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51st: U.S. Iran policy in the hands of Likud--or maybe Peter Sellers? MORE plus bipartisan sabre rattling

The arrest by the FBI of an Iranian-American used car dealer, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, for plotting to kill the Saudi Ambassador and blow up the Israeli embassy in Washington, while also setting up a deal between Mexican drug dealers and an officer in Iran's Quds force, begins to sound like a plot for a Pink Panther movie. And perhaps it is, what with the plot provided by the FBI and fed to Arabsiar by a drug-dealer FBI informant. The improbability of the whole thing isn't stopping the Amen Corner in our Congress calling for punitive actions against Iran, including booting out their ambassador.Juan Cole has the movie plot here.The New York Times on Thursday reports on the 51st's Congressional Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl-R), and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, rallying the troops.Eric Holder, Attorney General, made a big splash with his announcement the other day. Was he hoodwinked by the FBI? Does he actually read the indictments? Is this a trade for Israel not bombing Iran (with the Bunker Busters we gave them)--at least not in October!Who needs the theater of the absurd, when our public servant produce such scenarios?MORE: Just for those who think I am over the top, Pat Lang has this: "The overwhelming likelihood is that this is someone's "information operation" intended to condition public attitudes for some purpose. The over riding question is that of where the ovens are located in which this confection was baked and who the bakers might be.'Was it the Iranians as a subtle threat of serious action?'Was it the Israelis?Was it the NSC? (the Obama Administration)"Was it the FBI?"Was it the CIA?"As a former official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lang offers his own scenario for organizing such an operation.AND THIS: Accusations of anti-Semitism about post or comments get deleted.More saber rattling: Senator Diane Feinstein (CA-D), "The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says thethwarted Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States shows the "collision course" that awaits unless Iran changes directions." All that from the arrest of a used car salesman!William Kristol: "Lest the administration hesitate to act out of fear of lack of support at home, Congress should consider authorizing the use of force against Iranian entities that facilitate attacks on our troops, against IRGC and other regime elements that sponsor terror, and against the regimes nuclear weapons program."

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IMO what's germane is the aftermath, wherem presumably, the Saudis are "taking the lead."

Wow--Commonweal subscribing to the ZOG theory of government, i.e., Zionist Occupied Government, and name-checking a Jewish congressmember! It's all a Likud plot, evidently, the treacherous zionists having used a remote brainwashing technique to manipulate Barack Obama and Eric Holder.I'd love to hear more about this, Margaret!

Mr. Cadharm, All you have to do is read the newspapers! Amazing what you might discover. The remote brainwashing technique is called fund raising for the 2012 election for both congressional and presidential candidates. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen name needs no checking just look up her legislative record. You need a little update on the Israeli-U.S. relationship....Neither Commonweal or I believe in the ZOG theory of government. No need to...just elected officials are enough.

Why is nobody talkling Pinochet and Orlando Letelier? And why was the fury directed against Iran not directed against Chile in 1976? This is the question.

The Arabsiar plot is implausible, therefore Margaret O. Steinfels dismisses it. Then she cites Juan Cole as laying the plot she discredits at the feet of Israel. Cole is known to be objective when it comes to Israel. Next she cites Pat Lang who places the Israelis right behind "subtle Iranians" as likely perpetrators of a disinformation plot. Mr. Arabsiar is innocent until proven guilty. But how do conspiracy advocates explain the money wired from Iran or the communications intercepts the government says it has?Maybe a careful reading of The Protocols can reveal the answer.

The number of new commentators who show up when Israel is mentioned and with accusations of anti-Semitism and references to The Protocols of Zion leads me to think the HASBRA effort is not a fiction.

Would the welcome mat be out for a new commenter who agreed with you that the Arabsiar plot was too implausible to be taken seriously as Iranian plan to kill the Saudi ambassador but plausible as an Israeli disinformation effort?What significance, if any, do you attach to the money wired from Iran and the communications intercepts the government claims it has?

The welcome mat is out for new commenters who can make any argument they want about plausibility. What is objectionable is the charge that anti-Semitism, actual or implied, is behind it. Money wired from Iran? Communications intercept? Has anyone seen these and verified them. Obama has gone out on a big limb if these are not true. The significance, if we can make out who and where they came from, may prove to be important. At the moment, I am simply reminded of FBI arrests that produce improbable perpetrators who have been abetted and aided by FBI informers or agents.

I assume you mean has anyone outside the USG seen proof of wire transfers and copies of communication intercepts. If so, the answer as far as I know is, No. I agree that some past FBI arrests have been made on the basis of improbable information and flawed testimony of informants. The majority of arrests they make are based on solid evidence. The Justice Department will soon bring its evidence in the Aabsiar case into open court. We shall see if they can establish their case.I don't believe that criticism of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semitism. But I do wonder on what basis you believe that the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US is implausible while considering it plausible as an Israelis disinformation operation

Israel would like to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Though rumors abound that they might/could/would do this on their own (especially now that they have bunker busters from us), they would obviously benefit from American support. A plot, such as the one under discussion, to raise further animus against Iran will only increase the drum beats for U.S. support for an attack. My reference to Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl-R) suggests that our Congress is ready, willing, and able to facilitate another war in the Middle East. Representative Ros-Lehtinen has a long record, along with other congressionwomen/men, of quickly supporting measures attacking Iran and supporting Israel.The ineptitude of the plot suggests to me that it is precisely this U.S. support for and complicity in an Israeli attack that was its goal. Hence whether the plot was successful or not was immaterial.

