The Department of Justice announced today that they have foiled an attempted terrorist attack — perhaps a wave of them — in the US. This time, though, the plot didn’t originate with al-Qaeda, but instead with Iran:
FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a “significant terrorist act in the United States” tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News today.
The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.
Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.
The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.
If true, would that not be an act of war? We’re presently using drones in Pakistan and Yemen against al-Qaeda terrorist networks for plotting similar attacks, thanks to the AUMF from October 2001, even though we’re nominally allied with both nations. If the government of Iran plotted attacks on American targets, that should require a response from the US, should it not — or do we send a signal that even attacks from actual nation-states fall under the rubric of law enforcement?
So far, it looks like the latter:
Arbabsiar and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, were named in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York. They were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb, among other counts.
The complaint also refers to another Iranian official but does not name him.
If we’re charging an official of the Iranian government with complicity or worse in this plot, then it ceases to be a law enforcement issue and becomes a military and political issue instead. This isn’t a case of espionage but of sabotage or worse, which would be an act of war by anyone’s definition. If we’re not willing to respond in kind, we then send a signal to hostile nation-states around the world that attacks on the US are low-risk, high-reward affairs — and we’d better get ready for an avalanche of them.