A new book released today asserts that the Iranian regime secretly masterminded the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
The book, Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi, is authored by national security expert Kenneth Timmerman, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.
The thoroughly documented and detailed book relies in part upon Western intelligence sources as well as two Iranian intelligence defectors — one who formerly oversaw Iranian covert operations in Western Europe and another who was part of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s security detail.
According to the book, Iran decided to kidnap Ambassador Stevens and destroy the CIA annex because the U.S. (through Stevens) was involved in arming rebels in Syria who were fighting Bashar Assad, Iran’s ally. The plan would later change to a kill mission.
Throughout the book, Timmerman reveals information he says he was told FBI did not previously have. The story unfolds as both the CIA and Iranian operatives alternatively intercept and crack each others’ secret communications until finally the U.S. gets played by the Iranians.
Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force who has been called the most powerful terrorist operative in the Middle East today, is named as the mastermind of the plan.
The overseer of the specific operation was Ibrahim Mohammed Joudaki, a senior Quds Force officer. Joudaki’s deputy, Khalil Harb, a top Hezbollah operative, was also involved in the operation. Harb managed relations with Sunni militias in Libya and had 50 Quds Force operatives working under him.
Timmerman’s sources state during the civil war in Libya, Iran continually used Arab operatives to recruit over 1,000 Libyans into Sunni militias. NATO’s supreme commander in Europe said “flickers” of intelligence indicated that Hezbollah had become involved with rebel forces only one month after the Libyan civil war started in mid-February, 2011.
John Maguire, a former C.I.A. deputy chief of station in Baghdad, confirmed to Timmerman that the Quds Force operatives in the Benghazi area were the “first-string varsity squad” and “very good at deception operations,” as he had grappled with their operations in Iraq. He recalled how the Iranians would work with Sunni terrorists as a cover, aware that the Western leadership incorrectly rules out the possibility of substantive Shiite-Sunni terrorist collaboration.
On July 30, 2012, a National Security Agency listening post inside the CIA annex at Benghazi picked up a conversation in Farsi between two Quds operatives about the arrival of a hit squad for a forthcoming attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. American intelligence sources saw the seven Quds Force operatives arrive at the airport, posing as humanitarian workers from the Iranian Red Crescent.
Timmerman’s sources reported that the leader of the team was Revolutionary Guards Deputy Chief of Operations Major-General Mehdi Rabbani. As the C.I.A. tracked Rabbani and his colleagues in Benghazi, they were suddenly kidnapped by unknown militiamen. The media reported that seven Iranian Red Crescent workers had been taken hostage.
But this was no ordinary kidnapping. Dylan Davies, a former British special operator who managed the security detail for the consulate in Benghazi, learned that they were being held at an abandoned military installation and were being treated well.
According to Dark Forces, the Quds operatives in the Benghazi area had cracked the American communications network and discovered that the CIA knew the Red Crescent workers were actually secret operatives. Joudaki and his network then staged the kidnapping of the seven Iranians to protect the security of their mission. (The seven would be “held” until after Sept. 11 so the Quds Force could deny involvement in the attack and Iran could plead that they, too, were the victim of terrorism in Libya.)
After the Iranians found out that the Americans were on to them, the plan was altered. The Quds Force and their Sunni militia allies would not kidnap Ambassador Stevens. They’d kill him.
In August, the Iranian regime began setting up its alibi if it were to be caught in the act. In Dubai, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei, warned senior Obama Administration advisor Valerie Jarrett that the Quds Force had become “out of control” and sought to kidnap an American diplomat. This line — that Revolutionary Guards elements had gone “rogue” — had been peddled for years and appeared frequently in the Western media.
On August 2, militia and extremist activity in the Benghazi area increased to the point that Stevens sent an action request for immediate security increases. Timmerman describes the message as the “diplomatic equivalent of a cry of desperation.”
Three weeks before the September 11 attacks, Harb gave $8-10 million in euros to the Ansar al-Sharia militia. The money was transferred from secret Quds Force accounts based in Malaysia and elsewhere. The Iranians were in the finishing stages of planning the attacks and had even obtained a copy of the CIA annex’s protection plan by bribing a security guard.
In the final days prior to the attack, the Quds Force received a secret fatwa from Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a senior cleric and advisor to then-Iranian President Ahmadinejad. The fatwa permitted the assassination of Ambassador Stevens.
The last meeting Stevens had the night of the attack was with a Turkish diplomat. Someone on the Turks’ side confirmed to the Iranians that Stevens was present inside the consulate, the final green light for the attack. This supposition is supported by evidence that came to light in April 2014, when the former chief of the Istanbul Police Department Intelligence Unit as well as leaked Turkish documents exposed the high-level penetration of Iran-linked terrorists into the Turkish government.
The attack commenced on September 11. Timmerman and other experts he quotes are positive that the attack, especially the professional use of mortars, shows sophisticated hands behind the assaults.
Dark Forces also points to indications that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may have been involved, but reaches no definitive conclusion. It highlights numerous jaw-dropping security lapses, such as the hiring of the “February 17th Brigade” Islamist militia to protect the U.S. mission. The militia’s leadership is linked to Qatar and the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood.
The 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi came at a time when Iran was aggressively targeting Israeli and Saudi diplomats and other Western targets. The State Department reported a “clear resurgence” in Iranian terrorist activity. Further, they said that Hezbollah’s “terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s.”
Dark Forces is rich with interesting details about the Benghazi controversy—before, during and after the attacks. The book’s revelation about Iranian involvement in the attacks is sure to reshape the debate about what happened on September 11, 2012.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.