Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton says the United States will seek to further isolate Iran
after Tehran was implicated Tuesday in a plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s
ambassador to Washington. The U.S. Justice Department charged two men
including an Iranian-born U.S. citizen in an elaborate plot, for which
Iran denies responsibility.
Director Robert Mueller
The United States has long characterized Iran as the world’s leading
state sponsor of terrorism. But the alleged plot, detailed in charges
filed in a U.S. federal court in New York, marked the first allegation
of Iranian involvement in a would-be terror attack on U.S. soil.
According to the court papers, an Iranian-born American citizen, Manssor
Arbabsiar, approached a U.S. government informant in Texas, believing
him to represent a Mexican drug cartel.
He offered $1.5 million for the drug gang to kill Saudi ambassador Adel
al-Jubeir with a bomb to be planted at a Washington restaurant and
delivered a $100,000 down-payment.
Arbabsiar was arrested late last month and is said to have confessed to
his role in the plot. The U.S. charge sheet says Arbabsiar conspired
with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian based official of the elite Quds Force
of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
At a news conference, Attorney-General Eric Holder Holder said the plot
was conceived, sponsored and directed from Iran and constitutes a
flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.
“In addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for
their alleged role in this plot, the United States is committed to
holding Iran accountable for its actions," said Holder. "Arbabsiar and
Shakuri are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official,
conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit
an act of international terrorism, among others.”
Holder did not specify what the United States will do to hold Iran
accountable. But Secretary Clinton later told reporters that United
States is beginning a diplomatic drive to further isolate Tehran.
“We will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world
about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action,
which violates international norms must be ended," said Clinton.
Attorney-General Holder said the plot was directed by senior officials
of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Iranian military, which
oversee the Quds Force, but said the United States is not alleging “at
his point” that Iran’s political leadership was involved.
Iran denied involvement in the alleged plot, with a spokesman for
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing the allegations as a
fabrication aimed at distracting attention from U.S. economic problems.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been rivals for regional power and
influence. But counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt of the Washington
Institute for Near Eastern Affairs says plotting to kill Saudi envoy
Jubeir, a close advisor to King Abdullah, takes the rivalry to a new
“This is an upping of the ante in the extreme. Again, we need to caution
that we can only comment on that which has been made public so far,"
said Levitt. "But if this ends up being accurate, it is a sharp break in
Iran’s traditional modus operandi.”
said the alleged plot may reflect Iranian desperation over Western
nuclear sanctions and a fear it is losing influence amid pro-democracy
ferment in the Middle East.
In the U.S. Congress, there were bipartisan calls for crippling pressure
on Iran. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said legislators are outraged
the murder scheme reached U.S. soil.
“We need to heighten the sanctions on Iran and make it clear that this
kind of action will not be countenanced," said Durbin.
The Saudi embassy in Washington called the plot a despicable violation
of international norms and standards, and expressed appreciation to U.S.
law enforcement for preventing a criminal act from taking place.