By Jo Anne Bladd
Tehran denies ‘amateurish’ charges of plotting to kill Saudi ambassador to the US
Saudi Arabia vowed on Wednesday that Iran would "pay
the price" for an alleged plot to kill its ambassador in Washington and US
officials said there could be a push for a new round of U.N. sanctions.
Tehran angrily rejected the charges laid out by a number of
top US officials on Tuesday as "amateurish", but a threat
nevertheless to peace and stability in the Gulf, a region critical to global
oil supplies with a number of US military bases.
"The burden of proof is overwhelming... and clearly
shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to
pay the price," senior Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador
to Washington, said in London.
US Vice President Joe Biden echoed those hawkish sentiments,
telling US network ABC Iran would be held accountable. He said Washington was
working for a new round of international sanctions against Iran, warning that
"nothing has been taken off the table".
US authorities said on Tuesday they had broken up a plot by
two men linked to Iran's security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel
al-Jubeir. One was arrested last month while the other was believed to be in
The motive for the alleged plot was not clear. Iran has in
the past assassinated its own dissidents abroad, but an attempt to kill an
ambassador would be a highly unusual departure.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are bitter regional and to some extent
sectarian rivals, but they maintain diplomatic ties and even signed a security
agreement in 2001. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Riyadh in
The United States has led a global effort to isolate Iran
and pile on United Nations sanctions in recent years over Tehran's nuclear
energy programme which Washington and its regional allies including Israel and
Saudi Arabia fear is a front for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies
nuclear arms ambitions.
Those allies fear Washington could take its eye off the ball
on Iran. US diplomatic cables from Riyadh leaked by Wikileaks over the past
year - in which Jubeir features prominently - show Riyadh repeatedly pushing
the United States to take a tougher stand, including the possible use of
Tensions rose between Riyadh and Tehran when Saudi Arabia
sent troops to help Bahrain put down pro-democracy protests let by the island
state's Shi'ite majority that both governments accused Iran, a non-Arab Shi'ite
state, of fomenting.
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This month Riyadh accused some among its Shi'ite Muslim
minority of conspiring with a foreign power - a reference to Iran - to cause
instability, following street clashes in the Eastern Province.
But Iranian analyst Saaed Leylaz said it was hard to see why
Iran would risk involving itself in such a plot.
"Killing the Saudi envoy in America has no benefit for
Iran," he said. "The consequences of this plot are dangerous ... It
could cause military confrontation in 2012 between Iran and America."
A Western diplomat in Riyadh said the charges would likely be
discussed at the UN Security Council.
"The US and Saudi Arabia and other allies are
discussing the possibility of taking this to the Security Council because this
is an assault on a foreign diplomat in the US," he said.
US President Barack Obama, who seeks reelection next year,
called the alleged conspiracy a "flagrant violation of US and
The United States said Tehran must be held to account and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped countries hesitant to enforce
existing sanctions on Iran would now "go the extra mile."
But also seeking recourse in the world body, Iran's
ambassador to the United Nations voiced outrage and complained of US
"warmongering" in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
"The US allegation is, obviously, a politically motivated move and a
showcase of its long-standing animosity towards the Iranian nation,"
Mohammad Khazaee wrote.
Ali Larijani, Iran's parliament speaker, said the
"fabricated allegations" aimed to divert attention from Arab
uprisings Iran says were inspired by its own Islamic revolution that toppled
the US-backed Shah -- though Islam has not been the overt driving force for
unrest across the Arab world.
"America wants to divert attention from problems it
faces in the Middle East, but the Americans cannot stop the wave of Islamic
awakening by using such excuses," Larijani said, calling the a
"childish, amateur game".
"These claims are vulgar," he said in an open
session of parliament. "We believe that our neighbours in the region are
very well aware that America is using this story to ruin our relationship with
The State Department issued a three-month worldwide travel
alert for American citizens, warning of the potential for anti-US action, including
within the United States.
"The US government assesses that this Iranian-backed
plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador may indicate a more aggressive focus
by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain
countries, to include possible attacks in the United States," it said in a
At a news conference, FBI Director Robert Mueller said a
convoluted plot involving monitored international calls, Mexican drug money and
an attempt to blow up the ambassador in a Washington restaurant smacked of a
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Attorney-General Eric Holder tied it to the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), guardian of Iran's 1979 revolution, and the
Quds Force, its covert, operational arm.
"I think one has to be concerned about the chilling
nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here," he said.
The primary evidence linking Iran to the alleged conspiracy
is that the arrested suspect is said to have told US law enforcement agents
that he had been recruited and directed by men he understood were senior Quds
The Quds Force has not previously been known to focus on
targets in the United States.
A plot against targets inside the US "would be a first
for the Quds Force," said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA and National
Security Council analyst who now heads the Saban Center at the Brookings
Institution in Washington.
"I do want to hear more about what evidence [US
authorities] have and why they believe" that the Quds Force was involved,
US officials said there had also been initial discussions
about other plots, including attacking the Saudi and Israeli embassies in
Washington, but no charges for those were brought.
There are no formal diplomatic ties between the Islamic
republic and Washington, which accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing
nuclear arms, charges Iran denies.
Iran already faces tough US economic and political sanctions
and Washington slapped further sanctions on five Iranians, including four
senior members of Quds.
US officials identified the two alleged plotters as Gholam
Shakuri, said to be a member of the Quds Force, and Manssor Arbabsiar, who was
arrested on Sept. 29 when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport
Arbabsiar, 56, a naturalized US citizen with an Iranian
passport, initially cooperated with authorities after being arrested. He made
calls to Shakuri after being arrested and acted as if the plot was still a go,
court documents said.
