Dear Iran: “Of course you know, this means war!” — Updated

October 12, 2011

Or, it would, if we had an administration with the spine of a Warner Bros. cartoon character.

ABC broke the news yesterday of an Iranian assassination plot foiled by the FBI and the DEA:

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being “directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government,” including a cousin who was “a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform,” according to a person briefed on the details of the case.

Arbabsiar and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, were named in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York. They were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb, among other counts. Shakuri is still at large in Iran, Holder said.

Holder identified Shakuri as an Iran-based member of the Quds force, a much feared special unit in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Treasury sanctions named several other members of the Iranian Quds force as well.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed “utter disregard for collateral damage” in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

The complaint describes a conversation in which Arbabsiar was allegedly directing the informant to kill the Saudi ambassador and said the assassination could take place at a restaurant. When the informant feigned concern about Americans who also eat at the restaurant, Arbabsiar said he preferred if bystanders weren’t killed but, “Sometimes, you know, you have no choice, is that right?”

BTW, that same restaurant is known to be frequented by US senators. But, hey, sometimes “you have no choice.” Argentina was also discussed as a target, a country Iran has attacked before in their desire to kill Jews.

There’s no doubt this is a casus belli — “a cause of war.” The Iranian government has been caught red-handed organizing a terrorist operation on US soil, an operation that would not only have killed foreigners under our protection but, very likely, American citizens. And the flippant dismissal of the prospect of killing government officials makes this an attack on our government, too. While there’s no direct evidence that Khamenei or Ahmadinejad knew about this in advance, well… yeah, right. Their prime foreign covert operations agency, the Quds Force, plans an attack on the territory of the Great Satan (that’s us), and the Big Nuts in the Iranian fruitcake don’t know about it?

Like I said, “yeah, right.”

But, don’t worry, the Obama Administration is not planning any military retaliation, true to its “September 10th” values:

That a foreign government would plot to kill a foreign leader on American soil could be seen as an act of war, but Obama administration officials say the path the U.S. government will purse will align with American interests – and a military response and possible armed conflict with a third Muslim nation would not be part of that. (Though, it should be noted, the official White House position is “no option is off the table.”)

This afternoon the Treasury Department announced further sanctions against Iran, and in coming days diplomats at the United Nations and elsewhere will discuss further ways to isolate Iran, while American officials will spread far and wide throughout the region that the Iranian government was planning to kill an Arab leader.

In other words, we’re going to treat this as a law-enforcement matter, lay down sanctions, and run around telling the Arabs what they already know: that the mullahs are a bunch of dangerous psychos.

That’ll have Tehran quaking in its boots. Probably from laughing at us.

It may seem odd for me to quote Osama bin Laden, but one thing he said was very true, at least as far as life in the Muslim world goes:

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

This is us playing the weak horse, whining when someone uses our land to carry out terror attacks. Other dictators around the world (and the people who have to live under or near them) will see this and act accordingly, as Iraq is now doing.

Let’s be honest: Iran has been at war with us since 1979, but we’ve failed to recognize this and act accordingly. Even a president as great as Reagan had a blind spot when it came to Iran and thought he could reach a grand bargain, and Bush failed to take strong action against Syria and Iran when they sponsored the guerrilla war against us in Iraq from 2004-2008. So Obama isn’t the first to naively believe that restraint would be seen as anything other than weakness.

But it’s time for it to stop.

The naked truth is that Iran is killing our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether directly or indirectly, it doesn’t matter. Their puppets Hizbullah and Hamas attack our ally, Israel. They are waging war against us (this attack was meant as much to humiliate us as to strike at the Saudis) and have taken that war to our homeland.  It’s time to stop wagging our fingers in disapproval and instead punch back — hard.

Lest someone accuse me of being a warmonger, I’m not advocating invading Iran or sinking their navy in retaliation, as emotionally satisfying as that might be. We don’t have to in order to defeat them. As Michael Ledeen has often pointed out (most recently here), the Iranian regime’s grip on power is brittle; their people hate them; they face frequent rebellion and acts of sabotage. If we simply had the moral clarity and political courage to provide the peoples of Iran with the political, propaganda, and logistical support to wage their own struggle against the tyrants, as Reagan did in Poland against the Soviets, we could win without firing a shot.

Instead, we do the diplomatic equivalent of writing them a speeding ticket.

That’s no way to win a war.

CYNICAL THOUGHT: Funny how this news breaks just as AG Holder and the administration are facing close scrutiny for the Gunwalker scandal. There’s no evidence I’ve seen that this plot had gone operational and had to be stopped now. Hmmm….

LINKS: Three must-read articles at The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix. JustOneMinute thinks Holder learned a lesson. Fausta talks about the mounting threat in Latin America from Hizbullah, an Iranian cats-paw. Let’s not forget, the Iranians tried to run this plot through Mexican drug cartels. Still think that border is secure, Mr. President? Power Line notes the “axis of evil” between Iran and Los Zetas. This isn’t just about immigration — this is a national security issue.

