If confirmed, this is the first time since 1981 that the Iranian regime has targeted a defector on U.S. soil.
Iranian dissident Mansoor Osanloo, the exiled former head of the bus driver’s union in Tehran, was savagely attacked on Tuesday, May 1, while traveling on a PATH train into New York City, and left for dead.
Multiple assailants sprayed him with a corrosive chemical, then clubbed him in the back of the neck with what appears to have been a tire iron. He lay in a coma for several days and required 17 stitches in his neck.
I spoke with Osanloo on Monday, not long after he awoke from a coma.
“I don’t remember anything,” he said. “But you can see from the pictures that I was sprayed with some kind of a chemical weapon and smashed in the head.This was a terrorist attack.”
Photographs taken at the hospital show a horribly-disfugured Osanloo. The burns to his skin are reminiscent of mustard gas attacks.
Osanloo has been instrumental in planning mass protests across Iran in recent months, and is the most prominent Iranian labor leader, in Iran or in exile. He was traveling to the New York studio of Iran International Television for an interview at the invitation of broadcaster Askar Ramazanzadi.
It remains unclear who funds the new “exile” TV based in London. But it has attracted many former broadcasters from Voice of America, such as Mohammad Manzapour, who were forced to resign from VOA because of alleged ties to the Islamic State of Iran authorities.
“They knew what time I was supposed to go to their studio,” Osanloo told me. “They knew what route I had to take. And then their studio published lies about what happened, claiming it was a car accident.”
An initial report on the Telegram channel of Amadnews, a website that boasts of close ties to “dissidents” within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Tehran, cited a U.S.-based “associate” who claimed that Oslanloo had been the victim of an “attempted assassination.”
That report appeared on May 2nd at 2:54 pm, before any public information had been released on the attack and while Osanloo himself was still in a coma. It begs the question of whether Ahmadnews had inside information from the attackers themselves.
Amadnews next claimed that its initial information of an assassination attempt had been “confirmed” by Iran International TV, the same channel that had invited Osanloo for the interview in New York. That report appeared at 5:09 PM.
Later, Ahmadnews cited the television as claiming that Osanloo had been injured in a car accident and had hit his head on the steering wheel.
That later Iran International TV report quoted Osanloo’s wife as saying he had been injured in a car accident.
“That is absurd,” Osanloo told me. “I don’t even drive. Everybody knows this. I always take public transit.”
The obvious chemical wounds Osanloo suffered attracted the attention of the FBI, who visited him in the New York hospital where he was taken after he was found by transit police.
“They took my clothes, my vomit, and my blood for testing in the FBI lab,” Osanloo told me.
The FBI had warned Osanloo prior to the attack that he was at risk in the United States from an attack by Iranian-regime agents. Once he was admitted to the hospital, they made sure his name was not entered into the hospital registry, so Iranian government agents couldn’t find him.
So far, the FBI has refrained from making any public statement. Osanloo was not robbed, nor was there any apparent motive for the attack other than a political assassination.
This apparent assassination attempt against a prominent Iranian dissident living in the United States, if confirmed, would be the first time the Iranian regime has targeted an Iranian dissident on U.S. soil since the July 22, 1981 assassination of Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former press spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Washington, DC under the shah.
Tabatabai was killed by an American convert to Islam, David Belfield, who was associated with the Islamic Center in Potomac, Maryland, owned and controlled by the Alavi Foundation, an Iranian government entity whose assets have been forfeited to the U.S. government on money-laundering charges.
Until 1996, the Iranian regime regularly sent hit teams around the globe who killed more than 200 prominent dissidents in gangland-style killings. It wasn’t until the German government prosecuted the killers of Kurdish dissidents at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin that the Iranians called off their killers in Europe.
“This was an attack not on me, but on the United States,” Osanloo told me. “I am a green card holder, so I am an American first, then an Iranian. I am just like you.”
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.