Tag: foundation for the defense of democracies

Arbabsiar Plot Still Makes No Sense

Manssor Arbabsiar

I was as shocked as most other people to hear Tuesday the Department of Justice unveiling charges against Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year old Iranian-American apparently linked to Iran’s Quds Force. If the facts as described in the government’s complaint [.pdf] were part of a crime novel I were editing, I’d tell the author it was far too outlandish and to do some more research. Now we’re finding out that the administration itself had “expressed concern that the plot’s cartoonish quality would invite suspicions and conspiracy theories.”

And cartoonish it was. I had figured that maybe I was the only one who thought the government’s story was shot through with gaping holes, but now I read that basically the entire roster of non-neoconservative Iran watchers can’t make sense of the plot.

For their part, reflexive hawks have taken the news in stride. James Jay Carafano explained that this is what happens when you act like Jimmy Carter, and the neocons’ Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has essentially taken over  the WSJ op-ed page. (As one wag noted, the WSJ’s unsigned editorial invoked 9/11 in the first sentence.) But note the lack of critical thought in these pieces. Reuel Marc Gerecht uses the story as the latest hook for his “let’s bomb Iran” shtick, and another FDD/WSJ offering even says that “though details of the plot are still scarce,” “[t]o doubt the Iranian regime’s responsibility in the thwarted attack is to misunderstand its nature, or to somehow fall prey to the delusion that when an Iranian connection appears behind a terror plot, its perpetrators have gone rogue or are acting on behalf of some dark faction to undermine a nonexistent ‘moderate’ camp within the regime.” Well, maybe, but I like details.

I think there’s a pretty strong case for revisiting our assumptions about Iran, provided somebody can fill in the aforementioned holes. I had a bit more of a critical piece in CNN International, asking a number of questions that I’d like to see answered before deciding anything. I’ll just share with you one question I asked:

the accused seem to have believed that the [Mexican drug cartel the] Zetas would blow up [Saudi Ambassador Adel] al-Jubeir (and potentially a hundred people nearby, explicitly including possible U.S. senators) having only been fronted $100,000 of the $1.5 million payoff, and holding Arbabsiar as collateral.

There’s little evidence that the Zetas are stupid enough to cause themselves the trouble that blowing up a Washington restaurant containing the Saudi Ambassador and a hundred others would inevitably cause – especially for a potential payday of only $100,000 and a dead Iranian operative. Why did Arbabsiar or the IRGC think that the Zetas would be willing to do this deal?

To my mind, this is the biggest question out there, but I raise several others. For my provisional thoughts on the story, have a look at that piece.

He Is the Very Model of a Modern Right-Wing Foreign Policy Thinker

Jim Lobe points us to the thoughts of Andrew McCarthy, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, on Barack Obama’s reticence to urge other people to spill their blood in Iran.  A few choice bits below:

  • andymccarthy“The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society.”
  • The divergences between radical Islam and radical Leftism are much overrated — ‘equal rights’ and ‘social justice’ are always more rally-cry propaganda than real goals for totalitarians, and hatred of certain groups is always a feature of their societies.”
  • It would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs, so Obama’s instinct was to do the next best thing: to say nothing supportive of the freedom fighters.”
  • It’s a mistake to perceive this as ‘weakness’ in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters’ side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn’t done that, and he won’t. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely.  That’s not weakness, it’s strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us.”

As Lobe notes, this prompted a rare “that’s over the line” type response from National Review editor Rich Lowry, but McCarthy is having none of it.  Instead, McCarthy says that by no means were his earlier remarks out of bounds, and argues that Obama is going to transform the United States into the sort of country that the Islamic Republic will be fond of.

That’s the sort of calm, reasoned debate we’ve come to expect from the establishment Right.  I’m trying to think, which conservative thinker does this sort of thing finds its lineage in?  Burke?  Kirk?  Carl Schmitt?  It’s tough to say.