Arbabsiar appeared briefly in a Manhattan courtroom on
Tuesday where he was ordered detained and assigned a public defender. He
appeared in blue jeans and a dress shirt, with thinning gray hair and a scar on
the left side of his face.
Officials said the Saudi ambassador, who is close to King
Abdullah and has been in his post since 2007, was never in danger. Obama was
briefed in June about the alleged plot.
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Court documents say a plot began to unfold in May 2011 when
Arbabsiar sought help from an individual in Mexico who was posing as an
associate of an unidentified drug cartel and who was in fact a US Drug
Enforcement Administration informant.
The unidentified paid informant tipped off law enforcement
agents, according to the criminal complaint. Arbabsiar paid $100,000 to the
informant in July and August for the plot, a down-payment on the $1.5m requested.
Shakuri approved the plan to kill the ambassador during
telephone conversations with Arbabsiar, the complaint said.
As part of the plot, the informant talked to Arbabsiar about
trying to kill the ambassador at a Washington, D.C. restaurant he frequented,
but warned him that could lead to dozens of others being killed, including US
The criminal complaint said that Arbabsiar responded "no
problem" and "no big deal".
In a monitored call, Shakuri told Arbabsiar to execute the
plot, saying "just do it quickly, it's late," court papers say.
After Arbabsiar's arrest in New York, he gave US authorities
more details of Tehran's alleged involvement, Holder said.
Mueller, the FBI director, said that "individuals from
one country sought to conspire with a drug trafficking cartel in another
country to assassinate a foreign official on United States soil".
He added: "Though it reads like the pages of a
Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would
have been lost."
The men face one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign
official, two counts of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign
commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire and one count each of
conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act
Authorities said no explosives were acquired for the plot
and the weapon of mass destruction charge can range from a simple improvised
device to a more significant weapon. The two men face up to life in prison if
The evidence is funny "The use of a sting operation is likely to prompt scepticism about the extent, if any, of the Iranian government's involvement. Although the focus of media attention this year has been on the Arab Spring, the Pentagon, State Department and White House have all been increasingly worried about alleged nuclear developments in Iran." former intelligence analyst, Robert Baer, joins The World Today and warns the Obama adminstration to step back from blaming Iran for the foiled assasination plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington. The former CIA case agent says the attack doesn't appear to have been planned by Iran, and that the US may have got its assessment dangerously wrong. He says the US must open a direct diplomatic channel with the Iranian regime .. or risk igniting an uncontrollable war."
It took 26 israeli assassins in Dubai 2010 for a real operation [against one man] but now only two iranians for a fairy tale. What a joke.
The facts are not all out there; letâ€™s not jump to conclusions here. It seems that a certain agenda is trying to move public opinion for approvals of certain future actions by either the US or the Saudis, this could not be good.
The evidence of such plot is very weak; the statement that was made by the suspect is not collaborated with solid supporting evidence. So far, the US presentation with this plot at this time is extremely suspicious, I have no lost love to Iran, but the evidence here is weak and the person uncovered the plot is already spending time in jail on a separate offense. Also, the suspect has lied several times in the past.
Letâ€™s not rush into anything here, we all know what happened with the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, it was all based on lies and the fabrication of evidence, it became and still is a huge impressments to the US.
This just indicates how reliant the Gulf Region is on the US for its security. In turn the US needs to maintain the smooth flow of oil through Hormuz, via the presence of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
With Saudi Arabia now squaring up to Iran, Bahrain becomes a potential flashpoint again and the disputed UAE islands raise their profile. The simple fact of the matter is all bad for business in the area, should Iran decide to up the aggression level as opposed to just dismissing the accusations as a 'fit up'.
This in an oblique way also puts pressure on the scenario in Syria.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are two Muslim brother countries . I do believe that there is some conspiracy by third party to damage the mutual relations of the two countries . I think both the countries should talk on the issue (which may be non issue )
here we go again
new war ! when economy in usa become like this they make ware in this Regen ! they are doing the best to make war between Arab & Iran just the way they supported Sadam !
1st The 3 I lands than P.Gulf or A.Gulf ....
when do you want to give up ? they killed so many in this Regen M.East and took the oil
Its different. The reason it took 26 people to assassinate Mahmoud Al Mabhouh was because he was a target, he knew he was a target and he knew they wanted to get him. He had already survived two assassination attempts, a car bomb and the use of poison. His home was demolished by Israel in 1990 I think as revenge for an attack. Al Mabhouh was involved in a dirty political game against a dirty country with a dirty secret service agency. He kept his guards up, but in the end they got him - and they would have used a thousand men if they needed to.
There is no reason to assassinate Adel Al Jubeir, well, unless you want Saudia Arabia to be your enemy. Saudia Arabia's powerplay in the region will not change. They are there to stay for a while.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Washington and former head of the Saudi intelligence service, told a London conference: "The burden of proof and the amount of evidence in the case is overwhelming and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this.
Amir, is your hatred for America so strong that no matter how much evidence is there, you, like many others in the region (not regen) NEED so badly to blame the U.S. for everything that happens. If an American told you that the sky was blue, you would call him a liar, I'm sure and tell every friend you know that he's a liar.
@American, are we talking the same kind of evidence available with the other country starting with "Ira"? Just curious.
You need to have very short memory spans or be quite shameless to not see that credibility of the US may be a little bit low. Evidence was fabricated and your allies were told lies not so far ago, you do not need to hate America to be cautious.
And this children, is why you should be careful because credibility gets destroyed very quickly and takes a very long time to rebuild, as we have discussed in these pages ad nauseam.