Saturday, October 15, 2011

Petraeus's CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot

Petraeus's CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot


    Exclusive: The U.S. media and public are being

    riled up again with a new set of allegations

    against Iran, this time for a bizarre

    assassination plot aimed at the Saudi

    ambassador in Washington. But former CIA

    analyst Ray McGovern wonders if this is

    propaganda from David Petraeus's CIA.


By Ray McGovern

October 13, 2011


Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, in his

accustomed role as unofficial surrogate CIA spokesman,

has thrown light on how the CIA under its new director,

David Petraeus, helped craft the screenplay for this

week's White House spy feature: the Iranian-American-

used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to

assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.


In Thursday's column, Ignatius notes that, initially,

White House and Justice Department officials found the

story "implausible." It was. But the Petraeus team soon

leapt to the rescue, reflecting the four-star-general-

turned-intelligence-chief's deep-seated animus toward Iran.


Before Ignatius's article, I had seen no one allude to

the fact that much about this crime-stopper tale had

come from the CIA. In public, the FBI had taken the

lead role, presumably because the key informant inside

a Mexican drug cartel worked for U.S. law enforcement

via the Drug Enforcement Administration.


However, according to Ignatius, "One big reason [top

U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is

that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered

information corroborating the informant's juicy

allegations and showing that the plot had support from

the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action

arm of the Iranian government."


Ignatius adds that, "It was this intelligence collected

in Iran" that swung the balance, but he offers no

example of what that intelligence was. He only mentions

a recorded telephone call on Oct. 4 between Iranian-

American cars salesman Mansour Arbabsiar and his

supposed contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly an

official in Iran's Quds spy agency.


The call is recounted in the FBI affidavit submitted in

support of the criminal charges against Arbabsiar, who

is now in U.S. custody, and Shakuri, who is not. But

the snippets of that conversation are unclear,

discussing what on the surface appears to be a

"Chevrolet" car purchase, but which the FBI asserts is

code for killing the Saudi ambassador.


Without explaining what other evidence the CIA might

have, Ignatius tries to further strengthen the case by

knocking down some of the obvious problems with the

allegations, such as "why the Iranians would undertake

such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly

poor tradecraft."


"But why the use of Mexican drug cartels?" asks

Ignatius rhetorically, before adding dutifully: "U.S.

officials say that isn't as implausible as it sounds."


But it IS as implausible as it sounds, says every

professional intelligence officer I have talked with

since the "plot" was somberly announced on Tuesday.


The Old CIA Pros


There used to be real pros in the CIA's operations

directorate. One - Ray Close, a longtime CIA Arab

specialist and former Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia

- told me on Wednesday that we ought to ask ourselves a

very simple question:


"If you were an Iranian undercover operative who was

under instructions to hire a killer to assassinate the

Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., why in

HELL would you consider it necessary to explain to a

presumed Mexican [expletive deleted] that this murder

was planned and would be paid for by a secret

organization in Iran?


"Whoever concocted this tale wanted the `plot' exposed

. to precipitate a major crisis in relations between

Iran and the United States. Which other government in

the Middle East would like nothing better than to see

those relations take a big step toward military



If you hesitate in answering, you have not been paying

attention. Many have addressed this issue. My last stab

at throwing light on the Israel/Iran/U.S. nexus

appeared ten days ago in "Israel's Window to Bomb Iran."


Another point on the implausibility meter is: What are

the odds that Iran's Quds force would plan an

unprecedented attack in the United States, that this

crack intelligence agency would trust the operation to

a used-car salesman with little or no training in

spycraft, that he would turn to his one contact in a

Mexican drug cartel who happens to be a DEA informant,

and that upon capture the car salesman would

immediately confess and implicate senior Iranian officials?


Wouldn't it make more sense to suspect that Arbabsiar

might be a double-agent, recruited by some third-party

intelligence agency to arrange some shady business deal

regarding black-market automobiles, get some ambiguous

comments over the phone from an Iranian operative, and

then hand the plot to the U.S. government on a silver

platter - as a way to heighten tensions between

Washington and Teheran?


That said, there are times when even professional spy

agencies behave like amateurs. And there's no doubt

that the Iranians - like the Israelis, the Saudis and

the Americans - can and do carry out assassinations and

kidnappings in this brave new world of ours.


Remember, for instance, the case of Islamic cleric

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who

was abducted off the streets of Milan, Italy, on Feb.

17, 2003, and then flown from a U.S. air base to Egypt

where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.


In 2009, Italian prosecutors convicted 23 Americans,

mostly CIA operatives, in absentia for the kidnapping

after reconstructing the disappearance through their

unencrypted cell phone records and their credit card

bills at luxury hotels in Milan.


Then, there was the suspected Mossad assassination of

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at a hotel in Dubai on

Jan. 19, 2010, with the hit men seen on hotel video

cameras strolling around in tennis outfits and creating

an international furor over their use of forged Irish,

British, German and French passports.


