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November 17, 2006
Iranian Arrest A Harbinger?

The American press hasn't covered this story until now, but British intelligence has detained a former Iranian diplomat on terrorism charges at the request of the US. Newsweek reports that Nosratollah Tajik allegedly attempted to procure night-vision goggles for Hezbollah:

The arrest of a former Iranian diplomat in Britain is the latest reminder of complications that could arise if the Bush administration turns to Iran to help solve the escalating violence in Iraq. In a development that so far has received no press coverage in the United States, Nosratollah Tajik, who served as Iranian ambassador to Jordan and has been previously linked to terror attacks in Israel, was arrested by British authorities last month at the request of U.S. Justice Department, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said this week.

Two U.S. law-enforcement officials, who asked not to be identified talking about nonpublic matters, confirmed to NEWSWEEK that a sealed indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Chicago charges Tajik with seeking to purchase night-vision goggles for delivery to Iran from U.S. companies, in violation of U.S. export-control laws. A former top FBI counterterror official said it is likely that the equipment was ultimately destined for Hizbullah—the Lebanon-based group that is heavily financed and armed by the Iranian government. ...

The Tajik case could bolster hard-liners' arguments that the Iranian government—which the State Department has labeled "the most active state sponsor of terrorism"—cannot be trusted and will continue its backing of terrorist groups and clandestine weapons procurement regardless of what its leaders and diplomats might say publicly. The incident is all the more sensitive because Tajik, who holds an honorary fellowship at England's University of Durham, has been previously accused by Israeli security officials of being involved in the recruitment and financing of Palestinian terrorist operations in Israel.

Tajik's out on bail at the moment, but he's no stranger to American authorities. He served as Iran's ambassador to Jordan, where he called George Bush's remark about the "Axis of Evil" a product of "satanic Zionist circles". Now he has to face off against the Bush administration, and probably quite soon in light of the UK's new expedited extradition processes. In the same year, Tajik attempted to recruit potential jihadis for Iran among Palestinians injured during the intifada, according to testimony heard last year in Congress about Iran's history of terrorism sponsorship.

American intelligence executed a classic sting operation on Tajik. Posing as arms dealers, they offered Tajik a deal on the night-vision equipment for Iran, a violation of American sanctions. The sting took place after Tajik attempted a number of contacts with American manufacturers of the equipment, with Newsweek characterizing him as "quite persistent". The companies notified the Department of Homeland Security, which set up the scam.

No one knows how far Tajik's operation went. So far, the DHS has offered no comment on the case, and Newsweek doesn't have much information on the scope of Tajik's ring. in August, however, Israelis discovered that British night-vision goggles ended up going to Hezbollah through Iran; Britain does not have the same sanctions on trade with Iran. Presumably, Tajik wanted to expand their sourcing in order to broaden the distribution.

The US wants Tajik to account for his actions here in the US. The British tabloid Daily Mail has adopted Tajik as a cause in its efforts to overturn the fast-track extradition process for terror suspects between the US and the UK. We need to press for Tajik's extradition, and fast. We have a lot of decisions to make about Iran, and Tajik has some critical information about the mullahcracy's strategies and tactics that could undermine any thought of rational talks with the dangerous Teheran regime.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 17, 2006 5:09 AM

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Iranian Arrest A Harbinger?Ed Morrissey The American press hasn't covered this story until now, but British intelligence has detained a former Iranian diplomat on terrorism charges at the request of the US. Newsweek reports that Nosratollah Tajik alleg... [Read More]

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