WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, with help from a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. would hold Iran accountable.
Two people, including a member of Iran’s special operations unit known as the Quds Force, were charged in New York federal court. Holder said the bomb plot was a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.
“We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said at a news conference in Washington with Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, whom authorities said was a Quds Force member.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says many lives could have been lost in the plot to kill the ambassador with bombs in the U.S.
Holder said the U.S. government would be taking unspecified action against the Iranian government as early as Tuesday. Asked whether the plot was blessed by the top echelons of the Iranian government, Holder said the Justice Department was not making that accusation.
Arbabsiar unknowingly hired an informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the plot, prosecutors said. Posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel, the informant met with Arbabsiar several times in Mexico, authorities said. The price tag was $1.5 million and Arabsiar made a $100,000 down payment.
Bharara said no explosives were actually placed, and no one was in any danger.
Shakuri remains at large. Arbabsiar was arrested Sept. 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday. Prosecutors said he faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors said Arbabsiar has confessed to his participation in the murder plot.
President Barack Obama was first briefed on the plot in June, said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.
“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,” Vietor said.
— by Nedra Pickler, The Associated Press (via Google News)
If Iran is involved in this plot, then that takes chutzpah. Iran going after the Saudi diplomat in the United States would take a lot of guts and quite a bit of stupidity.