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Pt.2 Gareth Porter: Critical two weeks missing from FBI account

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has been digging further into the bizarre, I think, scheme that supposedly Iranian Revolutionary Guards had organized an assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador. And now joining us from Washington is Gareth Porter to talk about his further research. Thanks for joining us again, Gareth.


JAY: Alright. So for those of you that haven’t seen our earlier interview, you might want to watch it before you watch this. This is sort of a part two. So tell us more about your kind of exploration into the FBI’s role in all this and what the documents show.

PORTER: Yes. We’ve already talked about the fact that there were two weeks plus of meetings, of several meetings–we don’t even know how many–between Arbabsiar on one hand and the DEA informant on the other, in which we are completely in the dark about what transpired. Who said what to whom? That, of course, inspires the suspicion that in fact what was happening during those two weeks plus was that it was the DEA informant who was pushing the idea of why don’t you do something against the Saudi [crosstalk]

JAY: Okay. Gareth, just for a sec, to be clear, what documents have you been looking at?

PORTER: This is the–something called the amended criminal complaint, which was filed this week. It was dated October 11. It is–it takes the form of an affidavit by the FBI agent apparently in charge of the case explaining in great detail the FBI investigation.

JAY: So the question will be: is it not possible they’re holding back some–certain–some of the conversation?

PORTER: Well, it’s absolutely certain that they’re holding back a great deal of information which is vital to understanding exactly what really happened in this case. It’s impossible that you have two whole weeks, the first two weeks of substantive conversations between the guy who supposedly was part of this terror plot and the DEA informant, in which there’s absolutely not a single quote from the Iranian American. So then this is followed, then, by two meetings, July 14 and July 17, where the FBI says, yes, we recorded these meetings, and here are the quotes that we got. And what is interesting is that in the first meeting, there is only–there’s only one quote from the Saudi–from–I keep saying Saudi–from the Iranian-American guy about the–that has to do with the Saudi ambassador, or at least with an ambassador, because there’s not a single quote, there’s not a single direct quote from him, there’s simply the word ambassador that is quoted, whereas on the other side, the DEA informant is quoted in several cases as making statements–I’m going to start working on doing the Saudi ambassador, and similar statements, as if he was trying to prompt the Iranian American, Arbabsiar, to make a statement to incriminate himself. So that’s what we have on those. Then, of course, they go on in the 17th meeting–the July 17 meeting, in which the DEA informant actually gets the Iranian-American to respond to a completely fictional plot of blowing up a restaurant somewhere on Capitol Hill, where there would be 150–as many as 150 people who would be killed in a bombing, and where Arbabsiar then says, in effect, we don’t care what happens to innocent civilians. Now, that, of course, begins to get even more suspicious. And then we finally come to later in the plot line, in late September, where it appears to me that Arbabsiar is already clearly part of the sting operation. I mean, it’s very clear that Arbabsiar does become part of the sting operation. They admit it after he is under arrest, that he helps them with the sting, to try to incriminate his confederates, his allies back in Tehran. But it seems to me clear that he was part of the sting operation even before they acknowledge that, because in late September he is in Iran and he is telling his contact there that the drug cartel wants him, Arbabsiar, to go to Mexico City to be collateral for the rest of this deal, for paying the drug cartel for supposedly doing a hit job on the ambassador. And what happens then is that his ally, his confederate in Tehran says, you’re going to be on your own if you go to Tehran. He still in the end decides–excuse me; to go to Mexico City. He then still decides to go to Mexico City on his own, which to me is a tip-off that he’s already part of the scheme, because he knows that he could be in danger by the most lethal drug cartel in the world–one of them, at least–without being supported by his people in Tehran. No sane person is going to do that, unless he’s already been tipped off that he’s going to be arrested before he ever gets into Mexico City, which is exactly what happened.

JAY: So–and just remind us again, for people that haven’t read this, a little bit about what we know about this guy. I mean, as I said in the other interview, the quote everyone’s using, not James Bond but Mr. Bean, but he’s also–if I understand it correctly, he’s been busted before for drugs. His house was foreclosed on. I mean–.

PORTER: He was busted for drugs. He was a used car salesman for years in Corpus Christi, Texas. He has had problems, obviously, as a manager. Everybody understood that he was a terrible manager as far as money’s concerned and as far as a job–a business is concerned. He was basically a loser. But he was the kind of person who people in Tehran might use for making contact with a drug cartel for making a drug deal.

JAY: Right. So is there anything else that we know about this so far? Or we’re still following this?

PORTER: Well, I think those are the key points that have not been covered in the news media, which point in the direction of not just a sting operation, which influenced Arbabsiar to move in the direction of picking up a scheme to go after the Saudi ambassador, apparently, as in connection with a drug deal that was being discussed, but which is not mentioned, of course, in the FBI report; but also the question of when Arbabsiar was actually brought into the sting operation is very, very important to understand, and I don’t think it’s at all clear at this moment.

JAY: And, again, as we talked a bit about in the earlier interview, the geopolitical context here is the White House, the Israeli government, and the Saudis are all using this to create a whole new chorus to get tougher with Iran and, you know, tougher sanctions and all the rest. The kind of–the previous let’s get Iran had kind of petered out.

PORTER: Absolutely. And this, of course, provides a very strong motivation for the White House to be saying yes to a sting operation which they hoped would capture somebody high enough in the Iranian IRGC Quds Force to be able to make a political case out of this.

JAY: Yeah, I guess there’s nothing like a good national security emergency at a time when the global economy is starting to further tank.

PORTER: Well, that’s yet another angle of this. And, of course, we also have Eric Holder, the guy in charge of the Justice Department now, who is in serious trouble as of last summer, and who would be looking for a spectacular case to try to get out from under that political trouble, particularly with Republicans in Congress.

JAY: Okay. So, just to be straight, a lot of what we’re doing in these–. The first part of the interview was what we know of the facts. The last part we’re kind of hypothesizing, if you want, speculating. But with something so murky as this, I don’t think there’s much else one can do but try to make some sense of it.

PORTER: This is a genuine mystery, no question about it. And, again, I would just emphasize that the mystery focuses or centers on two weeks of meetings which are a virtual blank, a virtual black hole in the official version of this story.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Gareth.

PORTER: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.