Israel would like to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities and so would the US. Israel bombed an Iraqi reactor without US knowledge or support. They attacked a Syrian facility without US opposition, at least according to Dick Cheney's recent book. In neither case did Israel require an inept bomb plot in the US as justification. If we wanted to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities we already have enough reasons.I think the reason either Israel or the US jointly or separately has not bombed Iran's nuclear facilities is that unlike Iraq's and Syria's they can not be destroyed in a single raid. It would require a sustained air campaign and even that might not do the job. Israel could not carry out such a campaign from bases in Israel even with US supplied aerial refueling.You assume the bunker busters that we gave Israel are for use against Iran. Why not for use against Hamas and Hezbollah who very likely store their Iranian supplied missiles in underground bunkers?Throughout US history there have been war hawks in Congress and out that have urged US military action. The mere existence of such people and their bellicosity is not evidence that Israel is behind an alleged plot to murder the Saudi ambassador in the US. Incidentally, right wing conspiratorialists who are also skeptical of the bomb plot say that its purpose is to distract attention from the Fast and Furious fiasco.Your argument boils down to Iran is too smart to come up with this plot but Israel and its sympathizers in the US Justice Department are dumb enough to think they can fool the rest of the US government and public into supporting war against Iran with it.

We are agreed! Matters are complicated. Motives and outcomes complex and unclear. "Iran is too smart." As the story has developed, it is not clear that "Iran's" government has had a hand in this, nor do I see claims from our own government that there is evidence for this. A rogue element from the Quds force is all that has emerged, an element that appears not to be all that smart. Israel as a perpetrator. I doubt that. I do not doubt... (to be continued)Continued...I do not doubt that this "plot" having emerged, much will be made of it contra Iran including by Israeli officials, entities, and friends of Israel, including most of our congressional representatives as well as some members of the Obama Administration though, as anonymous leaks show, not all. It would be foolish of Israel to use the bunker busters on either Hamas or Hezbollah--that would be a waste of bombs and very likely to create serious blowback for Israel.Unlike Iraq and Syria, Iran presents a special logistics problem for an Israeli attack--overflight of countries that will not give permission, hence the need for U.S. support. Wouldn't we both be pleased if the whole thing blew over, and did not become the cause for war against Iran.

I would share your pleasure if this incident did not lead to war with Iran. Even if the government's case against Arababsiar and his co-defendant are proved I doubt it will.I believe that Israel will only use the bunkerbusters if they and we are convinced that an attack against them is immanent.The situation in the middle east is complicated. If Israel were somehow to vanish tomorrow. Sunni Arab states, especially in the Gulf, and Iran would remain hostile to each other. So long as the mullahs rule Iran it will remain hostile to us.

Can't say I disagree with any of your points. And I hope that you're right that the Arabsiar event does not lead to war, though I doubt he will be found guilty by a jury--more likely there will be a plea bargain and he will disappear from history. And true, "so long as the mullah rule Iran it will remain hostile to us." And vice versa...if I may say so. As long as there are mullahs ruling Iran, the U.S. will remain hostile to Iran, especially when Israel plays such a central role in our Middle East policy. Stepping back from all that is not easy though I am convinced that none of this is good for the United States, and especially not good for Israel.

As long as there are mullahs ruling Iran, the U.S. will remain hostile to Iran, especially when Israel plays such a central role in our Middle East policy.

Israel is not the key to U.S.-Iran hostility. The Iranian rivalry with our Saudi ally for supremacy in the Gulf and the attractiveness of American culture to Iranian youth is the key.I think you are right that there will be a guilty plea in the Arababsiar case. The government will not have to disclose its evidence as it would if there were a trial. I hope they do disclose it to allay suspicion, much of it reasonable, about the case.

"Israel is not the key to U.S.-Iran hostility. The Iranian rivalry with our Saudi ally for supremacy in the Gulf and the attractiveness of American culture to Iranian youth is the key."There is a convergence of interests in containing Iran--that seems increasingly clear. The Saudi interest emerged during the "Arab Spring" in Bahrain--contain Shi'ism. The Saudis manage to stay below the radar of the U.S. MSM and we hear little about their plans, initiatives, and fears. Is the convergence of their interests with Israel a key to peace in the "Western" Middle East? That would be an irony of historic proportions.In the meantime, here is an analysis of Saudi policy by Vali Nasr at Brookings (Note that he too is waiting for evidence of who is behind the plot: "If True, Iran plot, a Giant, Dangerous Error"). http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2011/1012_iran_nasr.aspx

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.