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Wed 12 Oct 2011 07:27 AM

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US says Iran backed plot to murder Saudi envoy

Plot saw $100,000 wired to posed Mexican cartel, to assassinate Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir

US says Iran backed plot to murder Saudi envoy
Saudi King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama
US says Iran backed plot to murder Saudi envoy
Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel Al-Jubeir
US says Iran backed plot to murder Saudi envoy
US President Barack Obama

The United States on Tuesday accused Iran of sponsoring a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US in a conspiracy involving a secret Iranian military unit and a citizen of the Islamic Republic with a US passport.

Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri were charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, in this case plastic explosives, to murder Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir and attack Saudi installations in the US in a plan hatched this year. Targets included “foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country,” the US said in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.

The plotters also targeted Israel’s embassy in Washington, as well as the Argentina embassies of Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to a federal law enforcement official familiar with the matter.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the US will hold Iran responsible for any terrorist actions tied to the plot, which he said was sponsored by the Iranian government. He called the conspiracy a “flagrant” violation of international law.

The US said Arbabsiar, who has dual US and Iranian citizenship, conspired with Shakuri, a member of Iran’s “Qods Force,” which is described as “the most secret of the Iranian regime’s numerous military organizations” by the Iran Terror Database. Prosecutors called it “a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad.”

“This was directed by senior members of the Qods Force,” Holder said. While Shakuri remains at large, Arbabsiar was arrested Sept 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. He appeared today in federal court in New York, where he was ordered held without bail. His lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said he would plead not guilty and consented to detention.

US President Barack Obama was briefed on the alleged plot in June, said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

“The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” Vietor said in a statement.

Arbabsiar met on several occasions in Mexico with a confidential informant of the US Drug Enforcement Administration posing as an associate of the Zetas, a violent Mexican drug cartel, according to the federal law enforcement official, who declined to be identified because they aren’t authorized to publicly comment.

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The informant had been charged by state authorities in connection with a narcotics offense, prosecutors said in the criminal complaint unsealed today. In exchange for his cooperation, the state charges were dismissed and he began to assist the US in narcotics seizures, according to the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

The cartel the informant pretended to represent had access to military-grade weaponry, the US said, as well as explosives. Arbabsiar arranged with the informant and others posing as his criminal associates to murder the Saudi ambassador, according to the government.

Arbabsiar wired them $100,000 as a down-payment, to be followed by installments of $10,000, prosecutors said. The DEA informant said it would cost $1.5 million to carry out the attack.

At a May 24 meeting, Arbabsiar asked about the informant’s knowledge of explosives and said he was “interested in attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia.” The informant mentioned he was familiar with C-4 plastic explosives.

That month, the informant told agents in the DEA Houston field division about requests being made by Arbabsiar to assist in terrorist attacks in the US and other countries, according to the law enforcement official.

During a July 14 meeting, Arbabsiar told the informant that his cousin in Iran had asked him to “find someone to carry out the ambassador’s assassination,” according to the complaint. He also indicated his cousin was a “big general” in the Iranian military who focuses on matters “outside Iran.”

The two men met repeatedly in June and July, according to the government. The informant said he would need four men to carry out the murder, prosecutors said.

Arbabsiar had become friends with the informant’s aunt while living in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area where Arbabsiar worked as a used car salesman, the federal law enforcement official said.

Arbabsiar later told the informant that the primary target for the attack was the Saudi ambassador and that targets for subsequent attacks were the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Argentina, according to the federal law enforcement official.

Arbabsiar also told the informant that the same Iranian sponsors behind the terror plot also controlled drug smuggling and could provide multi-ton amounts of opium, the federal law enforcement official said.

Federal agents became aware on Sept. 28 that Arbabsiar had left Iran and had already departed on a commercial flight from Frankfurt to Mexico. The DEA and FBI worked with Mexican government officials to deny Arbabsiar entry to Mexico, and he was placed on a commercial flight routed back to his country of origin by way of New York and was arrested upon arriving at JFK.

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 “Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller Said of the alleged plot at a Justice Department press conference.

The US State Department said the Qods force conducted attacks against coalition forces in Iraq. In October 2007, the US Treasury Department designated it as “having provided material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.”

Today, the Treasury Department sanctioned Arbabsiar and four Qods force officials allegedly tied to the plot.

After he was arrested and advised of his rights, Arbabsiar confessed to his participation in the murder-for-hire plot, prosecutors said. He told authorities that his cousin approached him “in the early spring of 2011” while Arbabsiar was in Iran, and asked him to work with him on the plot.

He used code words during the plan, and called the plot “Chevrolet,” according to prosecutors.

Arbabsiar and Shakuri are charged with five counts including conspiracy to murder a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. They may face as much as life in prison if convicted.

“This is dangerous new territory for Iran,” said Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “It is the latest in a series of aggressive actions -- from their nuclear program to state sponsorship of terrorism, from complicity in killing our soldiers in Iraq to now plotting hostile acts on US soil. This episode underscores the need for concerted international unity to confront Iran.”

Mahdi Nourian, spokesman for the Iranian mission at the United Nations, didn’t immediately respond to phone messages or e-mail seeking comment. Nail al-Jubeir, director of the information office at the Saudi embassy in Washington, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency referred to the criminal charges as a “propaganda campaign” by the US government in a report on its website.

