Ever since the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, the American public and the media have demanded a nearly unreachable standard of proof before indicting a foreign government. When someone calls Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, proof that they are “linked” to al-Qaeda is demanded. Once al-Qaeda’s refuge in Iran is offered as a counterpoint, proof that the regime knows of their presence and that the group isn’t merely working with “rogue elements” of the government, but the government as a whole, is required. Then, inevitably, the topic is diverted to Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that whatever base of support the group has in Iran pales in comparison to those theaters, and besides, the Shiite Iranian government would never want to risk Western retaliation by being so dumb as to support its Sunni arch-nemesis al-Qaeda!
In the world of intelligence, it is extremely rare to come by the “smoking gun” now commonly requested. Luckily, several such smoking guns have emerged, but now we encounter a new problem — the fact that the media won’t report on them.
How many of you have heard of the case of Mohammad al-Oufi, the former commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who turned himself in to the Saudi authorities?
Upon his exit from his terrorist clique, he told his debriefers a little secret: that, in no uncertain terms, Iranian intelligence had been covertly assisting al-Qaeda operations, including plots to target Saudi oil. In his book Sleeping with the Devil, former top CIA case officer Bob Baer says that a terrorist attack on the vulnerable points of the Saudi oil system would place the United States in an economic condition probably worse than the Great Depression, with a well-planned strike knocking out the system for about two years. This isn’t your typical terrorist plot to bomb a market or an embassy, or assassinate a high-level official — it’s a plot to bring about economic Armageddon and cause chaos in Saudi Arabia, throwing the Middle East into instability we’ve never experienced and few can imagine.
Al-Oufi didn’t just point the finger at the Iranians in this single campaign, but said they overall were “engaged in supporting al-Qaeda with money and weapons needed to carry out terror attacks,” particularly the terrorist group’s branch in Yemen, an argument I’ve also tried to make with significant supporting data.
In case you were wondering why al-Oufi turned himself in, it was because of dreams he had: one where the Prophet Mohammed told him to stop engaging in terrorism, and one where the second caliph smacked him around and told him to reject his ideology. It wasn’t because of the Saudi “rehabilitation” program he was entered into after departing Guantanamo Bay in November 2007 — he quickly joined al-Qaeda in Yemen after being released.
Sure, al-Oufi might be lying, although it’s hard to see what reason he would have for doing so. And there isn’t 100% proof that his information was accurate, but the same can be said of almost any human intelligence source. There may not be a “smoking gun” to prove that this smoking gun is accurate, a nearly impossible find, but this revelation certainly didn’t receive the coverage it deserved in the media outlets on either side of the political spectrum.
But there’s another “smoking gun” that has come out proving that Hezbollah’s terrorist activities on behalf of Iran go beyond Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq. An Iranian-sponsored terrorist plot in Azerbaijan has been uncovered, reflecting a boldness on the part of the regime that few seem to appreciate.
We now know that in 2008, two Lebanese Hezbollah operatives were captured in Azerbaijan with explosives, silenced pistols, and a plan to bomb the Israeli embassy in Baku in retaliation for the February 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. In fact, they had already completed preliminary reconnaissance and pre-operational planning and were looking at other potential targets. The plotters, who traveled on Iranian passports, met with Revolutionary Guards operatives in Iran where training was provided, were given hundreds of pounds of explosives by “Iranian spies,” as the report described them, and planned to destroy the embassy by detonating three or four car bombs around it.
The two terrorists were found after they were seen meeting with local militants, possibly an attempt to hide Hezbollah’s role. Here the Iranian modus operandi of trying to maintain plausible deniablilty by working through other terrorist groups is spelled out. The Iranians planned to hide behind Hezbollah, who planned to hide behind local Azeri terrorists. Although many would suspect Iranian involvement, this multi-layered, denial-and-deception operation likely would have denied Western authorities the courtroom proof demanded of them to state definitely whether the regime was involved. Due to the success of Azerbaijan’s authorities, this discovery can truly be called a second smoking gun, even if there will still be those who demand something closer to a letter from Ayatollah Khamenei specifically spelling out his orders for the plot, with his DNA attached to prove his culpability.
Here we have two smoking guns of Iran’s covert sponsorship of large-scale acts of terrorism, designed to wage war on the West while hiding their fingerprints. How many smoking guns will be needed to end the debate?