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June 21, 2015

Saudi Cables: The "Iran Kills Saudi Ambassador in DC" Plot Was A U.S.-Saudi Conspiracy

Update: Please see comment 3 on this thread which claims that the Saudi file in question below is not a genuine Saudi product but a translation of an Iranian newspaper piece. I currently have no way to verify the source but will update when we learn more.

In October 2011 the Obama administration accused one Mansour Arbabsiar and Iran of a rather weird "plot" to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC. Recently released Saudi foreign ministry papers published by Wikileaks shine some new light on the case.

The "plot" accusations as reported at that time:

The United States on Tuesday accused Iranian officials of plotting to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in a bizarre scheme involving an Iranian-American used-car salesman who believed he was hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

The alleged plot also included plans to pay the cartel, Los Zetas, to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, according to a law enforcement official.

The plotters also discussed a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Los Zetas to funnel tons of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, the official said. The plans never progressed, though, because the two suspects — the Iranian-American and an Iranian Quds Force officer — unwittingly were dealing with an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

I called the plot "nonsense" and another well known blogger suspected "a black flag operation by Israel or Saudi Arabia". I later added:

The failed used car salesman Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused in the "Iran kills Saudi ambassador" movie plot, is a hapless idiot and petty criminal whose businesses deals always went wrong. He couldn't even match his socks, smoked marihuana and drank a lot of alcohol, was nonreligious, an opponent of the Iranian regime and only cared about money. A business man who knows him calls him "worthless" and his neighbors believed he was dealing in drugs.
Every Iran expert interviewed thinks the story as presented is nonsense: Alireza Nader from Rand Corp, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, former CIA agent Robert Baer, Carter era NSC official Gary Sicks, Bush 2 NSC official Hillary Mann Leverett (also here), Muhammad Sahimi of PBS/Tehran Bureau and Iran scholar Hamid Serri.

As reasons for the Obama administration to run the story I listed:

  • To get some momentum for additional international sanctions on Iran
  • To prop up the connections with the Saudi regime as that had threatened to distance itself from the U.S. over the U.S. veto of a Palestinian state

Now Arash Karami, who covers Iran for AL-Monitor, found a document in the Saudi leak stash that is relevant to the plot. The document is in Arabic. He asked the public:

Arash Karami - @thekarami

Does this say anything about the Arbabsiar-Saudi ambassador case?

The document is dated April 2012.

Journalist Farhad Pouladi responded:

  • yup. "a week before accusing Iran, Prince Moqrin met with VEEP Biden to initiate a political and media game against Iran which..
  • focus on an Iranian living in the US called ...ArbabSeyr...
  • it is not in this page... but it is a lengthy plot, part three is the assassination plot... part 2 is about Amano's role!

Wessam el-Deweny a "political researcher and translator", described by NPR as a "young Egyptian activist",  also responded to Arash Karami's question:

  • It says head of Saudi intelligence met Joe Biden a week before they accuse Iran of assassinating the Saudi ambassador
  • they agreed on a diplomatic hoax which is stirring the media against Iran over the story of this person called Mansour Arbabsiar
  • The scenario is expected to pave th way for a request from Security Council to issue a new decision against Iran
  • They also agreed that the accusations will be directed against Al-Quds Force for its leading role in Iran's regional politics

The source of the Saudi leak stash is unknown and some of the documents in it may be fake. But this one could well be genuine.

All signs at the time of the plot and all expert opinions about it were saying that the plot was either a total fake or some sting operation by the Justice Department that was turned into political fodder against Iran. The now published document confirms as much.

In May 2013 Mansour Arbabsiar was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 3 counts of the originally wider accusations. Guilty pleas after sting operations are a regular occurrence. There were some irregularities on the legal side of the case:

The authorities have said that Mr. Arbabsiar knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights to remain silent or to have a lawyer present during his interrogation in his first 12 days in custody, and that he confessed to his role in the plot and shared “extremely valuable intelligence.”

For all we know the guy was just a hapless dupe of Iranian descent and the Justice Department, having caught him in a drug sting, wanted a big political case. It seems the guy will have to die in prison for falling for a confidential informer for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

If the case really turns out to have been a conspiracy between the Obama administration and the Saudi dictatorship than he may have a chance to be set free. But despite the new found document that conspiracy will be hard to prove.

Posted by b on June 21, 2015 at 15:40 UTC | Permalink



(...)But if the case really turns out to have been a conspiracy between the Obama administration and the Saudi dictatorship than he may have a chance to be set free.(...)

I seriously doubt it, for the reason below.

But despite the new found document that conspiracy will be hard to prove

True. The whole guacamole stank to high heaven from the beginning, and once they mentioned "Los Zetas" it became risible. The Zetas, despite their military expertise, Mexican/Guatemalan special forces trained by the US and ISrael, don't have the capability to mount such a coup, for which they would have needed logistical and material help from top security officials in the US. Furthermore, the Zetas are not known to be stupid, and they could have estimated the repercussions on their turf from such an action. The US/DEA, as part of the show, would have turned all the other cartels against the Zetas, who risked losing their privilege position for drug, human, et al trafficking at the US/Mexican border. It would been another circus a la Enrique Camarena.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Jun 21 2015 16:21 utc | 1

For every one US plot exposed with documentation, how many go uncontested? Note also the three state "victims" of the plot happen to be Saudi Arabia, US, and Israel. Funny how that works.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jun 21 2015 16:41 utc | 2

Please note: the Saudi cable here is a translation of an editorial that appeared in the Iranian daily Kayhan. It's part of the daily press briefing the Saudi embassy sends to Riyadh. It is NOT a sign of a Saudi plot! Please correct this.

