Over the weekend, the WaPo’s Joby Warrick had a story entitled “U.S. officials among the targets of Iran-linked assassination plots“. The story alleges that Iran-linked operatives had conspired to use snipers with silencer-equipped rifles and a car bomb to kill employees at the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan or their families.
The most recent threat came to light after a foreign spy agency intercepted electronic messages that appeared to describe plans to move weapons and explosives from Iran into Azerbaijan. Some of the messages were traced to an Azerbaijani national named Balagardash Dashdev, a man with an extensive criminal background and, according to a Middle East investigator involved in the case, deep ties to a network of intelligence operatives and militant groups based inside Iran.
…The Obama administration acknowledged in March that the U.S. Embassy may have been among the intended targets. But in the months since then, the suspects under questioning revealed extensive details about the ”œother objects in Baku” that had been on the target list, confirming that the would-be assassins intended to go beyond attacks on buildings.
”œThey were going after individuals,” said the former State Department official who worked closely with the embassy in Baku. ”œThey had names [of employees]. And they were interested in family members, too.”
The alleged plot leader, Dashdev, would tell investigators that the planned attacks were intended as revenge for the deaths of the Iranian nuclear scientists, attacks that Iran has publicly linked to Israel and the United States. Iran vehemently denied involvement in any assassination plot inside Azerbaijan, and the Iranian Embassy in Baku suggested in a statement that the plot was fiction.
Sensational stuff, but then one begins to notice the key phrases. “U.S. and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives”; which Middle Eastern nations, why isn’t it “U.S. and Azerbaijani officials”? There’s “a Western diplomat briefed on the assassination plots” cited; which Western nation is he a diplomat for? Who is the “Middle East investigator involved in the case” and who does he work for? We should perhaps worry about Azerbaijan’s terrible human rights record, including torture for trumped-up confessions, but that gets no mention in the WaPo piece.
Then there’s the very last sentence of the piece:
”œThere is not yet a smoking gun,” said the Western diplomat briefed on the evidence.
Ouch. So I asked journalist Gareth Porter what he made of it all. He responded:
This article is one of many recent instances of a news outlet letting itself be used to promote a story relating to Iran representing the propaganda line of a government without acknowledging that fact. The government, of course, is Israel. Alert readers will have noticed the reference to “Middle Eastern officials” throughout the article, which is an obvious device to avoid admitting that the article is based overwhelmingly on information from Israel. Providing a shield for Israel to put out information that is extremely dubious without even having to be accountable for it is a journalistic scandal, but is apparently perfectly acceptable to the Post and Joby Warrick.
…On the purported plot in Azerbaijan, the Post article fails to reflect the fact that there is a patron-client relationship between Israeli and Azerbaijani intelligence agencies, as pointed out by an article published by WINEP March 30, 2005, (“Good Relations between Azerbaijan and Israel”). Israeli intelligence not only train Azerbaijani intelligence personnel but provide constant briefings to the Azerbaijan intelligence agency on Iranian activities.
In fact, Azerbaijan has been regularly claiming similar terrorist plots by Iran for years involving the supposed intention to kill local Jews as well as U.S. diplomats, and those plots have been invoked to arrest people regarded as pro-Iranian in Baku and elsewhere. It happened in 2000 and again in 2007, as Alexander Murinson observed in article for the Begin-Sadat Center in Israel in 2010.
Furthermore, as the internet-based Azerbaijani news outlet “Contact”, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, reported at the time, the mother of one of those who publicly confessed to being part of the plot said he was given a statement that he had to read. The whole idea that Iran was hiring locals to kill Jews in Baku in order to revenge the killing of Mugniyah goes well beyond bizarre to ludicrous.
And Balargardash Dadashov the alleged kingpin of the plot (whose name is misspelled in the Post article) did not confess that the alleged plot was to be revenge for the killing to Mugniyah, and in fact was never arrested, because as pointed out by “Contact” in January, he has long lived in Iran. As stated in reports from Baku at the time, this was the story that one of the people under arrest provided to police.
So – fabrication to further at least two agendas: Israel’s agenda of demonizing Iran and Azerbaijan’s of securing more and more foreign money, Pakistan-style to wage a “war on terror”.