Iran’s IRGC had contact with man charged with stabbing Rushdie - report

An official said it was “clear” prior to the stabbing that Matar was in contact with those “directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force."

Members of special IRGC forces attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022. (photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
Members of special IRGC forces attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022.
(photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

The suspect arrested for stabbing prominent author Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar, had been in contact with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),  a US-designated terrorist organization, prior to the nearly lethal assault on the writer, news organization VICE reported on Sunday.

VICE wrote that a Middle Eastern intelligence official said it was “clear” prior to the stabbing that Matar had been in contact with “people either directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force,” the IRGC’s external militia. The US has also classified the Quds Force as a foreign terrorist entity.

“It’s unclear the extent of the involvement – if this was a directly supported assassination attempt or if it was a series of suggestions and directions in picking a target,” the official added.

The official would not speak on the record for diplomatic reasons, the news organization said. VICE attributed its sourcing to European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials who said the 24-year-old Matar had been in direct contact with members of the IRGC on social media.

“It’s unclear the extent of the involvement – if this was a directly supported assassination attempt or if it was a series of suggestions and directions in picking a target.”

Middle East intelligence official

According to VICE, security officials declined to elaborate on the nature of communication between Matar and the IRGC on social media.

British author Salman Rushdie listens during an interview with Reuters in London, April 15, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ/FILE PHOTO)British author Salman Rushdie listens during an interview with Reuters in London, April 15, 2008. (credit: REUTERS/DYLAN MARTINEZ/FILE PHOTO)

A NATO counter-terrorism official from a European country told VICE that the stabbing showed indications of a “guided” attack, in which an intelligence service motivates a terrorist to attack without providing direct material aid.

“A 24-year-old born in the United States did not come up with Salman Rushdie as a target on his own," the Mideast intelligence officer told VICE, adding that “even an avid consumer of Iranian propaganda would have some difficulty finding references to Rushdie compared to all the other, modern enemies designated by the regime.”

Matar's background

Matar’s family is from the Hezbollah stronghold town of Yaroun in South Lebanon. Hezbollah is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s main strategic partner in the Middle East.

VICE quoted a mid-level Hezbollah commander from a village near Yaroun who said that “most of the families in Yaroun support the resistance, there is no question of this relationship, but this boy has nothing to do with Hezbollah; we don’t know him and do not want to be drawn into international intrigues involving people we don’t know.”

According to VICE, “there’s no evidence Iranian officials were involved in organizing or orchestrating the attack upon Rushdie.”

The news organization's contention – that there is a lack of evidence for Iranian regime officials being involved in a plot to murder Rushdie – is filled with contradictions.

Social media links to the IRGC suggest a real possibility that Iranian officials were involved due to the importance of the powerful security body within the theocratic state.

The role of the IRGC in the attempted murder of Rushdie could influence countries to designate it as a terrorist organization.

It is unclear, even if likely, that the Guard Corps' involvement in a plot to kill Rushdie would throw a wrench into the nuclear talks between the world powers and Tehran in Vienna.