Posted by: Paul | Jun 21 2015 17:10 utc | 3

#3 Paul, interesting point. I cannot read Arabic but if what you say is correct then b should make a correction.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 21 2015 21:14 utc | 4

b One small English lesson: For all we know the guy was just a hapless dude I think you meant to use "dupe". Now that I am nit-picking there is one other English usage error you often make -- belief and relief are English nouns, believe and relieve are verbs. You often switch them.

Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 21 2015 21:18 utc | 5


If you feel compelled to correct b's Emglish, why don't you email him? Save the rest of us from wincing at your magisterial excess.

Posted by: jfl | Jun 21 2015 22:41 utc | 6

I guess that if Iran truly wanted the scalp of a Saudi ambassador they could do it in Beirut, Ankara or in Yemen, except that it would be singularly pointless.

That said, cables are not a proof, and they can be explained that Saudis were contacted during the genuine investigation and before public disclosure. The investigation obviously followed the stinking pattern of FBI identifying an individual with mental disabilities and let him believe that he deals with genuine terrorist organization or a gang, in threaten and bribe him to participate in totally manufactured plot. American judges and prosecutors are extremely reluctant to follow on unequivocal proofs of innocence that appear after the conviction, and and they are also very deferential to "reasons of state". One could only hope that the family of the hapless dude got some bribe to secure the guilty plea. But it could be a simple case of applying torture and pressure.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jun 22 2015 0:44 utc | 7

English is my second language, but I would guess that even before Arbabsiar became a dupe in a sting operation he was a hapless dude.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jun 22 2015 0:47 utc | 8

I posted your story on their site.

My Top 3 blogs:
1. Zerohedge
2. Firedoglake
3. Moon of Alabama

Obama is just pure evil

Posted by: Anunnaki | Jun 22 2015 1:19 utc | 9

Interesting that this is coming out now, especially on Wikileaks. Seems that someone made the claim that Wikileaks is another of the disinformation links/sources that the various apparatchiks of the U.S. Government use. As for the DEA, they are the Junk Yard Dog for the CIA which controls the worldwide drug production & distribution of same. How sad this is.

Posted by: Norman | Jun 22 2015 4:06 utc | 10
Video footage shows the lawyer being kicked but does not show Mr Mansour, according to the Associated Press news agency. The journalist later interviewed the preacher about the incident, AP says.

Posted by: Mina | Jun 22 2015 7:15 utc | 11

TovioS @4, it's not Arabic, it's Persian:

Thanks to M. Kayhan editorial Arbabsyar translator that Saudi Embassy in Tehran @ kam778 found documents relating, sent to the State Department

Posted by: okie farmer | Jun 22 2015 7:29 utc | 12

@b: The source of the Saudi leak stash is unknown and some of the documents in it may be fake. But this one could well be genuine.
Yeah, or it could well not be genuine. Flip a coin.
I wonder if we should get our knickers all twisted over a "document" we know absolutely nothing about just because somebody's translation of it coincides with what we all thought about the absurd Arbabsiar bust.
So much for the "news," time to move on to the weather and sports.

Posted by: Denis | Jun 22 2015 14:46 utc | 13

"...belief and relief are English nouns, believe and relieve are verbs. You often switch them.
Posted by: ToivoS | Jun 21, 2015 5:18:21 PM | 5

Why does it matter?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jun 22 2015 18:54 utc | 14

Wikileaks' Statfor files easily could have been fakes as well considering Sabu was working with the USG during that attack. Why would the USG have Sabu help hack into Stratfor and release such sensitive information? So *of course* the Saudi cables could be fake. More importantly, in what light, whether true or false, do the cables show the Saudi regime? Why? Who is interested in creating trouble for the Kingdom right now?

Recall that the HBGary hack (before Stratfor) disclosed the existence of Team Themis, a group tasked with carrying out a plot by USG/BofA to smear journalists including Glenn Greenwald by leaking false documents to them that could then be proven false. The purpose was to discredit the journalist as well as confuse issues by injecting nonsense into factual public discussions. When the public can't discern what is true or false in a leak, powers behind the source of the leak can dismiss wholesale the important truths along with the lies. You can bet that there is a lot of truth being obfuscated by a few salacious falsehoods in these documents.

Saudi Arabia looks really bad in these docs, yet the docs can be dismissed as fabrications. That's a win/win for *someone*.

Posted by: yellowsnapdragon | Jun 22 2015 20:25 utc | 15

Gareth Porter already discredited this "Iran Kills Saudi Ambassador in DC" plot months after the story broke.

Posted by: Willy2 | Jun 22 2015 23:28 utc | 16

It was obvious since the beginning... the zetas are no stupid to mix with a band of medieval fanatics. They just want to profit from the lucrative US drug market...

Posted by: guy | Jun 27 2015 3:08 utc | 17

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