It sounds like something from Alfred Hitchcock. An Air Canada flight is getting ready to push back from the gate at Caracas airport, to fly to Toronto. The pilot reads the manifest, and finds there are five more passengers than he’d expected. He finds that four are Iranian, one is Afghan. Upon investigation, it turns out that none of them had a visa, and their tickets were phony. The passengers are taken off the plane, and after a bit some people at the airport–two security people and someone working for Air Canada–are arrested.
Needless to say, there’s been no end of speculation. Suicide terrorists? Advance team for Hezbollah? And so forth.
Since we don’t yet know who they are, it’s easy to imagine various scenarios, but as the oldest Iran hand in town, I’d like to focus your mind on one of the basic facts about Iranian-sponsored terrorism. Despite all their yelling and screaming about martyrdom, it’s very rare for Iranians to blow themselves up. Almost always, they get others–typically Arabs (often of the Sunni variety)–to blow THEMselves up. The Iranian terrorists, from Hezbollah to Islamic Jihad, do plenty of killing, but they slaughter others, not themselves. That way they get a double frisson: their enemies die, and the dirty work is done by (as the Iranians would say) a stupid Arab.
They don’t have great esteem for the Arabs, you see. Look at how the Iranians operated in Iraq, for example. They trained and manipulated plenty of Arab jihadis (Saudis were the biggest national group) to carry out suicide attacks. Their own attacks, despite the lousy reporting and the pitiful Bush administration accounts of the war there, were decidedly non-suicidal, which is why, at the end, there were more than three hundred Iranians in U.S. military custody. For those who wonder what happened to them, sad to say they were turned over to the Iraqi government, and then repatriated.
Which is why I don’t think the four-Iranians-plus-one-Afghan were terrorists. More likely, they were disgruntled people hoping to defect or otherwise find asylum in Canada.
Or do you think that the Iranian regime, which appears to have the Obama administration in its hip pocket regarding a deal over our sanctions and their nukes, would choose this moment to bring down a Canadian passenger plane? Not that they wouldn’t be pleased to do such a thing–Hezbollah has been trying to destroy an American or American-friendly airliner for years. It’s just that they don’t normally do their own dirty work.
Remember that when they organized the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, the would-be hit men were going to be Mexicans, not Iranians.
So color me dubious on the terrorism theories. But it’s still a great opening scene for a Hitchcock film.