US uncovers Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabian ambassador to America


Manssor Arbabsiar. Image from ABC News.

The Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint today alleging an audacious plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States. Two Iranians, Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, have been named in the plot, and US officials have stated that elements within the Iranian military authorized the plot. Both Arbabsiar and Shakuri have been linked to Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that directs terror attacks.

Also today, the US Treasury Department added Shakuri, Arbabsiar, and an Iranian Qods Force officer known as Mustafa Abdullahi to the list of specially designated global terrorists. Abdullahi was not named in the indictment that identified Shakuri and Arbabsiar. [Note: the full US Treasury Department designation, which was released after the publishing of this article, listed senior Qods Force leaders Qasem Soleimani, Abdul Reza Shahlai, and Hamed Abdullahi as being involved in the plot. Soleimani is the overall leader of Qods Force, and Abdullahi and Shahlai are senior commanders. Shahlai has been previously designated as a terrorist by the US for his role in killing US soldiers in Karbala, Iraq, in January 2007. See LWJ report, Mastermind of deadly raid on American soldiers coordinated plot against Saudi ambassador, and Threat Matrix report, More on the US designations of top Qods Force leaders, for more information.]

According to the criminal complaint, Arbabsiar, who has both a US and an Iranian passport, traveled to Mexico on several occasions where he met with a confidential DEA informant (CS-1). During these meetings, Arbabsiar was under the impression that CS-1 was a member of a narcotics-trafficking cartel and willing to carry out the plot. Arbabsiar had been advised by Shakuri to hire someone in the narcotics business as “people in that business are willing to undertake criminal activity in exchange for money.”

“Chevrolet” was the code word used by Arbabsiar and Shakuri to refer to the plot to assassinate Ambassaor Adel al-Jubeir. During many recorded phone conversations in Farsi, Shakuri repeatedly told Arbabsiar to “buy” the Chevrolet, indicating that the plot was still to be carried out.

The plot included bombing a restaurant said to be frequented multiple times a week by the ambassador in Washington. Along with many discussions on payment for carrying out the plot, which was agreed to be $1.5 million, Arbabsiar was pressed by CS-1 about who had directed him to carry out the plot.

Arbabsiar stated to the CS-1 that the “money is in Iran.” Arbabsiar went on to discuss, when asked by the CS-1, the role played by his cousin (Shakuri) in Iran. Arbabsiar explained that his cousin was “wanted in America,” had been “on the CNN,” and was a “big general in the army.” He said that his cousin “works in outside, in other countries for the Iranian government.” Arbabsiar also indicated that his cousin did not wear a uniform or carry a gun, and had “taken certain unspecified actions related to a bombing in Iraq.”

At a later meeting, CS-1 said to Arbabsiar, “I don’t know exactly what your cousin wants me to do,” to which Arbabsiar replied, “He wants you to kill this guy.” When further pressed, Arbabsiar said, “Doesn’t matter how you do it. I mean, if you do it by himself, kill is better, but… sometime, you know, you have no choice, is that right?” Arbabsiar went on to say that the plot is “not personal … it’s politics.” He explained that his cousin would not pay for the plot out of his pocket and that the Iranian the government is behind him. If the assassination was successful, Arbabsiar would be used for further attacks.

On Sept. 28, Arbabsiar was denied entry into Mexico and then flew to JFK Airport in New York City. Law enforcement monitored him on this flight and he was arrested as he exited. Among the things found on him were an Iranian passport, a US passport, and a travel itinerary for a flight departing Mexico for October 2011 with Tehran, Iran as his final destination. In post-arrest statements, Arbabsiar admitted to participating in the meetings with the confidential source and confirmed that he had agreed to pay for the assassination plot. He also confessed that he was directed by senior Qods Force officials.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today exposes a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign Ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives,” said Attorney General Holder. “Through the diligent and coordinated efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we were able to disrupt this plot before anyone was harmed. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously and bring those who have violated any laws to justice.”

Iranian officials have denounced the US assertion that the government of Iran was behind the plot, saying on state TV, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has rejected US accusations of the country plotting to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington as a prefabricated scenario.”

Today’s indictment is only the most recent incident in which the US has pointed the finger at Iran for supporting acts of international terrorism. Over the past several months, the US government has directly implicated Iran in supporting the operations of both al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Middle East and Central Asia.

On July 28, 2011, the US State Department noted Iran has forged an agreement with al Qaeda that allows the terrorist organization to coordinate its operations on Iranian soil. The Treasury Department designation of six al Qaeda leaders and operatives, several of whom are based in Iran, stated that Iran has a ‘secret deal’ with al Qaeda.

“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen is quoted as saying in the press release.

On Aug. 19, 2011, the State Dept.’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism said that Iran “remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2010.”

“Iran’s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy,” the report continued.

The State Dept. also noted that “Iran’s Qods Force provided training to the Taliban in Afghanistan on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives, and indirect fire weapons, such as mortars, artillery, and rockets.”

One year earlier, on Aug. 3, 2010, the Treasury Department designated General Hossein Musavi and Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, both senior Qods Force officers, “for their roles in the IRGC-QF’s support of terrorism” and for providing “financial and material support to the Taliban.” On the same day, Treasury also designated Hushang Allahdad for aiding Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Qods Force commander in Lebanon, for acting as a “liaison to Hezbollah and Syrian intelligence services” as well as “guaranteeing weapons shipments” to Hezbollah.

