Here is an excerpt from J. David Goodman's article in The New York Times:
"Federal authorities foiled a plot by men linked to the Iranian government to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and to bomb the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a news conference on Tuesday. Mr. Holder said the plot began with a meeting in Mexico in May, “the first of a series that would result in an international conspiracy by elements of the Iranian government” to pay $1.5 million to murder the ambassador on United States soil. The men accused of plotting the attacks were Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, according to court documents filed in federal court in Manhattan. The Justice Department said the men were originally from Iran. He said the men were connected to the secretive Quds Force, a division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that has carried out operations in other countries... According to the complaint, other conspirators based in Iran were aware of and approved the plan, which involved hiring men connected to a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing... The complaint says that the men hired by the two accused plotters were in fact confidential sources of the Drug Enforcement Agency. The men were later asked by the accused plotters whether they were knowledgeable in bomb-making, the complaint said, adding that Mr. Arbabsiar 'was interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia.'" Link to Full Article
To read the full criminal complaint issued by the US Department of Justice, CLICK HERE.
Analysis: Much is being made at this moment about the connection between Iran and the unnamed Mexican TCO referred to in the complain, and rightfully so. But there is also much need for context and perspective in this story.
First, I highly recommend that if you're interested in this story, you read the full complaint. It gets bogged down in legalese in several places, but there's important factual information that people (i.e. the media) need to be aware of before jumping to dangerous conclusions.
I'd like to point out that no TCO is specifically named in the complaint. The government describes the TCO that the Iranians believe they're working with as follows:
"Drug Cartel #1 is a large, sophisticated, and violent drug-trafficking cartel. It is well known throughout North America, and its principal places of operation are Mexico and the United States. According to published reports, Drug Cartel #1 has access to military-grade weaponry and explosives, and has engaged in numerous acts of violence, including assassinations and murders."
Anyone who follows the drug war with any sort of regularity can make the assumption that we're talking about Los Zetas here. But just know for the record that Drug Cartel #1 is never named in the official complaint.
Moving on to the most important part of the story...the informant. Many media reports about this story are making the erroneous connection that the Iranians successfully hired Los Zetas, who agreed to murder the Saudi ambassador. What actually happened was that the Iranians thought they had hired someone who works for Drug Cartel #1 (we're reasonably assuming it was a Zeta), and who was actually a paid informant for the DEA. Here's how the complaint describes the informant:
"CS-1 is a paid confidential source. Previously, CS-1 was charged in connection with a narcotics offense by authorities of a certain US state. In exchange for CS-1's cooperation in various narcotics investigations, the State charges were dismissed..."
There's some more info, but that's the basic picture. We can assume he was arrested in Texas, since the meetings between the Iranians and the informant occurred in Reynosa, right across the border from McAllen. But again, this is an assumption. There's also no indication of what Mexican TCO he may have been connected with "in real life." For all we know, he may have been a local gang member of Mexican nationality.
Here's the most important aspect of this story: We have NO IDEA if Los Zetas, or the Gulf cartel, or whichever TCO the Iranians thought they were working with would actually have agreed to help them. Yes, it's always a possibility. But think about the ramifications of a TCO getting caught in the Washington DC area involved in this kind of plot. And for what, $1.5 million? That's chump change for a major TCO - one lost load of cocaine or meth. To risk the kind of US government and law enforcement scrutiny - essentially the Hammer of God - being brought down on them for participating in such a plot would hurt their business, and very existence, in a way that Mexican government action never has. Why would they take such a risk for (relative) pennies?
The problem is, there's no way to just call "El Lazca" or "El Coss" and ask, um, would you guys actually do this if they offered? I've already written several times in several places that I thought it would be unlikely for TCOs to willingly and knowingly smuggle terrorist operatives into the US across the southwest border because the risk to their business of getting caught was too high for whatever money they'd get for it. But this kind of plot is a completely different animal - engaging in the assassination of a foreign dignitary for a country that's a state sponsor of terrorism in the US capital...it just seems too risky.
But this should not take away from the fact that the Iranians - and God knows who else - was interested in using a TCO for this purpose. Who knows how many times TCOs have been approached by foreign governments or terrorist groups for this purpose? And if this has happened, what transpired during the negotiations? Have they all been turned down outright, or is there some negotiation like this ongoing for future murderous action on US soil?
Maybe Los Zetas are crazy enough to do it, but for $1.5 million dollars? Add a couple of zeros to that figure, and maybe it's a better possibility.