The San Antonia Express-News reports: The man accused of scheming to kill a Saudi diplomat is described by those who know him as a scatterbrained, hapless businessman who in college earned the nickname “Jack” for his affinity for whiskey — hardly the type to mastermind a terrorist plot.
A long-time associate and former business partner of Manssor Arbabsiar said the terror suspect had owned a string of used-car and other businesses in the Corpus Christi area, but if anything seemed absentminded and shifty.
“He was pretty disorganized, always losing things like keys, titles, probably a thousand cellphones,” said David Tomscha, an Aransas Pass businessman who ran a used-car lot with Arbabsiar. “He wasn’t meticulous with taking care of things.”
News that Arbabsiar was implicated in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. surprised Tomscha and others who knew him.
Tomscha said that if the allegations were true, Arbabsiar must have been driven by “easy, squeezy” money rather than religious or political zealotry.
“He never spoke ill of the United States,” Tomscha said. “I always thought he liked it here, because he could make money. He loved to make money.”
Tomscha said his acquaintance with Arbabsiar, who liked to be called “Jack,” went back more than a decade, though they’d lost touch about a year ago.
Tom Hosseini, an Iranian whose friendship with Arbabsiar dates back 30 years, went as far as calling Arbabsiar “a joke.”
The two were roommates at what’s now Texas A&M University-Kingsville, but Arbabsiar dropped out after two semesters and finished his degree in Louisiana.
It was Hosseini who nicknamed Arbabsiar “Jack,” for the quantities of Jack Daniel’s whiskey Arbabsiar would drink.
“Scarface,” another nickname, was for the lasting reminder of the time Arbabsiar arranged for the then-college students to party with some girls, not knowing the girls’ boyfriends would arrive wielding bats and knives.
Was Arbabsiar religious?
“He couldn’t even pray, doesn’t know how to fast. He used to drink, smoke pot, go with the prostitutes,” Hosseini said, laughing with a clerk at his market in downtown Corpus Christi. “His first wife left him because he would lose his keys every other day. … This guy is not a mastermind.”
Reuters reports: The Obama administration has conducted numerous undercover and sting operations leading to arrests of many people seeking to carry out bombing or other attacks on U.S. soil, prompting some questions about the tactics used.
No individuals charged in terrorism cases involving undercover operations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have prevailed using an entrapment defense, said Georgetown University law professor David Cole, a longtime expert on the subject who has challenged terrorism policies in U.S. court.
“Entrapment requires the defendant to show that he was not predisposed to commit the crime, so that the crime was instigated by the government rather than by himself,” said Cole.
“The more serious the crime, the more difficult it is to imagine that someone would commit it who was not predisposed to commit it,” he said.
To ensure an individual is not entrapped, undercover agents offer the person chances to back out and typically discuss possible collateral damage, including killing bystanders.
In the case of Arbabsiar, the criminal complaint described how he approached an individual in Mexico — who turned out to be a paid U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant — with a plot to blow up a Saudi Arabian embassy.
Arbabsiar also discussed with the informant assassinating the Saudi ambassador, which was the plot they pursued, according to the sworn complaint signed by an FBI agent.
While the plot to kill Jubeir never reached the operational stage, the paid informant discussed with Arbabsiar that if they bombed a restaurant the diplomat frequented, potentially 150 others would be killed, including U.S. lawmakers.
Arbabsiar dismissed such concerns, stating “no problem” or “no big deal,” according to the criminal complaint.
Meir Javedanfar writes: Could elements within the Iranian government or security establishment have planned this attack, without Khamenei’s knowledge in order to hurt him and his regime? On the surface, at least, this seems unlikely. However, details of the US claims certainly suggest that the idea isn’t completely without merit. Why? Because according to the Justice Department, Arabisar, who the US government has accused of being connected to the Iranian government, is supposed to have wired $100,000 to the US undercover agent whom he thought would carry out the hit against the Saudi Ambassador.
But this would be extremely sloppy and unprofessional work by a government that has, over the years, become adept at hiding its tracks. Why would Khamenei make himself and his regime so vulnerable by wiring money directly? Why wouldn’t Iranian security officials use third parties operating through third countries?
As crazy as the Iranian regime can sound through its rhetoric, when it comes to protecting its interests, it‘s essentially rational and careful. Iran knows that it can’t afford a war against the United States. It also knows that further deterioration could mean more sanctions and further isolation, both of which would hurt the regime’s ability to sustain itself at home. This is more important to Khamenei’s interests right now than the elimination of the Saudi Ambassador in Washington.
The fact is that looking at Khamenei’s background, such a reckless initiative as the one he is accused of is almost too radical, the costs too high for his regime. This is why it seems at least plausible that elements within the Iranian regime could have orchestrated this to hurt him, with the goal of eventually pushing him out of power.
The Iranian regime is already fractured, and the business interests of many officials are being undermined by Khamenei’s nuclear policies. Meanwhile, the children of former officials such as Intelligence Minister Ali Younesi, are reportedly in jail because of their opposition to the regime. Anyone who wants to hurt Khamenei from within would have plenty of reason to undertake such an initiative, especially as it would ultimately tar the supreme leader.
Julian Borger asks: Could the alleged conspiracy be the work of an extremist cell within the Quds force? In that case, the unit is far more fragmented than previously thought and we should shortly see top people in the organisation disappearing from view. There is a precedent for such a cell: in 1999 the deputy minister of intelligence, Saeed Emami, was arrested and accused of carrying out a series of murders of intellectuals, known as the chain murders, without official authority. He was also reported to have tried smuggling missiles to Brussels to attack Nato. Emami was reported to have killed himself in prison.