- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2011

Iran panicked after the United States accused it of hatching a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, immediately denying the allegations, which included plans to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies and labeling the plot’s organizer an enemy of the state.

We should have seen it coming.

Iranian officials warned Saudi officials months ago of repercussions because of the Saudi monarchy’s intervention in Bahrain and Yemen, where Iran is pushing for the overthrow of U.S.-friendly governments to establish Shiite rule. Some Revolutionary Guard commanders and parliament deputies even called for a military response to the Saudis’ action in the region.

Several Shiite grand ayatollahs in Iran issued a fatwa for Muslims to come to the aid of their Shiite brothers and confront the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain. Saudi forces helped suppress the protesters. Shia-News, a site associated with Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hard-line Shiite and influential member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, announced the recruitment of suicide bombers to attack Saudi interests worldwide.

The radicals ruling Iran had planned the assassination plot in a campaign to terrorize the Saudi regime and send a strong signal that it can even be harmed in America, its closest ally, and that the United States was too weak to do anything about it.

But the radicals obviously hadn’t prepared for the possibility that the United States would unravel the plot and Iran’s connection to it.

Tehran at first denied the U.S. claim, but as the Obama administration pushed on, the Iranian leaders started threatening harsh reprisals if Washington pursued its claim, including a threat of an “unforgettable response” from the Iranian supreme leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The panic became apparent when Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced a willingness to look at U.S. documents after American officials pushed for the extradition of the second suspect, Gholam Shakuri, a high-ranking officer of Iran’s Quds Forces, who is believed to be back in Iran already.

Iranian officials, worried about the revelation of the Quds involvement and Mr. Shakuri’s role in the plot, launched a smear campaign against Mr. Shakuri, which is their modus operandi, claiming that he used several fake names and was a member of what they called the terrorist group Mujahedin Khalq (MEK) and that they had received the information from Interpol.

Interpol declined to comment, but Western news reports indicate that Iran’s claim that Mr. Shakuri is a member of the opposition group is pure fiction. Obama administration officials on Wednesday also denied the Iranian allegation, which is nothing more than an attempt to cover up its involvement.

The regime has for decades prosecuted and executed tens of thousands of Iranians in the opposition on the charge of being associated with the MEK.

However, an informed source told the Pan-Arabist television station Al Arabyia in Dubai Wednesday that Gholam Shakuri was born in the city of Hamadan, southwest of Tehran. He joined the Iranian Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq war and was accused by the opposition of involvement in the mass execution of 4,500 political prisoners in 1988, during the reign of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Mr. Shakuri was transferred to the Quds Forces in the 1990s, and his loyalty to the supreme leader and his dedication to eliminating the opposition and confronting the West resulted in his being named the closest aide of Lt. Gen. Qassem Suleimani. He was promoted to colonel and then to brigadier general, a position he still holds.

According to the source, Mr. Shakuri used to contact the supreme leader through Asghar Mir Hejazi, one of the founders of the Iranian intelligence service and former deputy intelligence minister. He is active on several fronts, including southern Lebanon - where he is in direct contact with Sheik Naeem Qassem, deputy secretary-general of the terrorist group Hezbollah - and in Bushehr in western Iran, from where he supervises Gulf countries’ affairs. He is specifically in charge of the Bahrain file, and his main mission is “exporting the Islamic Revolution” to the island nation. He also is believed to have been involved in the Shiite riots that took place in Bahrain, for which he is said to have contacted pro-Iranian activists in Bahrain, including opposition leader Hussein Mushaima.

The recent plot should not come as a surprise because the radicals ruling Iran have been at the helm of international terrorism for decades. But it should awaken us to the fact that the Iranian leaders are the new al Qaeda - but much more dangerous, as they have thousands of ballistic missiles and soon will have nuclear weapons.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who is a fellow with EMPact America and the author of “A Time to Betray,” about his double life in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, 2010).

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