UPDATE: Former federal prosecutor (And no fan of Obama and Holder) Andy McCarthy puts my cynical thought to rest — a frame-up makes no sense.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Things you don’t expect to see on your commute

September 22, 2011

Such as a drug gang dumping 35 bodies on the highway:

Suspected drug traffickers dumped 35 bodies at rush hour beneath a busy overpass in the heart of a major Gulf coast city as gunmen pointed weapons at frightened drivers. Mexican authorities said Wednesday they are examining surveillance video for clues to who committed the crime.

Horrified motorists grabbed cell phones and sent Twitter messages warning others to avoid the area near the biggest shopping mall in Boca del Rio, part of the metropolitan area of Veracruz city.

The gruesome gesture marked a sharp escalation in cartel violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north.

The Zetas drug cartel has been battling other gangs for control of the state.

Prosecutors said it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the surveillance video.

“We’re not going to confirm or deny anything,” Veracruz state Attorney General Reynaldo Escobar Perez told the Televisa network Wednesday. “We’re looking at it in different ways, we’re seeing different numbers, that’s why we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Escobar said the bodies were left piled in two trucks and on the ground under the overpass near the statue of the Voladores de Papantla, ritual dancers from Veracruz state. He said some of the victims had their heads covered with blackplastic bags and showed signs of torture.

Authorities said each of the victims (including apparently a cop who had gone missing) had criminal ties, so this looks like one gang, maybe the Zetas, taking out the soldiers of another gang and throwing it in their rivals’ faces.

But it’s also a slap in the face to the Mexican federal and state governments, mocking their authority and denying their sovereignty. Doing this while the city hosts a major judicial conference says, in no uncertain terms, “We rule here, not you. Fear us.” And that’s exactly what the people do, as they lose faith with each atrocity in Mexico’s ability to protect them and render justice.

These aren’t just bodies; these are thirty-five more milestones on the road to a failed state.

RELATED: Was this a message to Los Zetas from a new cartel? (Graphic pic warning.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Falcon Lake killings: suspects identified

February 28, 2011

Five months ago, David and Tiffany Hartley set out to have a fun day of jet-skiing and sightseeing on Falcon Lake, in Texas on the border with Mexico. Their holiday turned into a nightmare, however, when they were attacked by members of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels; David was shot dead and Tiffany barely escaped back to the American side after trying to rescue her husband. His body has never been found, and the investigation has largely come to a standstill; Mexican authorities have largely backed off since the lead investigator was beheaded, and US agencies are limited because of a lack of jurisdiction in Mexico. It looked as if the case would sit unsolved in a cold-case file.

But, maybe not. The one police agency still actively investigating David’s murder is the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office, and they claim to have identified four suspects:

[Sheriff Sigi] Gonzalez said the four men identified are Zetas members, but he refused to release any more details at this time.

The four of them, he added, were part of a larger group of seven men that attacked David and Tiffany Hartley as they approached the abandoned town of Guerrero Viejo, in the Mexican side of the bank.

“They were watching her with a rifle to her body and they lowered it and pick it up and lowered,” he said. “They were waiting for word whether to shoot her or not shoot her. “

Tiffany was able to get away and make it to safety, but David Hartley’s body has never been found.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said the suspects are known to be living in Mexico, but since the attack, they have crossed into the U.S. several times.

He said his office will continue gathering enough information to arrest those responsible.

(There’s a video report at the link, too.)

Sheriff Zapata said any information gathered would be passed to the FBI and, from them, to the State Department, presumably to take up with Mexican authorities. Call me cynical, but, while I’m sure the FBI would like to nail these guys, I have my doubts about how willing State is to rock the boat with Mexico over this. And I’m even more doubtful of serious help from Mexican law enforcement; they’ve already shown themselves to be subject to intimidation, and the Zetas themselves show no restraint. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, however. But, even if they are arrested in Mexico, Texas will have to forgo applying the death penalty, since Mexican law prohibits extradition in cases where execution is an option.

However, the fact that these killers cross regularly into the United States gives hope that Zapata County sheriff’s deputies or other law enforcement will be able to capture on our side of the border. Eventually, they’re bound to make a mistake.

I have another suggestion, however, one that crosses borders and is, one might say, traditional in the American West: name the men, put bounties on their heads, and make sure the posters are stamped “dead or alive.”

We’re dealing with outlaws, so let’s treat them as outlaws.

RELATED: An update on Tiffany Hartley. The beheading of Police Commander Rolando Armando Flores Villegas. A possible threat by Los Zetas to destroy Falcon Dam.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tiffany Hartley, a sad update

February 26, 2011

Following up on the story of the murder of David Hartley by members of Los Zetas, a story came across my monitor yesterday about the life his widow, Tiffany, has lived since seeing her husband killed on Falcon Lake and barely escaping, herself. When not pressing for justice in the case and for better border security overall, she leads a quiet life on her parents’ farm, trying to get past what happened. As the following quote shows, it isn’t easy:

Daily life on the farm in La Salle is much different. It’s quiet. The neighbors no longer target shoot because the sound of gunfire still terrifies Tiffany Hartley.

