Casus belli 180

Yesterday the Attorney General announced that an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, in Washington, D.C. has been foiled.

The Saudi Ambassador was to be killed by a bombing of a restaurant he frequents in the capital, so many others would have been killed and wounded.

The plot also involved attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Argentina.

Barry Rubin writes at PajamasMedia:

The case is still being developed, and it isn’t clear whether the origin of this plot goes back to Tehran.

By which he means: Did the government of Iran order the attacks?

That does not need to be asked. In a despotism there are no free agents who decide for private reasons to attack another country. Although there is division among the internal powers of Iran – between the supreme “spiritual leader”, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and the president, Ahmadinejad; between either or both of them and the Revolutionary Guards; and probably between factions in every section of government and the military – it had to be one or some or most or all of them who approved such a plan as this.

According to ABC’s sources, Manssor Arbabsiar — an Iranian American living in Texas — approached an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, thinking he was speaking with a member of a Mexican drug gang for help in the proposed attacks. He said he was acting on behalf of a cousin, Gholam Shakuri, who might be a Revolutionary Guard official involved in terrorist operations.

He offered $1.5 million for the killing, with a $100,000 down payment in two installments being paid by Arbabsiar while on a visit to Iran.

These two men have been charged with conspiracy to kill, among other charges. Arbabsiar, who is now cooperating with the prosecution, also offered to provide opium in large quantities for the Mexican drug cartels. Apparently, the FBI has a lot of evidence, including recordings of meetings and telephone calls with Arbabsiar.

Reuters reports more details:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said one of two men charged in the plot, both originally from Iran, had been arrested and confessed. The other, who was still at large, was described in the criminal complaint as being a member of the elite Quds Force, which is part of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. …

U.S. authorities arrested the other man, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen and holds an Iranian passport, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on September 29. …

The assassination plot began to unfold in May 2011 when Arbabsiar approached an individual in Mexico to help, but that individual turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The confidential source, who was not identified, immediately tipped law enforcement agents, according to the criminal complaint. Arbabsiar paid $100,000 to the informant in July and August for the plot, a down payment on the $1.5 million requested.

Shakuri approved the plan to kill the ambassador during telephone conversations with Arbabsiar …

Rubin comments:

Let’s assume that this story is accurate. What’s most important here is not the innate sensationalism of this dramatic story, but its political implications. An Iranian official — perhaps two according to the indictment — is directly linked with a plan to stage terrorist attacks on American soil in which Americans would certainly have been killed or injured. This amounts to an act of war. 

Indeed, it is the first time in modern history that a foreign government has been caught planning a major terrorist attack on American soil.

President Barack Obama, Homeland Security, and other top agencies and officials have the evidence and full briefings into this matter if they choose to access them. What effect would this have on U.S. foreign policy?

What effect should it have?

Already, they have had high-quality intelligence. We know this from the congressional testimony of Defense and State Department officials:

– Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.

– Iran is harboring al-Qaeda leaders on its soil and letting them plan attacks on America from that safe haven.

– Iran is training and supplying the Taliban with weapons and training to attack and kill Americans.

– Iran is deeply involved in attacking and killing U.S. personnel and citizens in Iraq.

And that’s not all. Is this sufficient evidence to persuade Obama that Iran regards itself as being at war with the United States? That the top priority of U.S. Middle East policy — and very possibly the number-one priority of U.S. foreign policy generally — should be to counter Iran and revolutionary Islamism? And I don’t mean by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezballah as moderates!

Yes, it should have been the top priority years ago, but Obama has continued to hold out his hand in friendship to the monstrous regime.

Will there be a change now, Rubin asks.

Is this case going to be the smoking gun — or, perhaps, the smoking bomb — that gets U.S. policy on the right course? It should be, though I suspect it isn’t. …

Does Obama even understand the significance of it?

He has known about the plot since June, so the question is, “Why break it now?”

Jihad Watch asks that question and suggests an answer with another question:

 To divert attention from his spiraling scandals and plummeting fortunes?

But there is another – or additional – possible reason for the timing.

The announcement of the plot was made by Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been issued with a subpoena to appear before the the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in connection with the  “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking scandal. Was it timed to make him seem extremely competent at his job and even perhaps indispensable?

If so, it’s a miscalculation. To have the Attorney-General make the announcement is to indicate that the administration sees the plot as a problem for law-enforcement, when in fact it is a grave act of aggression by a foreign power against the United States, and as such should be understood as a cause of war.

It has long been apparent that Obama hates to make decisions. And he hates to attack an Islamic country unless other Islamic countries give him the nod. This time, of course, Saudi Arabia will be pleased to have Americans risk their lives in an assault on Iran to punish the regime and prevent it developing into a nuclear-armed power. Obama would rather the Israelis bombed Iranian nuclear installations (especially – we suspect – as their doing so would then allow him to condemn Israel for an act of  aggression).

So will he or won’t he strike back at Iran? Our guess is that he won’t. He’ll go to the UN and ask “the international community” – a wraith lodged permanently in the mind of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – to consider setting a date for a meeting of the Security Council to discuss what warnings of what actions might be sent to the Iranian government without provoking it too severely.