The alleged plot illustrates a trend since 2009 of “a more aggressive, more anti-American, more risk-tolerant Iranian government,” said Ken Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Pollack said the crushing of Iran’s pro-reform Green Movement protests in 2009 brought with it the purge by the hardliners of moderates in the Iranian government.

At the press conference today, Holder said there is no “basis to believe” any other co-conspirators are still present in the US

The charges were brought in New York because the wiring of the $100,000 payment was made through a bank in New York, Bharara’s office said. In a statement, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, said of the alleged plot that “Iran has shown the world once again it poses an existential threat to the world community.”

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procan 8 years ago

This is another step toward violent confrontation . Here in the western heartland we can feel it. USA will not permit any type of violence against the Saudi Royal family and are pledged to intervene be it the Embassy in Washington or in the Middle East. We like the Iranian people, despise the government.

Hassan 8 years ago

Good Comedy. This is a desperate attempt to influence and divert the minds of Occupy Wall Street protestors so that they dont talk about corporate greed but rather an Iranian attack on US soil.Keep up the good work OWS and dont stop.

booker t 8 years ago

hmmmm...the USA 'foiling' a plot ..one which would also have attacked its israeli ally....ask yourself who benefits from such an attack?

another false flag operation like 9/11?

salem 8 years ago

"The peasants are getting restless. Time to manufacture another war! That'll get them off of Wall Street."
Or maybe the Arab spring has them envious for world headlines and "Israel" wants to do Iran. But to fool us that the sophisticated Iran Quds Brigade is having its agents spelling everything out in phone calls:" Yo, do al Jubair and 2 embassies and the check will be in the mail for you". The Pentagon and the CIA have shortages in creative scenarios writers for such plots, it seems.

Gordon Sinclair Jr 8 years ago

There is no love greater than the love of non-Americans, to hate Americans. You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get mobile phones. You talk about German technocracy and you get cars. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times ... and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during 9/11. When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help... Japan, Haiti, New Zealand are some of the most recent examples. Dozens of U.S. communities have been flattened by tornadoes and Hurricanes. Nobody has helped.
The Marshall Plan, the Truman Policy, all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the "arrogant war-mongers"

telcoguy 8 years ago

The plot was suggested by the FBI, as it has been the case with, if my memory serves well, all the plots foiled by the FBI involving islamic terrorist (funny how radical sunnies from Al Quaeda and Shia firebrands can only seem to agree on the need to hit the US)
The big kabuki theater of the DHS keeps going on and making some people rich in the process. Am I jealous? You bet!
Oh well, no need to publish.

Khaled Hamami 8 years ago

To Gordon Sinclair Jr: read about the Emir of Qatar $100 Million Donation to New Orleans , and tell me about the arrogant ungrateful Gringos http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/us/nationalspecial/30emir.html
Other valuable donations includes hundreds of thousands jobs in the defence industry that manufacture "impotent" weapons to the regions so that they do not threaten Israeli military imbalance. "Bond: Saudi deal for Boeing fighter jets protects 1,000 St. Louis jobs " and "US confirms $60bn Saudi arms deal
Largest ever US arms sale includes 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and more than 100 attack helicopters."

Ex-Pat 8 years ago

The protestors have no idea what they are protesting on Wall Street. Corp. greed? Hah. Buffet says to raise taxes on the rich. Easy for him to say, he pays 15%, not 35-45%. If he paid 40% he would cover most of the rich himself. As for the OWS, the mayor of NYC has told them that they can stay in the park indefinitely and protest as long as they obey they law, which they are doing. That is the sign of true freedom; freedom of expression in one's own country. They are only there to say they were a part of "something", which is comedy. Speaking of comedy, considering Osama Bin Laden was found on your soil living comfortably in a compund not far from your army base and retired generals, the U.S. does have to stay vigilant. The real comedy is that OBL was only found when the U.S. did not inform the Pakistani Gov't of the operation.

Mike Jones 8 years ago

This one has me baffled , are these the same guys that told us Iraq is harboring Al Qaeda, the same guys that told us Iraq has WMD and can launch it in 40 minutes. Are these the same guys that would not call for a seize fire in Gaza and Lebanon ! Are these the same guys that after 500 Billion Dollars and 10 years can not defeat a bunch of illiterate farmers in Afghanistan ! Some one in US Admin has read too many novels. Despicable the IRGC are, idiots they are not! They will not operate outside of the "Family", i.e. Mexican Drug Cartel.

Dubai Ex-Pat 8 years ago

Your article speaks of grateful Americans thanking their Qatari ally, where are they showing ungratefulness? It is easy to throw stones Khaled.

People in need believe they are "entitled" to America's help because of our history assisting both militarily and economically. Did you know in 2009 the United States gave $47.7 BILLION. Almost $850 billion since 1946.


Lumping all Americans together as you have done in a slanderous manner (ungrateful Gringos) unfortunately proves Gordon's point. I have Palistinian friends and do not agree with the tactics Isreal has historically used. There are plenty that feel this way. Your rhetoric though only fans the flames of discontent for the section of the uneducated American populace that hasn't had the pleasure of experiencing Muslim hospitality. Think before you write next time, is this constructive or destructive? If you don't take the time, how can you expect your American peers to?