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Stoking fear: New York’s Iran terror

Published time: February 16, 2012 03:30
Edited time: February 17, 2012 01:15
The Empire State Building (R) stands tall on the skyline of midtown Manhattan in New York (Reuters / Gary Hershorn)

The Empire State Building (R) stands tall on the skyline of midtown Manhattan in New York (Reuters / Gary Hershorn)

Big Apple Lawmakers are spreading fear, while the international rhetoric heats up over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and alleged links to attacks on Israeli diplomats.

­New York Senator Chuck Schumer told the US State Department it should increase its scrutiny of Iranian diplomats and claimed some were Iranian govt agents.

“With Iran’s increasingly bellicose and threatening behavior it’s imperative that agents of the Iranian government in the United States receive additional scrutiny to ensure that they pose no threat to New York or the rest of the country,” Schumer said.

He pointed to “activities overseas” in which Israeli diplomats were targeted for assassination in Tbilisi, New Delhi and Bangkok, as evidence for the need to closely monitor Iranian “agents” in New York. Iran’s involvement in the incidents has yet to be proven, although Israel immediately concluded that Tehran was behind them.

Schumer also wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton linking the recent blasts to Iran, maintaining that it was “absolutely unacceptable that Iran’s UN mission is permitted to allow officials from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to live and operate in New York with official diplomatic cover.

Schumer’s statement followed a warning by the Israeli National Security Service that Jewish cultural centers and synagogues could become targets of a terror plot supposedly organized by Iran-sponsored Lebanese group Hezbollah.

On Tuesday Michael Silber, the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) director for intelligence analysis, called Iran a “front-burner issue,” adding: “I hesitate to say it’s No. 1, because we don’t want to ignore the other threats, but right now, it’s essentially No. 1.”

Silber also published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal headlined “The Iranian Threat to New York City”. In it, he cites last year's botched plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US, as well as two deadly bomb blasts that took place in the 1990s in Argentina as examples of Iranian-directed terrorist activities.

The NYPD must assume that New York City could be targeted by Iran or Hezbollah.” Silber writes, saying the Big Apple’s large Jewish population could make it an attractive target. He also noted that Iran already has a history of “spying” in New York, recalling a 2004 incident when two security guards attached to Iran’s UN mission were expelled from the country for “conducting surveillance” of the city’s subways and landmarks. The two men had apparently been taking photos and videos of locations deemed “sensitive” by authorities.  

In the meantime, Iran unveiled its first domestically-manufactured nuclear fuel rod in a ceremony attended by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proving it can create nuclear fuel on its own.

Israel has reportedly been mulling a preemptive strike against Iran, which it most recently blamed for the bombings in Tbilisi, New Delhi and Bangkok. Iran maintains its innocence and accuses Israel of trying to damage its relations with Thailand.

The veracity of the claims brought up by the US authorities against Iran remains to be questioned as it is largely based on speculated links between terrorist organizations and Iran. On none of these occasions has Iran’s involvement actually been proven.