U.S. foils Iranian assassination plot
U.S. authorities have thwarted a plot allegedly sanctioned and financed by the Iranian government to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington, D.C.
The criminal complaint filed by the Department of Justice yesterday revealed a $1.5 million murder-for-hire conspiracy to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel A. Al-Jubeir.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, is accused of helping the Qods Force, a unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, hire members of the Mexican drug cartel to carry out the assassination. The Qods Force is suspected of sponsoring attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq as well as providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, according to the complaint.
“This conspiracy was conceived, was sponsored and was directed from Iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions.” Holder declined to elaborate on what type of actions would be taken against Iran by the White House, State Department, and Treasury Department.
Between May and September of 2011, Arbabsiar traveled to Mexico numerous times to meet with a purported associate of a Mexican drug trafficking cartel to plan the assassination. (The associate hired by Arbabsiar was actually a paid confidential informant working for the Drug Enforcement Agency.) Arbabsiar and the informant discussed ways to kill the ambassador, including bombing a restaurant that Al-Jubeir frequents in Washington, D.C. When the informant noted that there could be 100 to 150 people at the restaurant during the bombing, Arbabsiar responded, “They want that guy [the Ambassador] done [killed], if the hundred go with him, f*ck ’em.”
“The details of that murder plot are chilling, to say the least, as the defendants have no care or concerns about inflicting mass casualties on innocent Americans on American soil in furtherance of their assassination plan,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who is overseeing the prosecution of the case.
In July and August, Arbabsiar communicated with Gholam Shakuri, a high-ranking member of the Qods Force, to discuss the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador and to obtain funds to pay the informant to carry out the murder. In early August, U.S. authorities tracked two overseas wire transfers amounting to $100,000 to a bank in New York. Those funds were later given to the informant as a down payment, with Arbabsiar assuring the informant that the remaining funds will be paid after the assassination was carried out.
Following his arrest on Sept. 28, Arbabsiar admitted to participating in the murder plot and that “he was recruited, funded, and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in the Qods Force,” according to the complaint.
Arbabsiar has been charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. The second defendant, Shakuri, remains at large in Iran.
“Today’s charges should make crystal clear that we will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground,” said Bharara.
- United States of America vs. Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri complaint (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Attorney General Eric Holder’s statement on the alleged Iranian-backed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement on the thwarted plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States
- WhatTheFolly.com: FBI Director Robert Mueller’s statement on the Iranian-backed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States
- WhatTheFolly.com: Assistant AG Lisa Monaco’s statement on the coordinated law enforcement efforts to thwart the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States
- WhatTheFolly.com: Press conference Q&A on plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
- Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia: Statement on plot to assassinate ambassador
- Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia: Biography of Ambassador Adel A. Al-Jubeir