Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Home Grown Terror?

In Tuesday's editions of The New York Sun, reporter Eli Lake explored an angle of the JFK terror plot that other journalists have ignored: the potential connection between one of the alleged conspirators, and our good friends in Iran.

When federal authorities announced the arrests of three of the suspects on Saturday, they identified one of them as Abdul Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese Parliament. Mr. Kadir was detained in Trinidad, where he had gone to pick up a visa for a planned trip to Iran. Kadir's wife told the Sun that her husband was planning to attend an Islamic conference in Tehran. She also reported that two of their children are currently studying in Iran.

Mr. Lake also writes that counter-terrorism police in Trinidad are exploring ties between another alleged conspirator (Kareem Ibrahim) and Shiite organizations in southern Iraq and Iran. A newspaper in Trinidad has reported that there may have been a connection between Ibrahim and those middle eastern groups, through an Islamic discussion group he hosted.

At this point, there's no firm evidence to link the JFK plotters to terror groups (or facilitators) in Iran or Iraq, let alone Al Qaida. But the general outline of the scheme, Kadir's travel plans and excerpts from the federal indictment suggest a plan that was supported and facilitated by individuals outside the United States. As James S. Robbins noted in his 4 June NRO, column, the indictment describes at least seven other persons who were involved in the plot, listed as Individuals A-G. None are apparently American citizens; most appear to be Guyanese citizens, including "Individual A," who was an apparent ring-leader, and "Individual E," described as a wealthy businessman and known jihadist facilitator. What connections--if any--existed between these individuals and middle eastern terrorist groups/sponsors?

Potential foreign contacts also keep popping up in reference to Kareem Ibrahim and Abdul Kadir. Not long before the plot was foiled, Kareem "suggested instead that he bring the plan to his 'contacts overseas' to seek their financial and perhaps other types of support." No word (yet) on who those contacts were, nor their location. We do know that Kadir planned to launder any donations received through his "Islamic Information Center" in Guyana. That organization is closely affiliated with the International Islamic College for Advanced Studies, which is underwritten by Iran.

So, let's review. Kareem Ibrahim and Abdul Kadir are active participants in a plot to bomb JFK Airport. Ibrahim suggests eliciting support from overseas, and Kadir is arrested as he prepares for a trip to Iran, which is an active sponsor of anti-American terrorism. No, it's not a smoking gun, but it is enough to keep investigators, prosecutors and counter-terrorism officials busy for months to come, as they prepare their case against the four conspirators arrested last weekend, and (hopefully) bring charges against some of those "unnamed" individuals as well.

Where will this investigation ultimately lead? That's difficult to say. But at this stage of the game, it seems evident that the JFK plot was not limited to the four middle-aged men detained in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Describing the plan as "home-grown terrorism" is ludicrous, since only two of the participants (Russell Defreitas and the FBI informant) spent any length of time in this country. Beyond that, the mechanics of planning and executing the airport attack would have required logistics, financing and manpower that were beyond the immediate reach of the four indicted conspirators. Obtaining that type of support was clearly in the minds of Ibrahim and Kadir, and may have been the underlying motive for Kadir's overseas trip, to a country where he (apparently) had some connections to political, religious and educational authorities.

Don't be surprised if an Iranian connection emerges in the JFK terror investigation.


G Man said...

It always amazes me how fast these types of incidents disappear from the major news sites. Here we have an attempt to destroy an airport and potentially part of a city, and the big boys are reporting on "Man Now Only Wants $54M for Lost Pants" and the like. WTF-O?

Unknown said...

Or, as Jack Kelly points out in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (linked in another post), the NYT ran its story on the JFK plot on page A30 of Sunday's paper. Nothing to see here, let's move alaong. Meanwhile, they ran a sympathetic story on an Al Qaida terrorist being held at Gitmo. Only later (as Jack points out) do we learn that this "boy terrorist" is the son of a high-ranking Taliban official.

yet another rice alum said...

"Don't be surprised if an Iranian connection emerges in the JFK terror investigation."

And don't be surprised if we never hear about it in the NYT.