The US will push for tougher sanctions against Iran after blaming Tehran’s government for a foiled terrorist plot to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington.
US Attorney-General Eric Holder confirmed that two men had been charged with conspiring to assassinate Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in an elaborate plot involving hired killers from a Mexican drugs cartel. Mr Holder said the conspiracy was conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran and he pointed specifically to senior levels of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. He declined to say at what level within the Iranian government the planned attack had gained approval.
The Justice Department has charged two men in connection with the plot, Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old from Texas with joint US-Iranian citizenship, and Gholam Shakuri, a member of the Quds Force based in Iran. Mr Arbabsiar was arrested on September 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, while Mr Shakuri is at large in Iran and has been charged in absentia.
FBI director Robert Mueller said yesterday the plot read like the pages of a Hollywood script although “the impact would have been very real, and many lives would have been lost”.
According to Justice Department prosecutors, Mr Arbabsiar and Mr Shakuri were willing to pay $US1.5 million ($1.51m) to a Mexican drug cartel to kill Mr Jubeir with a bomb at the restaurant in which he dined twice a week in Washington.
Mr Shakuri allegedly gave Mr Arbabsiar money to fund the plot, including a $US100,000 down-payment wired to the account of a FBI paid informant posing as a member of the drug cartel. When the informant told Mr Arbabsiar – according to secret recordings of their conversations – up to 150 people might be present at the restaurant, including US senators, the alleged conspirator said: “No big deal.”
Iran was swift to dismiss any involvement in the plot yesterday, calling it a “child’s story”. A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the conspiracy a “prefabricated scenario” designed to distract public attention from domestic political problems.
The US Treasury yesterday announced financial sanctions against five Iranians allegedly linked to the plot, including the two charged. Washington is considering further action, The Australian reported.