The Alleged Iranian Plot: Turning the U.N. into a Courtroom

Reasons for Suspicion Run Deep on Political & Legal Grounds

By Joe Lauria

UNThe United States last week turned the U.N. Security Council into a courtroom. It wanted to try Iranian suspects before foreign governments in the bizarre story of an alleged assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to Washington. 

Behind closed doors in the council chambers U.S. officials admitted the story was “hard to believe.”  This is according to a Western diplomat who was among the council ambassadors shown evidence by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was accompanied by  officials of the F.B.I., CIA and the State and Justice Departments.

It isn't known whether the CIA official revealed classified information that went beyond the F.B.I. criminal complaint in the case, which was made public. The U.S. isn't normally in the habit of sharing intelligence at the U.N. 

Reuters quoted a U.S. official saying classified wire transfer documents used to pay for the alleged assassination had “some kind of hallmark” showing they were approved by Major General Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Iranian al-Quds Force. Because the circumstances of the story are so strange, one cannot rule out forgery by Iranian agents working for the U.S.—or for another government that may have even fooled at least some U.S. authorities. Just recall the forged Niger uranium document that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The Clinton administration in 1999 went to court in the Southern District of New York in U.S.A. v. bin Laden in the African Embassy bombings. I covered the trial and saw al-Qaeda operatives on the witness stand. They were convicted by a civilian jury.  The Bush administration ridiculed criminal trials for the crime of terrorism and insisted it was a national security matter without any need to test innocence or guilt in a courtroom.  

When the Obama Justice Department wanted to try terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the same New York court, the Right howled until Obama backed down.  The handling of this alleged Iranian plot appears to be a weird hybrid between a criminal proceeding and a rush to judgment to convince foreign governments of two suspects' guilt before they are even indicted. The U.S. is also inferring a sovereign state is involved, rather than merely rogue individuals, who, incidentally, are innocent until proven guilty. 

Though the U.S. admitted the story seems far-fetched, U.S. allies Britain, France, Germany and Colombia said they believed Rice's U.N. presentation. These countries may be ready to support new sanctions against Iran—or other action, even though each of them presumably guarantees due process in their legal systems.

Rush to Judgment

DOJOn the day the alleged plot was revealed, and before a Grand Jury has even been empaneled,  Downing Street issued a statement “congratulating” U.S. authorities on the “successful operation to disrupt a conspiracy to attack diplomats” in the U.S. “The United Kingdom is in close touch with the U.S. authorities on this case. We will support measures to hold Iran accountable for its actions," the British statement said. It did not prefix conspiracy with “alleged,” and assumed proof that the plot was already underway when “disrupted,” dismissing the possibility it was suggested to an Iranian-American suspect by the U.S. informant, posing as a Mexican drug gangster.  [Read more...]