She’s seeing a therapist and tries not to read what people write about her online. Some people still doubt her story and accuse her of plotting to kill David Hartley. They’ve also accused of her not showing enough emotion when talking about her husband.

“I mourn privately,” she said.

One life destroyed and another shattered, probably for a long time to come.

I doubt Tiffany Hartley will ever know justice in this case; her husband’s body was probably destroyed and the gunmen killed by their bosses for causing a problem, while the Mexican investigators are likely intimidated. Beheading tends to have that effect.

I just hope she someday finds some measure of peace.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


ICE agent murdered in Mexico “by mistake”

February 24, 2011

Makes all the difference in the world, you see? They didn’t mean to ambush and gun down two American officials: it was a case of mistaken identity:

Mexican soldiers arrested six men Wednesday who they say carried out last week’s ambush murder of U.S. Special Agent Jaime Zapata.

The suspects told authorities they believed Zapata and his partner Victor Avila — who was wounded in the attack – to be members of a rival gang because of the vehicle they were driving. Those arrested belong to a cell of the Zetas, the violent criminal gang headquartered in the cities bordering south Texas.

Officials identified the group’s leader as Julian Zapata Espinoza, alias “El Piolin,” or “Tweety Bird,” who they said directed a Zeta assassination cell in the state of San Luis Potosi, where Zapata was killed Feb. 15.

(…)

Zapata, 32, an ICE special agent, was fatally shot when at least eight armed men in two vehicles ran his official embassy car off the Pan American highway about 500 miles south of the Texas border at Laredo. Avila was shot but survived the assault.

“They [the alleged shooters] said this was due to a case of misunderstanding because the car they were driving was the type used by a rival band,” Trevilla, the military spokesman, said of the suspects.

The agents’ car had official diplomatic plates, and they had identified themselves as diplomats to their assailants.

I’m sure their families will understand. Nothing personal, you know.

This isn’t the first time Los Zetas have said “Ooops! Our bad!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico border violence watch: Brownsville, Texas

February 8, 2011

Battles between Los Zetas and their former bosses in the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros prompt increased patrols on the Brownsville side of the border:

Brownsville Police and Border Patrol Units are on increased patrols near the (Brownsville & Matamoros) Bridge after reports of violence inside Mexico.

Mexican soldiers have been called in to restore the peace.

It all started around 5:00pm. Mexican officials say the Gulf Cartel set some Zeta money houses on fire near the B&M Bridge.

Two hours later, sources inside Mexico tell CHANNEL 5 NEWS two grenades were thrown at a hotel near the bridge.

A little later, the Mexican Army showed up to “restore order.”

When you have to send in the soldiers, that’s more than a police problem.

 


Failing State Watch: Nuevo Laredo police chief gunned down

February 4, 2011

Tamaulipas Governor Egidio Torre came into office on New Year’s Day vowing to fight the corruption and criminal violence tearing his state apart. One of his first acts was to appoint retired general Manuel Farfán as police chief of Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, and one of Mexico’s most violent cities.

Less than a month into his job, Chief Farfán was shot dead on the streets of his city:

Gunmen killed the recently appointed police chief of Nuevo Laredo late Wednesday in a brazen response to the new governor’s vow to restore order to the violent Mexican state bordering south Texas and the Rio Grande.

Manuel Farfán, 55, a retired army brigadier general, was shot down on a downtown street shortly before midnight. At least one of the general’s police bodyguards and his personal secretary also were killed.

Farfán was one of 11 retired army generals recently named to head municipal police departments across Tamaulipas state. He took office with the change of city and state governments on Jan. 1.

Upon taking office New Year’s Day, Tamaulipas Gov. Egidio Torre had vowed that his government would put an end to the state’s “cruel, unjust and difficult” wave of violence.

“The people of Tamaulipas want to trust again,” said Torre, who was elected following last June’s assassination by gangsters of his brother, the gubernatorial candidate of the state’s long ruling party.

“We are going to diminish violence at its root causes and extinguish impunity,” he said.

Aside from expressing condolences to Farfán’s survivors and dispatching the commander of the state police – also a retired army general – neither Torre nor other senior Tamaulipas officials commented on the assassination Thursday.

The killing is comment enough: one theory is that Chief Farfán refused to be bought or or play along with the Zeta cartel, whose “territory” Nuevo Laredo is, and they decided to show what happens. Another is that he was killed by the Gulf Cartel, which is at “war” with its former vassals and may have considered the Chief a threat to their efforts to take Nuevo Laredo back.

The killing of Chief Farfán is just the latest sign of the breakdown of the rule of law in Mexico, but he, at least, made it almost a month; in 2005, Nuevo Laredo Chief Dominguez was killed just hours after being appointed.  As the article mentions, the entire police force of one small town near Monterrey quit after two of its officers were beheaded, and the police chief of Cancún was tortured and killed in 2009 by one of his own men, who was in the pay of the local cartel. Local and state police officers are either intimidated, corrupted, or assassinated. As I’ve said before, when the State can’t even protect its own, words such as “sovereignty” and “rule of law” are meaningless.

It’s small wonder that some colleges are canceling their study-abroad programs in Mexico.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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