Following the Trump administration’s takedown of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Iran has promised a “harsh retaliation.” But how much danger is the United States really in?
To give some idea of Iran’s reach, just look back at a foiled 2011 incident in which Iranian operatives tried to hire a Mexican cartel to assassinate an ambassador on U.S. soil, at the direction of Soleimani’s elite Iranian Quds Force.
In May of 2011, secret talks began taking place in Mexico between a purported Zetas cartel member and an Iranian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, Manssor Arbabsiar, who was working with Gholam Shakuri, a member of the Quds Force.
Over the next few months, more meetings were held. It was during these discussions that a plan was developed to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir by blowing up a Washington, D.C. restaurant that he was known to frequent. When told that such an attack could also kill as many as 100 civilians, including members of Congress, Arbabsiar reportedly replied, “No problem. … No big deal.”
The plan got to the point where Arbabsiar recruited men to carry out the attack and an amount of $1.5 million was agreed to as payment. Then things hit a snag.
Unfortunately for Arbabsiar, the cartel member he thought he was meeting with happened to be a DEA informant. Accordingly, in October 2011, Arbabsiar was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, and other crimes. Shakuri was also charged but never apprehended.
To make a long story short, Arbabsiar ended up confessing to everything and cooperating with officials. In 2013, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to murder the ambassador.
According to then-CENTCOM commander General James Mattis, the plot was sanctioned by Iran’s government, though Iran publicly denied being involved. “They actually set out to do it. It was not a rogue agent off on his own,” Mattis said in 2013.
“This decision was taken at the very highest levels in Tehran,” Mattis said. “Again absent one mistake, they would have murdered Adel and Americans at that restaurant a couple miles from the White House.” Mattis also criticized the Obama administration for not holding Iran accountable at the time.
It could have ended differently
As Breitbart’s Jaeson Jones explains, the gravity of the situation can not be understated. “The event underscores the potential value a terrorist organization may enjoy in collaborating with a willing cartel,” Jones wrote.
While we should be grateful that this plot was foiled, we should also try to remain objective. And the truth of the matter is that we got somewhat lucky that the individual with whom Arbabsiar hooked up just happened to be a DEA informant.
The idea that Iran could enlist the help of powerful Mexican cartels in attacks on the U.S. is a terrifying prospect, one that underscores the need to secure the southern border. Federal authorities should keep a close eye on that region especially now that Iran has threatened a “harsh retaliation” to Soleimani’s killing.