Mastermind of deadly raid on American soldiers coordinated plot against Saudi ambassador

The US Treasury Department has designated five individuals involved in an alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, including Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Soleimani “oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this plot,” according to Treasury.

Another of the five is Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF officer who planned the Jan. 20, 2007 attack on US soldiers stationed in Karbala, Iraq. That attack left five US soldiers dead and wounded three others.

Shahlai, according to the Treasury Department, “coordinated the plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, while he was in the United States and to carry out follow-on attacks against other countries’ interests inside the United States and in another country.”

Shahlai was previously designated by the Treasury Department in Sept. 2008. At the time, Treasury noted that he was a “deputy commander” in the IRGC-QF and planned “Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) Special Groups attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq.” One of the attacks he “planned” was the 2007 raid in Karbala, a daring and sophisticated operation in which Iranian-trained terrorists posed as American soldiers during an assault on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center. The assault team was reportedly trained in a mock-up of the center that was built in Iran.

In 2009, the Obama administration released two of the Iranian-backed terrorists involved in the Karbala operation. The brothers, Qais and Layith Khazali, were freed even though they were directly implicated in the attack. The release of the Khazalis was said to be part of a reconciliation effort inside Iraq.

However, US military officials told The Long War Journal that the Khazalis’ release was really part of a negotiation to free British hostages who had been kidnapped by Iranian proxies. Statements made by an Iraqi spokesman and other press reporting confirmed these suspicions.

In the summer of 2009, prior to Qais Khazali’s release but after Layith Khazali’s release, two Republican Senators questioned the administration’s policy. In a letter to President Obama dated July 1, 2009, Senators Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl said they were “deeply concerned by recent news reports that suggest your administration may be negotiating directly or indirectly with terrorist organizations for the release of dangerous terrorist detainees.” The Senators argued that such negotiations were inconsistent with longstanding US policy, which prohibited negotiations with terrorists.

Qais Khazali was released several months later. The same day Khazali was released, on Dec. 30, 2009, British hostage Peter Moore was freed by Khazali’s Iranian-backed network.

Another senior Iranian-backed terrorist who was captured with Qais Khazali, Ali Musa Daqduq, remains in military custody in Iraq. Daqduq, a longtime member of Hezbollah, was tasked with organizing Iranian proxies in Iraq similar to the way Hezbollah operates in Lebanon. The Obama administration is reportedly weighing its options for trying Daqduq.

And Shahlai, who “planned” the Karbala attack, according to Treasury’s 2008 designation, has now allegedly plotted other major terrorist attacks. This time Shahlai’s plots were intended to be executed on American soil.

In orchestrating the putative plot against the Saudi ambassador, Shahlai relied on his cousin, Manssor Arbabsiar, who was arrested by US officials in September. Arbabsiar also worked with another IRGC-QF officer, Ali Gholan Shakuri, who is Shahlai’s “deputy.” Shakuri, who was one of the five Iranians designated by the Treasury Department this week, helped arrange funding for the plot and also “met with Arbabsiar several times to discuss the planned assassination and other attacks.”

Arbabsiar tried to hire members of a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the assassination plot. Arbabsiar unwittingly contacted a DEA informant who he thought was a member of the cartel, but instead was working for US authorities. The informant helped authorities unravel the IRGC-QF’s plans. After Arbabsiar was arrested, authorities had him make several telephone calls to Shakuri, who repeatedly urged Arbabsiar to move forward with the planned attack.

According to the Treasury Department’s new designation, “Shahlai approved financial allotments to Arbabsiar to help recruit other individuals for the plot, approving $5 million dollars as payment for all of the operations discussed.” $1.5 million was allocated for the plot against the Saudi ambassador, leaving the bulk of the IRGC-QF’s funds for the remaining operations.

Press reports offer differing versions of just what these other operations may have entailed, including possible attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies either in the US or abroad.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

Tags: , , , ,


  • gabriel says:

    Act of war?

  • Jim Clark says:

    I thought it high time to inflict some pain on the Iranian regime when they were found assisting insurgents in Iraq with guns and IEDs very early on in that war.
    Only now we are preventing some of the Qods Force personalities from getting an auto loan. Here’s another pussy footed US reply; give their centrifuges a virus.
    There needs to be swift, hurtful retribution for the leadership of Iran. It should start out proportionally; tit for tat then if necessary, escalate into regime change by helping their own people to topple the Imams.

  • Jim Clark says:

    “This is really over the top” U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden.
    As if directly and/or indirectly Iran is complicit in the deaths of our service men and women is acceptable.
    Jim Clark

  • Eddie D. says:

    I totally agree with Jim. We need to hit Iran hard.

