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1 of 3. Then Saudi Arabian Foreign Policy Advisor Adel-Al-Jubeir gestures during a press conference in response to U.S. engineer Paul Marshal Johnson's beheading at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, in this June 18, 2004 file photo. U.S. authorities broke up an alleged plot to bomb the Israeli and Saudi Arabian embassies in Washington and assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, court documents and a U.S. official said on October 11, 2011. In July and August, co-plotter Manssor Arbabsiar paid $100,000 to a DEA informant for the murder of Saudi ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, court documents said.
Credit: Reuters/Shaun Heasley/Files
By Jeremy Pelofsky and Basil Katz
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK |
Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:34pm EDT
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities broke up a plot by two men linked to the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the United States, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said one of two men charged in the plot, both originally from Iran, had been arrested and confessed.
The other, who was still at large, was described in the criminal complaint as being a member of the elite Quds Force, which is part of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"High-up (Iranian) officials in those agencies ... were responsible for this plot," Holder told a news conference. "I think one has to be concerned about the chilling nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here," he said.
Two men were charged in a U.S. court. Gholam Shakuri was described in the criminal complaint as a member of the Quds Force and is believed to be in Iran.
U.S. authorities arrested the other man, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen and holds an Iranian passport, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on September 29.
The target of the plot was Saudi ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, according to the criminal complaint.
U.S. officials said there had also been initial discussions about other alleged plots, including attacking the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, however no charges for that were revealed on Tuesday.
Iran swiftly rejected the allegation. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has rejected U.S. accusations of the country plotting to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington as a prefabricated scenario," state English language Press TV said, without elaborating or giving a source.
The United States slapped economic sanctions on five Iranians including four senior members of the Quds.
Relations were already sour between the Islamic republic and Washington, which accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms, a charge Iran has denied.
Last month hopes were raised of improved ties when Iran released two U.S. hikers accused of spying when they were arrested on the Iran-Iraq border in 2009. Holder said there was no link between the hikers' case and the alleged plot.
Officials said that the Saudi ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, was never in danger. President Barack Obama was briefed in June about the alleged plot and through a spokesman expressed gratitude for it being disrupted.
The assassination plot began to unfold in May 2011 when Arbabsiar approached an individual in Mexico to help, but that individual turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The confidential source, who was not identified, immediately tipped 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 $1.5 million requested.
Shakuri approved the plan to kill the ambassador during telephone conversations with Arbabsiar, the complaint said.
After Arbabsiar was arrested in New York, he allegedly confessed and provided U.S. authorities with more details about the Iranian government's alleged involvement, Holder said.
The men are charged with 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 of terrorism.
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. They face up to life in prison if convicted.
(Reporting by Basil Katz in New York, James Vicini, Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by David Storey)
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Boy are we lucky.
And just in time too: heaven knows the govt is in desperate need of a new boogyman/state terror plot to take our minds off growing unrest, a failed economy, and our financial-intel-military led government.
Oct 11, 2011 2:28pm EDT -- Report as abuse
Sensational headline, but you’d have to ask yourself what the hell the point would be… Iranians bombing the embassies of 2 Middle Eastern countries in the US, when they could be bombing them in the Middle East instead, seems more than a little bit far fetched. Don’t cha think???
Oct 11, 2011 2:44pm EDT -- Report as abuse
Life1, I don’t think it is at all far fetched. The Iranians are in competition with the Saudis for control of the Arabian peninsula. They would love nothing better than to increase the level of tension between the Saudis and the US.
The Iranian intelligence organization is notorious for violent operations outside their borders. Typically they target exiled dissidents, but they aren’t above targeting government officials.
Oct 11, 2011 3:27pm EDT -- Report as abuse
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