The FBI and the DEA have supposedly stopped a plot involving Iran to commit terrorism inside the United States, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.
Holder said the alleged plan was directed by elements of the Iranian government and involved a murder-for-hire plot to kill Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
The attorney general also said the alleged plan involved a naturalized U.S. citizen holding Iranian and U.S. passports and a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the FBI revealed in its complaint.
The men were connected to the secretive Quds Force, a division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that has carried out operations in other countries. He said that money in support of the plot had been transferred through a bank in New York, but that the men had not yet obtained any explosives to carry the act out.
According to the Justice Department Gholam Shakuri, a member of the Quds force, remains at large. Manssor Arbab Arbabsiar, the naturalized American citizen, was arrested on Sept. 29, the New York Times reports.
The Mexican government was instrumental in the investigation. The two planned to hire members of a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing. Unfortunately, the people they planned to hire weren’t members of a cartel, but were in fact confidential informants to the DEA.
Strafor Intelligence has more on the plot: “Arbabsiar allegedly traveled to Mexico several times between May and July. In Mexico, he met with a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confidential source posing as an associate of a violent Mexican cartel in order to hire the source and his purported accomplices to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar allegedly wired two separate payments totaling $100,000 in August into a bank account in the United States, with Shakuri’s approval, as a down payment to the DEA source for the killing of the ambassador (the agreed-upon total price was $1.5 million).
Arbabsiar was denied entry by Mexican authorities on his most recent trip Sept. 28, and he was apprehended Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (The U.S. government has arranged such flights in the past in order to apprehend fugitives on U.S. soil.) Shakuri, meanwhile, is believed to be in Iran. While the press conference highlighted the possibility of follow-on attacks after this assassination attempt, officials said related plots would involve Arbabsiar, which means any future threat connected to this plot is contained.”
ABC News, citing an unnamed official, reported that the plot also included plans to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington, as well as those belonging to Saudi Arabia and Israel in Argentina.
“The U.S. is committed to holding Iran accountable,” Holder said. Hopefully, without launching a decade’s long war. A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the alleged plot “is a fabrication,” which should surprise nobody.
Details are still breaking on this one, but here’s what we know so far.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said the alleged terror plot “reads like the pages of a Hollywood script,” but the implications are real.
“This case illustrates that we live in a world where borders and boundaries are increasingly irrelevant,” Mueller said.
An FBI agent’s affidavit obtained by CNN Tuesday accused two men of conspiring to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir.
The complaint alleges that Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s revolutionary guard, began a plot this spring to kill Al-Jubeir.
The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York called the alleged plot “well-funded and pernicious.”
It is believed the United States will be taking this up with the United Nations Security Council and other members of the international community. Holder admitted the White House, State Department and Treasury were still debating the appropriate course of action. A senior Obama official said the administration won’t tolerate the targeting of a diplomat on U.S. shores, CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin reported.
The official said “the administration believes the plot is a dangerous escalation by Iran” and “a flagrant violation of international law.” Further, the U.S. will work to isolate the Iranian government, specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the Quds force.
The White House has been in close contact with the Saudi government.
National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor released the following statement regarding the plot: “The President was first briefed on this issue in June and directed his Administration to provide all necessary support to this investigation. The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the President is enormously grateful for their exceptional work in this instance and countless others.”
Details of when the plot took place and what it entailed are still being kept under wraps. According to the Justice Department’s complaint, it seems as if the plot began in June, escalated sometime in August and September before the duo’s recent arrest.
CNN’s Peter Bergen said that based on his knowledge of the region, the Saudi ambassador to the United States “may have been targeted because he is a key foreign policy adviser to Saudi King Abdullah.”
It should be interesting to see how this shakes out. It’s never good when a foreign government is accused of attempting to commit a terrorist act on U.S. soil.