The Fall Guy

The setup and railroading of Mansoor Arbabsiar, a mentally ill Iranian emigrant, in the alleged “terror plot” to kill the Saudi ambassador was completed last week when he entered a guilty plea. The 57-year-old Iranian-American, a naturalized citizen, was charged with plotting to bomb the Café Milano, in Washington DC, a favorite haunt of diplomats and other bigwigs. Faced with a possible life sentence, Arbabsiar, a former used car salesman, made his last deal: a 25-year sentence in return for a propaganda victory for the Israel lobby.

The facts of this case will never be known: no trial means no evidence will be presented purportedly “proving” his guilt. What we do know is that in the spring of 2011 — just as the war propaganda targeting Iran was reaching a fever pitch — Arbabsiar met with a DEA drug informant posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel.

Of course, it was just a “coincidence” that he chose this particular person as his contact — or was it? According to ABC News, the delusional Arbabsiar told a court appointed psychiatrist:

“’I have had so many girls. So many that you couldn’t count them. I never had one girl more than once…. Girls love money and cars. That was my weakness.’

It was, in fact, one of these women who put Arbabsiar in touch with a man in May 2011 who said he was a member of the Mexican drug gang Los Zetas. Arbabsiar went on to ask this cartel associate — actually a Drug Enforcement Agency informant — to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. using explosives.”

Oh please — if that doesn’t smell like a set-up, then your nose is on backwards. Here is an informant, who has had drug charges dropped in return for his cooperation, and who is being paid to provide “intelligence” to law enforcement, clearly entrapping Arbabsiar.

The complaint, by the way, never quotes Arbabsiar as explicitly saying he wanted to carry out an assassination: this was no doubt suggested by the informant, who says the deluded car dealer was “interested” in such a plot “among other things.” Gareth Porter has suggested these “other things” might well have been a drug deal involving opium, a product the Iranian Revolutionary Guards — the supposed co-plotters — are said to have a large supply of: Arbabsiar reportedly told associates, prior to his bust, that he was about to make some “big money.” How he expected to do that by bombing the Café Milano is a bit of a mystery, one that will never be cleared up — because this case will never come to trial.

At the plea appearance, Arbabsiar told the judge:

In Mexico, we hired a person named ‘Junior,’ who turned out to be an FBI agent, to kidnap the ambassador. Junior said it would be easier to kill the ambassador. I and others agreed to go along with this new plan. We agreed to pay Junior, and to do that we transferred money to the United States from Iran.”

It was the FBI’s idea to blow up the Café Milano, not Arbabsiar’s. There never was any murder plot: the FBI was manipulating Arbabsiar from the start — not a hard task to accomplish, given his mental state.

After his arrest, a thorough examination of Arbabsiar, including extensive psychological testing, indicated he suffers from mania, bi-polar disorder, and paranoia: an MRI indicated “abnormalities of the brain.” This was confirmed by Dr. Michael B. Frist, editor of the definitive Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, who extensively interviewed not only the accused but also his family and friends. Arbabsiar would lock himself in his bedroom, smoking cigarettes and pacing up and down, for weeks at a time: other times he would engage in grandiose gestures, and imagine himself a “playboy” with “important” connections. He habitually lost his keys, the titles to cars, and could barely function: he eventually went broke, and couldn’t even afford to go to a dentist when his teeth were practically falling out of his head.

In short, Arbabsiar is the perfect fall guy.

The supposed “cousin” working with Arbabsiar, Abdul Reza Shahlai, is reportedly a top official in the Revolutionary Guards alleged to have been involved in several terrorist attacks against American targets in Iraq, a sophisticated operative with plenty of experience in this sort of thing. Yet in a Washington Post piece on Arbabsiar’s alleged connection to the Revolutionary Guards, we are told:

It is unclear how much Shahlai understood about his cousin’s life in the United States and if he understood how unlikely it was that a struggling used-car salesman in Corpus Christi, Tex., could successfully orchestrate a high-profile international plot.”

It’s not just “unclear” — the whole proposition portraying Arbabsiar as some kind of international assassin is utterly outlandish. Which is why, when the government announced their “case” against Arbabsiar, it was met with widespread skepticism and outright mockery from analysts familiar with Iranian intelligence operations.

The lack of evidence against Arbabsiar hasn’t stopped the Israel lobby from cashing in on this propaganda bonanza: Foreign Policy has published a screed by AIPAC-affiliated “scholar” Matthew Levitt, affiliated with the “Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” an AIPAC front. Entitled “Why Iran Wants to Attack the United States,” the piece never tells us why Tehran would take such a suicidal course. Instead, Levitt avers that the plot was “discovered” early on by US law enforcement, who then “built an airtight case.” What did this “airtight” case consist of? Writes Levitt:

At the direction of law enforcement, he then called his cousin and Quds Force handler, Gholam Shakuri. With agents listening, Shakuri insisted Arbabsiar go ahead with the plot. ‘Just do it quickly. It’s late.’”

For all we know, that was Bibi Netanyahu on the line.

Levitt is at pains to explain what baffled analysts in the wake of US government allegations: “What was the Quds force thinking?” Such an attack on a well-trafficked watering hole in Washington DC would have killed hundreds, and surely provoked instant and deadly retaliation from the US. So what’s in it for the Iranians?

Well, you see, says Levitt, the Iranians have come up with “a new calculus,” which involves overseas attacks on US and Israeli targets. Giving it a scientific-sounding appellation — “calculus” — is supposed to give Levitt’s argument some sort of ersatz credibility, but he cites no evidence of Iranian intentions to go after targets on American soil. Instead, he catalogues a series of “foiled” plots, allegedly launched by the Iranians in collaboration with Lebanon’s Hezbollah — none of which involved American targets, and all of which have been denied by Tehran. His source for this?: “Israeli intelligence.”

However, even Levitt, hardly an unbiased analyst, has to admit that “in some cases, Iranian agents employed laughable operational security; in others, the agents, like Arbabsiar, were kooky.”

“Kooky” describes not only every jot and tittle of Levitt’s piece, but also this entire phony “plot” to kill the Saudi ambassador, which was manufactured, from the very beginning, by the US Justice Department. Whether this was done in collusion with the Israelis, or Holder & Co. thought up this brilliant idea all on their own, I’ll leave to my readers to speculate.

Levitt leaves the best for last, concluding his piece with this cliffhanger:

The Quds Force is sure to recover from its operational sloppiness, and Iranian leaders appear committed to a policy of targeting Western interests. Arbabsiar’s guilty plea ends one chapter in Iran’s shadow war against the West, but authorities must remain vigilant for the plots yet to come.”

What we really need to be vigilant about is the endless stream of phony “plots” and Israeli-fed “intelligence” designed to drag the United States into another war in the Middle East on Israel’s behalf. As for the “operational sloppiness” of the Quds Force: if I were the Israelis, and their American amen corner, I’d concentrate on the “operational sloppiness” of their own war propaganda. The Arbabsiar “plot” to kill the Saudi ambassador is such a transparently phony conspiracy theory that not even Lyndon LaRouche would touch it with a ten foot pole.


And why, in the name of all that’s holy, did Foreign Policy magazine publish this bilge? Ask this horse’s ass.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].