Marcy Wheeler writes: In the wake of the Obama Administration’s announcement that an Iranian-American used car salesman had set up a plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., a number of Iran and intelligence experts have raised questions about the plausibility of the alleged Iranian plot.
But few have commented on problems in the legal case presented against the used car salesman, Manssor Arbabsiar, and his alleged co-conspirators from Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of its special forces. There is a handful of what appear to be holes in the complaint. Though individually they are small, taken together they raise difficult questions about the government’s case. The apparent holes also seem to match up with some of the same concerns raised by skeptical Iran analysts, such as Arbabsiar’s rationale in confessing and the extent of his connection to the Quds Force.
The government claims that Arbabsiar sought out someone he thought was a Mexican drug cartel member in May; he was actually a Drug Enforcement Agency confidential informant. Over a series of meetings, the government alleges, Arbabsiar arranged to forward $100,000 to the informant as down payment for the attack, promised $1.5 million more, and agreed that the informant should kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir with a bomb blast at a DC restaurant, one that would possibly be full of civilians and U.S. members of Congress.
In the complaint [PDF] against Arbabsiar, the government has described four pieces of evidence to support its allegations (it undoubtedly has more intelligence that it doesn’t describe in the complaint):
- Taped conversations and phone calls between the informant and Arbabsiar
- Details about a $100,000 bank transfer described as a down payment for the assassination
- Taped conversations Arbabsiar had with his alleged co-conspirator, Quds Force member Gholam Shakuri, while Arbabsiar was in FBI custody
- A confession Arbabsiar made after he was arrested on September 29
Two of the conversations between Arbabsiar and the informant, on July 14 and July 17, include very damning comments. Arbabsiar tells the informant, “he wants you to kill this guy” and goes on to say that it is “no big deal” if the informant kills hundreds of civilians and some Senators in the course of the assassination.
But there is a problem with each of these four key pieces of evidence.
Al Jazeera reports: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has said that an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the Washington was fabricated by the US to cause a rift between Tehran and Riyadh, and to divert attention from US economic problems.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera in Tehran on Monday, Ahmadinejad said that anyone who hears the claims “laughs”, but warned the US to be mindful of the allegations it makes.
“We’re not worried about expressing our opposition … The US administration is sorely mistaken. The US administration might want to divert attention from what’s going on inside the US,” he said, speaking through a translator, during an interview broadcast live.
“The economic problems of the US are very serious, and by accusing Iran it’s not going to solve any problem.”