U.S. authorities announced that they had broken up a plot by two men linked to Iran’s security agencies to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. One of the men was arrested last month while the other was believed to be inIran.
President Barack Obama called the plot a “flagrant violation ofU.S.and international law” and Saudi Arabia said it was “despicable.” At the same timeIrandenied the charges.
The primary evidence linking the Iranian government to the planned attempt on al-Jubeir’s life are the words of one of the alleged plotters, who told U.S. law enforcement agents after his arrest that he had been recruited and directed by men he understood were senior Quds Force officials.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, was said she was briefed on intelligence about the plot, said “it looks like it’s the Quds Force, the IRGC.”
“We do not know that it went up above the IRGC” to higher levels of the Iranian government, Feinstein told reporters. “I just don’t see how this could be done any other way, that even the Quds force would go out and do something on their own to assassinate somebody who represented a country, not even in that country but in a third country.
IranandSaudi Arabiahave likewise long been at odds. The Saudis, who see themselves as the center of the Sunni sect of Islam, have been alarmed by what they see as expansionist tendencies by majority Shi’ite Iran, whose people are primarily Persian rather than Arab.
U.S.officials said there had also been initial discussions about other alleged plots, including attacking the Saudi and Israeli embassies inWashington, however no charges for that were revealed on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope that countries that have hesitated to enforce existing sanctions onIranwould now “go the extra mile” in the interview to Reuters.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder alleged that the plot was the work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is the guardian ofIran’s 32-year-old revolution, and the Quds force, its covert, operational arm.
“High-up officials in those (Iranian) agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot,” Holder told the news conference.
“I think one has to be concerned about the chilling nature of what the Iranian government attempted to do here,” he said.
At a news conference, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the convoluted plot, involving monitored international calls, Mexican drug money and an attempt to blow up the ambassador in aWashingtonrestaurant, could have been straight from aHollywoodmovie.
U.S.officials identified the two alleged plotters as Gholam Shakuri, who is a member of the Quds force, and Manssor Arbabsiar, who was arrested on September 29 when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Mexico.
Officials said that the Saudi ambassador, Al-Jubeir, who is close to King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and has been in his post since 2007, 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 inMexicoto help, but that individual turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
In a new worldwide travel alert issued late Tuesday, the State Department said the foiled scheme could be sign that Iran has adopted a “more aggressive focus” on terrorist activity and warned Americans around the world of the potential for terrorist attacks against U.S. interests It said Iranian-sponsored attacks could include strikes in the United States, where the alleged plot against the Saudi envoy was supposed to have taken place, as well as other countries.
“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the potential for anti-U.S. actions following the disruption of a plot, linked to Iran, to commit a significant terrorist act in the United States,” it said in the warning that expires on Jan. 11, 2012.
“The U.S. 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,” the alert said. [via Reuters and Huff Post]