Border Fact Check

Separating Rhetoric from Reality

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Iran and the Zetas?

"I don’t know if everyone remembers but obviously there was a plot that the United States government alleges was put forth by the Iranian government using an Iranian-American in Texas who was hiring a Mexican drug cartel to commit an assassination that would have killed civilians right here in Washington, D.C."

CNN Host Erin Burnett, May 14, 2012.

The facts:

Iranian-American used-car salesman Mansour Arbabsiar thought he was hiring a Mexican drug cartel, namely the Zetas, to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. In fact, though, the “Zeta” connection Arbabsiar approached for his plot was a Mexican DEA informant.

The New York Times reported at the time:

“The case began in May, when a Drug Enforcement Administration informant with ties to high-level leaders of Los Zetas told agents of a bizarre conversation. He had been approached, he said, by an Iranian friend of his aunt’s in Corpus Christi — Mr. Arbabsiar — with a proposition to hire the cartel to carry out terrorist attacks inside the United States. Mr. Arbabsiar believed that the informant was an actual member of Los Zetas.”

Arbabsiar, who was allegedly working with the Iranian government’s Quds Force, was arrested in October 2011. There is no evidence that the Zetas themselves actually knew about his plan.

This plot, while troubling if true, does not indicate ties between Iran and Mexican cartels. That remains a hypothetical scenario.

By Adam Isacson

Filed under Mexico Border Security