Editorial do WSJ
One month to the day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 comes a sobering moment in the history of the U.S. war on terror: The Department of Justice has charged that "factions of the Iranian government" plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States by blowing him up inside a Washington, D.C., restaurant.
Had it succeeded, this would have constituted an act of terror by the Islamic Republic of Iran on U.S. soil, and arguably an act of war. To those, notably an emerging isolationist wing in the Republican party, who've argued lately that the U.S. should pull its efforts back from a waning international terrorist threat to focus on domestic concerns, this event is a wake-up call.
One of the two central figures in the alleged plot, Manssor Arbabsiar—described as a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen with Iranian and U.S. passports—was arrested September 29 at JFK Airport in New York. At a July 17 planning meeting in Mexico, an undercover U.S. agent suggested to Arbabsiar that the assassination would cause mass casualties. Arbabsiar replied: "They [the Iranians] want that guy done; if the hundred go with him, f**k 'em."
The announcement was made yesterday in Washington by Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, an assistant attorney general for national security and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In short, this is not a group of American guys gone off the rails in New Jersey.
The second figure named in the alleged plot, and Arbabsiar's Iranian contact, was identified as Gholam Shakuri, a member of Iran's Qods force and still at large. Qods is described in the Justice charge sheet as "a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad."
Justice also makes clear that this effort in Iran extended beyond these two men, referring several times to their "Iran-based co-conspirators." After Arbabsiar's arrest, he was directed to phone Shakuri in Iran, who said on October 5, last Wednesday: "[j]ust do it quickly; it's late . . ."
This appalling news needs to be placed in the broader context of Iran's behavior. One of the charges brought by the U.S. against the two men is "conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries." That aptly describes what seems to occupy much of the Iranian government's waking hours.
This June, the International Atomic Energy Agency made public its recent reporting on Iran's nuclear program. Listed in the report's suspected activities were "producing uranium metal . . . into components relevant to a nuclear device" and "missile re-entry vehicle redesign activities for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature."
The good news in yesterday's announcement, and in earlier successes, is that U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence appear to have taken the lessons of 9/11 to heart. They got serious about terror and are able to thwart potential disasters such as this, though we wonder how many others are in train.
Less reassuring is the lapsed seriousness by the West's political leadership about Iran's threat. The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanction regimes on Iran, but they have allowed legalistic definitions to free Iranian officials with ties to its nuclearization program to flout travel bans and such.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives annually to rant from a podium at the United Nations on the East River. Iran is about much more than these antic rants, and its resources are vastly greater than al Qaeda's. It sees itself as at war with the U.S., Europe, Israel and now obviously Saudi Arabia. As obvious, it sees itself as immune to effective retaliation against its repeated, or planned, offensives. It's past time for U.S. policy toward Iran to reflect the reality of what it is dealing with.