The US has previously acted against Qods Force for its involvement in terrorist activities in Iraq. In October 2007, Qods Force was labeled a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. Brigadier General Ahmad Foruzandeh, the former Qods Force commander and current commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps; Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Qods Force; and Abdul Reza Shahlai, a deputy Qods Force commander, among others, were designated under Executive Order 13382 for their roles in Qods Force terrorist activities in Iraq.

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  • mike says:

    I don’t understand the motivation, if we are to believe the Iranian state intended to carry out an operation of this nature. Why the US ambassador? Why attack in the US and potentially provoke a disasterous war? What does Iran stand to gain from such an attack? Perhaps the story as it’s been told by the Administration is accurate, but it doesn’t add up, unless I’m missing something.

  • mike merlo says:

    Now that this so called General has been exposed it’ll be interesting to see how ‘real’ this plot is.

  • Mirage says:

    why go after the Saudi Arabian ambassador? If your in Washington D.C., there is a more valuable variety to go after

  • Haakon Dahl says:

    This would have sent messages in several directions. I feel that Iran is now competing with Turkey for leadership of the openly radical Islam contingent, with KSA of course a covert leader, and Egypt still a menacing basket case.

    This would have put a score on the board for the Shia v Sunni struggle, the Iran v KSA gulf hegemon role, the Iran v Turkey radical leadership chair, and the terrorist/IslamIST vs state-based islamIC systems of governance.
    All under the umbrella of action against the US and its (nominal) ally KSA, which is insufficiently hostile to Israel for the liking of the calculating madmen in Tehran.

  • Observer says:

    Can you imagine if these guys had a suit case size nuclear bomb? Even one only? These are the same chaps who were once caught photographing tunnels in New York. What if they had a trident type nuclear missile, would the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction bother them?
    Yes for now. But the world has got combat fatigue from Iraq and Afghanistan, so only a few secret warriors are battling this challenge on a day to day basis.

  • Joe says:

    It does not make any sense if you consider it an action that was actually signed onto by the Islamic Republic. The only way it makes sense is if it were conducted by some Iranian equivalent of Ollie North with his own agenda and perhaps quite happy to invite US retaliation for whatever deranged motives.
    Still it seems like complete amateur hour to employ a used car salesman out asking guys if they are with Los Zetas. I would really hope that this guy is the best they could call upon inside the USA.

  • NUS says:

    @ Haakon Dahl, . . .
    I like your ideas, and I am adding more bellow.
    @ Mirage:

  • Jerry Frey says:

    Like Hitler, who dreamed of a Greater Germany (Lebensraum) and a thousand year Reich, the Iranian government dreams of a Greater Iran (see below). Territorial ambition includes the Gulf and Central Asia. Although the Arab Spring may inhibit their ambition in the short term, the long term policy of these religious zealots is apocalyptic and suicidal.
    When one considers the parallels between Shiite Iran and the Nazis, these comparisons are both profound, troubling, and portend evil for the world.
    The Iranians have their Japanese/Chinese; Italian/Syrian allies. Instead of physical occupation, the Iranian/Nazi Germany regime exercises Anschluss with Iraq/Austria through political influence and interference with fellow Shiites: Moqtada al-Sadr. Iranians pursue religious ideology while Nazis followed racial ideology

  • Mr T says:

    War on Terror.
    Iran is the leading exporter of terror in the world.
    Sounds like this will only end when we take out Iran. If you want to win a war on terror, it only makes sense to go to the source. Iran might actually want a war if they are truly Islamic terror minded. They don’t care how much death and destruction they spread as they are embracing the afterlife, not this one.

  • Joe says:

    Actually if we attacked Iran that would probably be the best thing that we could do for the people who are perpetrating the terrorism. That is probably what they want, assuming that they can not get the Israelis to attack them instead.
    Their domestic political situation is rather tenuous, but once we started shooting at them all of Iran would unite behind them. Of course they would get their butts whipped in every conventional sense, but they would never intend to fight us in a conventional manner.

  • Bill Greer says:

    An interesting development in the Iran-US-World diplomatic relationship. Several points the US National Security Council should be considering as they consider options to address. Perhaps the first is to layout a compelling case for the United Nations that Iran was complicit in the planning and financing of this operation. Once a compelling case is made, do we simply continue our attempt to isolate Iran; or do we go back to the Bush doctine of “you’re either with us or against us” in dealing with these type of threats. Our military power gives us some leverage; but our economic power may be lacking.

  • Armenian guy says:

    a very unexpected ” event ” indeed. In my opinion, i really find it puzzling when it comes to the timing of this ” plot ” of course we can go around and suggest conspiracy theories till tomorrow, but the truth will be known in the coming days in the ME, depending on the changes that will occur in the region. upon asking yourself, why would Iran do such a ” foolish ” thing by trying to assassinate ( key word ) KSA’s ambassador on (key word ) US soil ? during these sensitive times.
    there might be several explanations.
    1- minimizing the attention on Syria’s current state towards another story
    2- proof that Iran can interfere internally in the US, same as US interferes internally in other countries who have a clear anti-us policy
    3- a wish to increase sectarian tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, leading to an even more sharp edged division and several proxy wars.

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    Comparing the Nazi’s and Iran is pretty accurate. They really are insane there. Apocalyptic is the rite word. I agree.

  • Javier says:

    First of all, you spelled “rite” incorrectly. It’s spelled “right”. Secondly, if your statement is true, then the Iranian regime would have wiped out the Jews in Iran a long time ago. In case you don’t know, there are about 35,000 Jews currently residing in Iran and it is home to the second-largest Jewish population in the Middle East, after Israel.


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