So one cannot completely rule out that there may

conceivably be some substance to the alleged Iranian

plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.


And beyond the regional animosities between Saudi

Arabia and Iran, there could be a motive - although it

has been absent from American press accounts - i.e.

retaliation for the assassinations of senior Iranian

nuclear scientists and generals over the last couple of

years within Iran itself.


But there has been close to zero real evidence coming

from the main source of information - officials of the

Justice Department, which like the rest of the U.S.

government has long since forfeited much claim to credibility.


Petraeus's `Intelligence' on Iran


The public record also shows that former Gen. Petraeus

has long been eager to please the neoconservatives in

Washington and their friends in Israel by creating

"intelligence" to portray Iran and other target

countries in the worst light.


One strange but instructive example comes to mind, a

studied, if disingenuous, effort to blame all the

troubles in southern Iraq on the "malignant" influence

of Iran.


On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Mike

Mullen, told reporters that Gen. Petraeus in Baghdad

would give a briefing "in the next couple of weeks"

providing detailed evidence of "just how far Iran is

reaching into Iraq to foment instability." Petraeus's

staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which

captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and

then destroyed.


Oops. Small problem. When American munitions experts

went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian

weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly

linked to Iran.


At that point, adding insult to injury, the Iraqis

announced that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had

formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate the

U.S. claims and attempt to "find tangible information

and not information based on speculation." Ouch!


The Teflon-clad Petraeus escaped embarrassment, as the

David Ignatiuses of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM)

conveniently forgot all about the promised-then-

canceled briefing. U.S. media suppression of this

telling episode is just one example of how difficult it

is to get unbiased, accurate information on touchy

subjects like Iran into the FCM.


As for Attorney General Eric Holder and President

Barack Obama, some adult adviser should tell them to

quit giving hypocrisy a bad name with their righteous

indignation over the thought that no civilized nation

would conduct cross-border assassinations.


The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has

been dispatching armed drones to distant corners of the

globe to kill Islamic militants, including recently

U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki for the alleged crime of

encouraging violence against Americans.


Holder and Obama have refused to release the Justice

Department's legal justification for the targeted

murder of al-Awlaki whose "due process" amounted to the

President putting al-Awlaki's name on a secret "kill-

or-capture" list.


Holder and Obama have also refused to take meaningful

action to hold officials of the Bush administration

accountable for war crimes even though President George

W. Bush has publicly acknowledged authorizing

waterboarding and other brutal techniques long regarded

as acts of torture.


Who can take at face value the sanctimonious words of

an attorney general like Holder who has acquiesced in

condoning egregious violations of the Bill of Rights,

the U.S. criminal code, and international law - like

the International Convention Against Torture?


Were shame not in such short supply in Official

Washington these days, one would be amazed that Holder

could keep a straight face, accusing these alleged

Iranian perpetrators of "violating an international



America's Founders would hold in contempt the Holders

and the faux-legal types doing his bidding. The

behavior of the past two administrations has been more

reminiscent of George III and his sycophants than of

James Madison, George Mason, John Jay and George

Washington, who gave us the rich legacy of a

Constitution, which created a system based on laws not men.


That Constitution and its Bill of Rights have become

endangered species at the hands of the craven poachers

at "Justice." No less craven are the functionaries

leading today's CIA.


What to Watch For


If Petraeus finds it useful politically to conjure up

more "evidence" of nefarious Iranian behavior in Iraq

and/or Afghanistan, Lebanon or Syria, he will.  And if

he claims to see signs of ominous Iranian intentions

regarding nuclear weapons, watch out.


Honest CIA analysts, like the ones who concluded that

Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late

2003 and had not resumed that work, are in short

supply, and most have families to support and mortgages

to pay.


Petraeus is quite capable of marginalizing them, or

even forcing them to quit. I have watched this happen

to a number of intelligence officials under a few of

Petraeus's predecessors.


More malleable careerists can be found in any

organization, and promoted, so long as they are willing

to tell more ominous - if disingenuous - stories that

may make more sense to the average American than the

latest tale of the Iraninan-American-used-car-salesman-



This can get very dangerous in a hurry. Israel's

leaders would require but the flimsiest of nihil obstat

to encourage them to provoke hostilities with Iran.

Netanyahu and his colleagues would expect the Obamas,

Holders, and Petraeuses of this world to be willing to

"fix the intelligence and facts" (a la Iraq) to

"justify" such an attack.


The Israeli leaders would risk sucking the United

States into the kind of war with Iran that, short of a

massive commitment of resources or a few tactical

nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Israel could almost

surely not win. It would be the kind of war that would

make Iraq and Afghanistan look like minor skirmishes.



Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm

of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city

Washington. He served as an Army infantry/intelligence

officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years,

and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals

for Sanity (VIPS).


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