhor violence, but these pro-Islamofascist soldiers were being trained by the Commie-Nazis to destroy Israel, also they look sorta Arab, right?

So! Please remember how horribly these guys are reacting to what should be a moment of shameful self-reflection for them, the next time you see them cited in some newspaper editorial or interviews on Fox or something.

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene