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Foiled Iran assassination plot underlines US-Mexico cooperation

In some ways, attempting to employ Latin American criminals to carry out a terrorist act is the worst case scenario, but this case also shows how US-Mexico cooperation can stymie such actions.

By James BosworthGuest blogger / October 12, 2011

The FBI charged two men, one tied to the Iranian IRGC's Qods force, with plotting to blow up a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in order to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US. One of the men attempted to contact a Mexican criminal organization (likely the Zetas) to pull off the job, but ended up meeting with DEA sources posing as cartel members instead. There were discussions of other potential attacks including some against the Saudi and Israeli embassies in DC. However, the killing of the Saudi ambassador seems to have been their main focus and they actually went through with wiring $100,000 to the source as a down payment for the attack.

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Some initial comments and analysis below:

1. There are questions about how high up in the Iranian government this plot went and it seems uncharacteristically bold for Iran to act on US soil, but let's be clear that this was a real plot. The evidence is rather clear that officials within Iran's Qods force were involved, approved the operation, assisted in sending money, pressed for their US contact to work faster, and are now being sanctioned by the US government.

2. In some ways, this plot is the worst case scenario some people have dreamed up over the past decade ("What if the Islamic terrorists teamed up with the Latin American criminal groups...?"). On the other hand, the clearly amateurish nature of Iran's involvement here shows that we have less to fear. The fact that an Iranian Qods-linked official is poking around the border looking for Zetas sicarios and ends up with the DEA informant suggests that Iran and Hezbollah have far fewer ties to the Mexican organized crime scene than some analysts would want you to believe. If they were as linked and conspiring as some analysts claim, they would have just picked up the phone and called their friends to either set up the operation or at least verify that the guy they are paying $1.5 million to is legit. Instead, they screwed up and got caught relatively easily.


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