Iran-Contra Remix for the Twenty-First Century

In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s administration illegally defied Congress. What came to be called the “Iran-Contra Scandal,” a nexus of drugs, terror, Latin American proxy conflict, and covert operations involving the United States and Iran, seems this week to have been sampled and remixed for the twenty-first century.

suzanna.reiss 10/14/2011

In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s administration illegally defied Congress to secretly pay Iran for weapons to be delivered to the right wing Contra insurgency against the popular government of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua with the help of drug cartels. What came to be called the “Iran-Contra Scandal”, a nexus of drugs, terror, Latin American proxy conflict, and covert operations involving the United States and Iran, seems this week to have been sampled and remixed for the twenty-first century.476[Time, November 17, 1986]

In this latest scandal rather than a leftwing government being targeted by U.S. intelligence and covert operations, it is “Islamic Terror” whose most prominent state funder, according to American officials, is the government of Iran. Apparently the Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration have informants inside the Zeta drug cartel, one of whom allegedly was contracted by an Iranian-American (and U.S. citizen) on behalf of the Iranian Military’s covert Qods forces to organize an operation to murder the Saudi Ambassador in Washington. Covert operations seem to be the preferred weapon, at the moment, for all sides in the conflict. The use of a strategically placed informant and collaborator is not surprising. The scenario of an alliance between the Iranian government and Mexican drug cartels to commit an act of terror at a restaurant in Washington D.C., is an amazing proposition. FBI Director Robert Mueller conceded, “it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script.”

Many have raised questions about the veracity of these claims in particular the idea that high-levels of the Iranian Government orchestrated the operation. This is true across the political spectrum despite the Justice Department’s allegations and the major media networks’ rush to embrace them as fact. Glenn Greenwald’s initial commentary on Wednesday, a day after the news broke, began with the words: “The most difficult challenge in writing about the Iranian Terror Plot unveiled yesterday is to take it seriously enough to analyze it.” 477[Atlantic Wire, October 13, 2011]The Council on Foreign Relations published an interview with an investigator for the Congressional Research Service, who generously believed once the administration recognized its error, “they may ultimately either walk back some of what they've said or soften it, or in some ways just simply drop it.” In the interview, Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, characterized what he described as reservations among the majority of Middle East experts in the United States. At the beginning of the long list:

The main element that falls apart dramatically is that the assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington was supposed to be carried out by Mexican drug cartel members. Iran has never used surrogates with whom they are unfamiliar. Non-Muslim proxy groups are never used.

Perhaps it is wise to never say "never." But I am confident in saying the rush to judgment and punitive action betrays ulterior motives, filtered through a heady mix of Iran, terror, Latin American-based proxy groups, and violent drug cartels out to get innocent Americans (and their diplomatic allies).

Among other important observations, at least from the U.S. government’s perspective, drugs seem to figure in this story by providing evidence of the redemptive value of the DEA’s alleged war against the drug cartels in Mexico. It also helps deflect attention from the brewing “Fast and Furious” scandal. The same day Attorney General Holder decried “Iran’s Terror Plot,” he was awaiting a subpoena from the Republican-led House Oversight Committee seeking what knowledge he had about this failed gun-smuggling operation which seemingly involved DEA, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents smuggling assault weapons into Mexico and losing track of them—some would later be tied to the killing of U.S. agents.478[Tucson Sentinel, June 9, 2011]

Despite the escalating violence, murder, and political instability in Mexico, wrought by all protagonists who directly or indirectly become involved in the so-called "drug war," revelations that the FBI and DEA supposedly foiled an Iranian-Mexican Cartel terror plan presents an unassailable attack against government critics, at least according to statements made by the FBI, the DEA, members of Congress, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and the U.S. President. “Top News” on the DEA’s website is an article “DEA Helps Foil Iranian Terror Plot”.

This seems both a desperate and dangerous boast.

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