  • Javier says:

    “escalate into regime change by helping their own people to topple the Imams.”
    And how exactly do you go about doing that? If it’s an American invasion of Iran, then that would backfire against us.

  • gary siebel says:

    It seems the Persian terrorists are out of touch. They are stuck in Iran, watching too much American television and movies, and getting their plots from same.
    I detect frustration on their part, wanting to pay back for Stuxnet and do their part for jihad, but the Great Satan isn’t crumbling as expected. They are probably not too happy about the idea of a Palestinian State, either. Things just aren’t going their way. Assad could fall, as well.
    Perhaps it’s another attempt to insert themselves in an American election cycle?

  • Mr T says:

    These guys didn’t cover their tracks very well. They are either really stupid or they are emboldened by lack of any action against them.
    Iran goes to the UN and gets a mojority of the member states there to cheer their rhetoric. Thats a real problem. Iran is one of the most evil regimes out there but the world politic does not get it.

  • JRP says:

    For some reason I’m just not “all in” on this Iranian Assassination story. Something seems fishy; the story is just too pat for my liking. I’m wondering if the U.S. is being snookered into doing someone else’s bidding here. I’m certainly no friend of Iran, not by a rifle shot. However, in light of the fact that we’ve put up with so much worse from Pakistan and even from Saudi Arabia in the war on terrorism, but have let it go, I simply see getting too ramped up over Iran as a repeat of the Iraq mistake. Let’s keep our eye on the prize here . . . I’m far more interested in nailing AQ/Taliban HVTs than protecting the life of the SA ambassador to the U.S. I just filled up my gas tank and with the money spent on that alone, the ambassador can buy all the personal security he’ll ever need.

  • marie thomas says:

    Does anyone see a problems with Obama letting these murders of our men “Go” and two senators trying to stop him from doing it? Should this be told to the people of America (which they did not say on the news accounts)and the question is “Why are we negotiating with terrortist “when we knew they killed them. 5 Dead American men for 1 British man? Where were the Brits in this Deal? Is there justice for our Dead American soldiers?

  • namvet says:

    JRP, you have a strong point. Time will tell the truth.

  • David Rodden says:

    It should be done sooner rather than later…

  • TLA says:

    Please just let the Saudis or Israelis deal with it. Fed up of being the patsy.

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ JRP, exactly, many do not believe this was even an ‘Official’ move on the part of the Quds force and perhaps some rogue element as the operation was so sloppy and carried out so badly.
    We must not get distracted by this and focus on getting the job done right in Afghanistan.

  • Sparta Lives says:

    As a Service Member in the Army serving this great nation, I have a serious problem with the release of these terrorist that attacked US Troops in Iraq. The five soldiers killed and the three wounded were in fact members of my Unit. Now everyday that I look at those pictures hanging on our wall of FALLEN HEROES I will be forced to think about these men out there possibly planning another attack on our men and woman in uniform. I seriously hope that our President having any involvment with there release is false, he is my Commander and Chief and I will continue to back my obligations to the Army and this Country, but I will not be able to back that decision if it is in fact true. If it is true I would like to know what OBAMA would say to those parents, children, wives, and family members of those Fallen Heroes, and think what if that was his family would he have reacted the same way or would he have locked them up and thrown away the key.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    When I was fighting in Iraq we had intel that the Iranaian Quda force was training the Shia Millitias and we and units like Delta put a stop to it, arresting and killing several Quds force operatives. This needs to happen again. Obama needs to immediatly begin targeting the quds force via our tier 1 Spec Ops units Delta and SEAL 6. they need to be targeted for assassination… the CIA needs to direct it’s SAD operatives to do the same. This will get the message across to the Iranaians that you don’t mess with the world’s sole superpower. Obama has sent messages before to pirates and to Al Qaida, Iran needs to be next on the list.

  • SomeGuy says:

    Thomas and Bill, thank you for never dropping the ball on making these connections.
    Sparta Lives…smell the reality. I rabble-roused the FA community all I could when this went down because I knew Fritz. I found a lot of folks willing to listen, but nobody would do jack.
    This was during Diamond Dave’s watch and no one would question the man who single handedly won the Iraq War.
    The point the powers that be had missed was that this group of Quds leadership will never stop. They have always favored kinetic high profile operations. They are not the guys Tehran calls on for high minded political chess moves, they are the ones called to pick a street fight.
    They are given a lot of latitude because as of yet, nothing they’ve done has come back to really bite Tehran in the butt… and that’s our own fault.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram