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U.S. Says It Foiled Iranian Plot To Assassinate Saudi Ambassador

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (right) and FBI Director Robert Mueller divulge details of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and bomb the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Israel in Washington.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (right) and FBI Director Robert Mueller divulge details of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States and bomb the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Israel in Washington.
By Heather Maher
WASHINGTON -- U.S. authorities say they have foiled a plot allegedly orchestrated by the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.

At a press conference in Washington on October 11, Attorney General Eric Holder said the two men charged in what he described as an "international murder-for-hire scheme" are Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Quds force, which is an arm of the Iranian government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"The complaint alleges that this conspiracy was conceived, sponsored, and was directed from Iran," Holder said. "It constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed."

Holder said Arbabsiar was arrested on September 29 and has since confessed and provided "other valuable information about elements of the Iranian government's role in it."

Shakuri remains "at large" in Iran, he said.

The two men have been charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism, among other charges.

Holder claimed U.S. officials had been working for months to untangle the complex assassination plot, which involved Arbabsiar holding a series of meetings in Mexico with a secret U.S. government informant, whom he allegedly hired to kill Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in exchange for payment of $1.5 million.

"According to the complaint, earlier this spring Arbabsiar met with a confidential informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration who was posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel," Holder said. "The meeting, which took place in May and in Mexico, was the first of a series that would result in an international conspiracy by elements in the Iranian government to pay the informant $1.5 million to murder the ambassador on United States soil."

Officials said the plot, as conceived, involved setting a bomb off in a restaurant where the ambassador was dining. They said that they stopped the planning before any explosives had been acquired.

'A Hollywood Script'

Preet Bharara, the attorney for the Southern District of New York, where the charges were filed, said $100,000 had already been wired through a New York bank "as a deadly down payment for their hired gun."
 
"The complaint unsealed today [October 11] reveals a well-funded and pernicious plot that had as its first priority the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States," Bharara said. "The details of that murder case are chilling, to say the least, as the defendants allegedly had no care or concern about inflicting mass casualties on innocent Americans, on American soil, in furtherance of their assassination plan."

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir (file photo)
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir (file photo)
FBI Director Robert Mueller, who also appeared at the press conference, said the case "illustrates that we live in a world where borders and boundaries are increasingly irrelevant." He said the plot, if successful, would have led to scores of casualties.

"Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost," Mueller said. "These individuals had no regard for their intended victim, no regard for innocent citizens that might have been hurt or killed in this attempted assassination."

'Held Accountable'

Holder said the United States plans to prosecute both men charged in the plot, but is "also committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions."

Speaking after the charges were announced, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the alleged plot "crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account  for" and will send Tehran deeper into international isolation.

"We will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended," Clinton told reporters.

On October 11, the Treasury Department froze the U.S. assets of Shakuri and  Arbabsiar, as well as three others -- Qasem Soleimani, Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai -- who it said were senior Quds force officers  involved in the alleged plot.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington released a statement calling the alleged plot "despicable" and a violation of "the principles of humanity."

Iran reacted quickly to the news of the charges, calling them a fabrication. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the press adviser to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, called the U.S. accusations "a prefabricated scenario to turn public attention away from domestic problems."

The official Iranian news agency IRNA said the charges were "America's new propaganda scenario" against Iran, while Iran's Mehr news agency said simply "the charges are ridiculous."

Meanwhile, Arbabsiar made his first appearance in a New York federal court, and through his lawyer, said he will plead not guilty to any charges if he is indicted.

Arbabsiar did not seek release on bail, instead agreeing to a temporary order of detention.

with Iranian agency reports
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by: eric d from: IF Idaho USA
October 11, 2011 21:28
It's good to know the US still officially opposes assassination. At least when it's ploted from Iran & directed against Saudis & Americans. But it's difficult for the White House & CIA to claim the moral high ground against assassination as long as the CIA's "targeted assassination" program is still official policy. Because, after all... The CIA policy makes it difficult to know who's a viable target & who's not. So maybe the Iranians just got a little confused. Which isn't to say there's a strict moral equivalence between the White House policy of assassinating "suspected terrorists" & "national enemies" & the Iranian theocratic regime's targeting of political opponents & religious heretics, infidels & disbelievers etc. But the White House & CIA program also violates the US Constitution & international law... A fact which somehow escapes AG Holder & the US courts, when the AQCLU, the CCR & Amnesty International challenge the CIA's official policy.

by: ProUSA from: North Carolina
October 12, 2011 00:06
I'm glad we prevented those many deaths. It looks like the DOJ and its agencies did a good job of communicating with eachother to catch those guys.

What the CIA does is their business! It doesn't bother me one bit if we "assassinate" international terrorists. I'm not willing to sacrifice dozens of innocent restuarant diners in DC for one low-level threat. As the FBI Director Mueller stated, the international borders have become irrelavent. His statement was just as true months ago.

by: North Caucasus
October 12, 2011 01:06
Caucasus is surrounded by beasts North-Russia, South-Persia.
The Caucasus is also split in halves by Russia and their Persian-speaking puppets Ossetians.

by: Jack from: US
October 12, 2011 03:45
Saudi Arabia and its patron US government are the main sponsors of Muslim terrorism in the world. Now they are trying to fabricate charges against Iran which is a victim of Saudi-financed Sunni terrorism. Iran is the only Muslim country with some resemblance of democratic elections. Saudi Arabia is a major ally of US government, a medieval theocracy sending millions of dollars to all kind of Muslim terrorist groups, from Filipines to Bosnia and Kosovo. All with US government approval
In Response

by: PragueGuy from: Prague
October 12, 2011 06:36
Jack, Sit back and take a few deep breaths. I suspect you would be one of the first to sharply criticize the US if this attack had been successfully carried out. You would have screamed, "Why couldn't they stop it?" I think you and some of these others should concentrate on looking for the second shooter on the grassy knoll.....

And Ms. Maher - If Arbabsiar is a naturalized AMCIT, he holds a U.S. Passport by law. He is an Iranian AMCIT - unfortunately. He is not a real American and that is the problem with our immigration laws. I think we need to look real hard at who we naturalize and hand out immigration visas to as maybe it has come time to close the door to certain nationalities until they get their acts together. Just a thought.

by: Robert from: USA
October 13, 2011 11:51
People are so naive and believe whatever the government says. They are just building a reasons for another war. :) If they were serious, they would let this plot run longer to get more people involved and build a better, bigger case. Next time we will see a movie: "based on the real story". Iranians are not amateurs, and this looks like kindergarten attempt :) why no one raises voice about US killings in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan? aren't those innocent deaths violation of international law? or it doesn't count if those civilians are not Americans, Saudi or Israeli :)

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