Terror and carnage in Washington, D.C., with the Saudi ambassador assassinated by a bomb while dining at a restaurant packed with 100-150 other customers, possibly including a number of senators. That’s what “elements” of Iran’s government allegedly had planned for this autumn, according to court documents and press statements released Tuesday by U.S. authorities.
Americans are just now learning some of the details of this Iranian terror plot, in connection with charges brought against American-Iranian dual national Manssor Arbabsiar, now under arrest in New York. The criminal complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, provides 21 pages of horrifying material, much of it amassed with the help of a paid undercover informant, who posed as an associate of the unnamed Mexican drug cartel the Iranians thought they had recruited for the hit (Barry Rubin, in a terrific Pajamas post, on what it all means, links to the complaint). The complaint lays out a trail in which Arbabsiar, a naturalized American living in Texas, conspired with members of Iran’s Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, to orchestrate the assassination on American soil of the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The plot went all the way to the top of the Quds Force, and involved hiring the services of a violent Mexican drug cartel to use explosives to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington. If that succeeded, it was to be followed by other terrorist jobs. There are lots of fascinating details, including such trivia as the use of a code-name, “Chevrolet,” for the assassination plot; and such monstrosities as Arbabsiar’s comment to a U.S. undercover source that his Iranian co-conspirators wanted the Saudi ambassador killed, and if 100 bystanders were killed as well, “f–k ’em.”
Yet the criminal complaint also includes a caveat: “No attempt has been made to set forth the complete factual history of this investigation or all of its details.”
Which brings me to a question, as yet unanswered: Did Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad know about this plot for a terror attack in Washington? The timing is startling. It was coming to a head in late September, right around the time of, or just a few days after, Ahmadinejad’s Sept. 19-24 visit to New York, for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
As we are now informed, U.S. authorities were on to the terror plot, and Arbabsiar’s erstwhile Mexican cartel contact was an undercover informant working not to arrange a bombing in D.C., but to thwart it. But presumably the Iranians didn’t know that. Arbabsiar, as he shuttled between Texas, Mexico, and Iran, during the months in which he was allegedly arranging the attack, apparently didn’t know the plot was already blown. Anyone on the Iranian side might have been counting down the days, or the hours, expecting that scenes of murder, rubble, and bloody mayhem, accompanied by international uproar, would soon be emanating from the American capital.
Here are a few highlights of the timeline, as set out in the complaint. On or about Sept. 2, Arbabsiar was asking the undercover agent if “the building is getting painted” — a code phrase which according to the complaint was a way of asking “whether the arrangements to kill the ambassador were still underway.” On or about Sept. 20, Arbabsiar in a phone call told his erstwhile cartel connection that in two or three days he would head to Mexico to serve as human collateral for payment for the hit; meanwhile, “Don’t wait for me. Get ready…”
On Sept. 28, Arbabsiar tried to travel to Mexico. He was denied entry, and flew on to New York’s JFK Airport. There, when he got off the plane, federal agents arrested him. A few hours later, he confessed to taking part in the alleged assassination plot. On Oct. 5, from federal custody, he placed a monitored and recorded phone call to his alleged co-conspirator in Iran, Quds Force official Gholam Shakuri, who expressed impatience to get the assassination done, saying “do it quickly, it’s late.”
Late? Late for what? By late September, and even more so by early October, there’s an urgency that comes across in the recorded exchanges detailed in this complaint. Was it simply a matter of wanting to get the attack over and done with, maybe before anything went awry? Or did the impatience reflect some bigger scheme and broader timetable, in which a horrific assassination in Washington was to prepare the way for the next step? Iran’s regime is, after all, in the business of terrorizing, deceiving and defying its way toward nuclear weapons, dominance over the Middle East and deep reach beyond.
As it is, while Arbabsiar on Sept. 20 was telling his erstwhile Mexican cartel connection to “get ready” to carry out the terror attack in Washington, Ahmadinejad on that same day was settling into the Warwick Hotel in New York. Over the next few days, he hosted a banquet at the Warwick, spoke to the UN General Assembly, held a press conference, and departed just four days before Arbabsiar tried to enter Mexico to provide human collateral to guarantee payment to a Mexican drug cartel for what he, and Iran’s Quds Force, allegedly believed was an imminent terror attack in Washington.
So, did Ahmadinejad, during his September stay in New York, have any knowledge of the “Chevrolet” assassination plot that Iran’s Quds force had planned for Washington? If so, he might easily have been more than usually amused by the costly and extensive security arrangements provided by the U.S. government for his own protection. While he was in New York, Pajamas Media’s Roger Simon and I met for a drink at the ground floor bar of the Warwick Hotel (that portion of the hotel was not occupied by Ahmadinejad and his entourage). To get there, you had to traverse concrete road blocks, a cordon of New York cops, a lineup of Secret Service SUVs that stretched almost the length of a city block, another lineup of the Secret Service agents themselves, plus a metal detector (plus a horde of what I believe were Iranian security agents in the lobby).
Perhaps Ahmadinejad didn’t know about the attack his own regime’s terrorist Quds Force had planned for America this season. But the U.S. government did know. And no matter how compelling the lofty business of the UN General Assembly in New York, it is beyond madness that while “elements” of Iran’s government are overseeing and bankrolling the final stages of what they believe is an imminent terrorist attack on Washington, the president of that government is bunking down in well-protected comfort in New York.