The Iranian threat to New York City

The NYPD must assume that New York City could be targeted by Iran or Hezbollah. On Feb. 3, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that Iran “had its own tools” to respond to sanctions and threats of military action against it. Indeed, as the West’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear program continues to heat up, New York City—especially with its large Jewish population—becomes an increasingly attractive target.

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This is neither an idle nor a new threat. As one example of Iranian agents acting in New York, in 2004 two security guards attached to the Iranian mission to the United Nations were sent home by the State Department after being caught conducting surveillance of city subways and landmarks. Iran’s U.N. mission allows officials from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to live and operate in New York with official diplomatic cover.

Iran also has a presence in New York via the Alavi Foundation, a nonprofit ostensibly devoted to charity works and promoting Islamic culture. In December 2009, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, described Alavi as having “effectively been a front for the government of Iran.” A contemporaneous complaint filed by Mr. Bharara’s office led to the seizure of Alavi’s assets—including the Islamic Institute of New York, the largest Shiite mosque in the city and the location most closely affiliated with Iran’s U.N. mission. The NYPD Intelligence Division also played a role during the initial stages of the Alavi investigation.

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