For the Iranian regime to attempt a terror strike on American soil, and particularly in Washington D.C., including a high-profile assassination and blowing up of two important Middle Eastern embassies, means that the Ayatollahs have crossed the conventional red line separating them from the previously cautious strategies of Terror.
Indeed, on Oct. 11, 2011, according to federal officials as reported by ABC, FBI and DEA agents disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to the Iranian regime.
U.S. officials said the plot included the killing of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, followed by bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies within the Beltway.
According to the report, strikes against the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also in the plans.
This terror case, coined "Operation Red Coalition," started last May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, sought a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to law enforcement officials. Manssor Arbabsiar, who in fact was intercepted by the DEA, thought he was communicating with the powerful Zetas Mexican drug organization.
According to U.S. officials, the alleged terrorist claimed he was being "directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government," including as reported, a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform."
Officials believe he is connected to the Revolutionary Guard, the quds force. This announcement has dramatic consequences on American national security and on the state of confrontation between the U.S. and Iranian regime.
First effect is the realization — as we projected over the past few years and briefed U.S. officials and lawmakers — that Iran's regime has a reach within the U.S. homeland and can mobilize operatives to perform terror strikes.
Against an opposing scholarship that considered such a projection alarmism, we argued that while al-Qaida and its Salafi allies were acquiring targets and attempting to hit them, the Iranian jihadi network was acquiring intelligence and waiting for Tehran's order to move. Hence as we were focusing on the Salafi jihadists, both alien and homegrown, and as we witnessed dozens of attempts against bridges, tunnels, military bases, the Iranian-controlled net was building its strength for the right moment.
And that moment apparently was supposed to debut in Washington via spectacular bloodshed with diplomats at its epicenter. The bottom line is that Iran has shown that it has a presence inside the U.S., and is capable of striking inside cities, including in the capital.
In other words, while one Iranian-American operative was arrested and another is on the loose, this is not the entire network of the Pasdaran and Hezbollah inside the country. What we witnessed was the activation of a small cell to achieve chilling results. What we need to realize is that the network is omnipresent and dangerous.
Second, we need to rejoice that our law enforcement, and in this case the FBI, did an impressive job in penetrating and stopping the plot. But relying uniquely on interceptions of cells and operatives to counter the threat may not be a hundred percent guarantee.
The national security agencies defending the homeland are in reality our last lines of defenses, not the front lines. The latter are in the Middle East where the Iranian regime is building a comprehensive force incorporating terror networks, petrodollars, insurgents, classical forces, and a fleet of missiles which could carry nukes on one morning.
The Washington plot, which yet needs to be fully understood, was a strike by the Tehran regime against the capital of the United States. Though it was intercepted by America's multiple agencies, it nevertheless was a directed by a regional power.
Third, this brings us to the question of motives and scenarios. What were the Tehran strategists thinking? Or what were the unseen parts of this potential strike? Targeting the Saudis in Washington had to have another chapter in the Peninsula.
The kingdom is now in the cross hairs of the mullahs. Assassinating the monarchy's ambassador in Washington is logically part of a series of events the Pasdaran and quds were preparing for, particularly in the Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia.
Fortunately, Tehran's plot was foiled, but not its plans. The strategic intention of the regime against Riyadh is firm, and so is their intention toward flaring up a war with Israel from Lebanon and perhaps even Syria's borders. One way Khamanei can help Assad save his skin from the revolt is to trigger war, even if it would be limited.
Fourth, one would wonder about the boldness of the Iranians in these last years. Why would they be so daring: such as deploying ships in the Eastern Mediterranean via Suez; dominating Lebanon unchecked; sending militia to help Syria's dictator crush the revolt; and last but not least Iran's growing presence in the Western Hemisphere.
The answer may well be their perception of U.S. lack of will to contain them, let alone stopping them. They have read U.S. unwillingness to "meddle" in the 2009 protests in Iran, as a sign of disengagement, read American retreat.
Totalitarians are emboldened, not moderated, when they feel their foes pulling back. The late 1930s were tragic examples of accommodating the fascists of Europe. It could be that the Middle East jihadists, particularly the Khomeinist among them, are on a similar track: advancing.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad," and "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East." He advises members of Congress and the European parliament. www.walidphares.com
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