11:40 AM on 12th October 2011
An extraordinary terrorist plot has been foiled – which would have seen the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. murdered on American soil.
Agents of the Iranian government reportedly offered $1.5 million to a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the assassination of Adel Al-Jubeir in a busy Washington DC restaurant.
The terror plotters – who also planned to set off blasts at the Saudi and Israeli embassies in the city – told their Mexican contact they could provide ‘tons of opium’ to his gang.
But their contact, to whom they allegedly wired a $100,000 down payment for the killing, was in fact an undercover U.S. informant.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the ‘stranger than fiction’ plot ‘crosses a line’ in Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism and will further isolate the Islamic republic.
Two men allegedly working for ‘factions of the Iranian government’ have been charged with the plot.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was arrested at JFK Airport in New York.
Asked about the potential loss of innocent life in the bombings, he said: ‘They want that guy done. If the hundred go with him, f**k ’em,’ court papers reported. He is now said to be facing life in prison if convicted.
Gholam Shakuri, whom authorities said was a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was also charged but is still at large.
Arbabsiar allegedly offered the $1.5 million bounty to a Mexican drug cartel for help with the assassination.
A third man named Abdul-Reza Shahlai is also accused of coordinating the alleged plot.
Shahlai, an Iranian official who is Arbabsiar’s cousin, has previously been accused of plotting an attack in Iraq which killed five U.S. soldiers.
WHO ARE THE SECRETIVE QUDS FORCE?
Iran’s secretive Quds Force is an elite brigade within Iran’s revolutionary Guard.
The Guards, with their own navy, air force and command structure separate from the regular armed forces, are seen as fiercely loyal to the supreme leader.
Within the Guards, Quds are tasked with ‘exporting’ the Iranian revolution abroad.
Said to contain 15,000 troops, the force has been linked to operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa and now North America.
In the past, the U.S. has accused Quds of arming Iraqi militants with deadly bomb-making material, building up an extensive network in the war-torn country, recruiting Iraqis and supporting not only Shiite militias but also Shiites allied with Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador and bomb embassies was a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law and that the U.S. would hold Iran accountable.
Mr Holder added that the suspects expressed ‘utter disregard for collateral damage’ in the planned bombings on U.S. soil.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said many lives could have been lost in the plot.
Mrs Clinton added: ‘This really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.’
She said the plot was ‘stranger than fiction’.
‘The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?’ she said.
Clinton said the scheme ‘creates a potential for international reaction that will further isolate Iran, that will raise questions about what they’re up to, not only in the United States and Mexico’.
She said both she and President Barack Obama were calling world leaders to inform them of the developments.
‘We are actively engaged in a very concerted diplomatic outreach to many capitals, to the UN in New York, to not only to explain what happened so we can try to pre-empt any efforts by Iran to be successful in what would be their denial and their efforts to try to deflect responsibility but so that we also enlist more countries in working together against what is becoming a clearer and clearer threat [from Iran],’ Clinton said.
‘We want to reassure our friends that the complaints against Iran are well-founded,’ she added.
Target: The plot would have also attacked the Israel embassy, pictured here, in Washington DC
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, phoned the Saudi ambassador to offer support and underline the solidarity between the two countries.
He is said to have told Adel Al-Jubeir that the plot was a ‘flagrant violation’ of U.S. and international law.
In addition, at a meeting with his national security team on Tuesday morning, Mr Obama is said to have thanked them for their exceptional work in disrupting the plot.
Saudi officials said the government would be expected to ‘take measures’ after the ‘great provocation’.
TIMELINE TO MURDER: HOW THE PLOT ESCALATED
May 24: Arbabsiar first meets someone posing as an associate of a drug trafficking cartel in Mexico, who was actually a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant codenamed CS-1. Arbabsiar asked about the informant’s knowledge of explosives and explained he was interested in attacking a Saudi embassy.
June 2: Arbabsiar returned to Mexico and held more meetings with the informant in late June and early July. He allegedly said his associates in Iran had discussed a number of ‘violent missions’ including the murder of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir.
July 14: Arbabsiar meets CS-1 again, they discuss plot details – how four men and a payment of $1.5 million are needed.
July 17: The pair meet again in Mexico. CS-1 says one member of his gang has already carried out surveillance on the ambassador and they allegedly discussed bombing a restaurant in the United States where the ambassador frequently dined.
August 1 and 9: Arbabsiar makes two overseas wire transfers ‘totalling approximately $100,000’
September 28: Arbabsiar flies to Mexico, is refused entry and is sent back to JFK
September 29: Arrested at JFK by federal agents
October 4-5: Arbabsiar, who has been in U.S. custody since his arrest, made phone calls which were monitored by U.S. law enforcement agents to Shakuri, described as a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He is believed to be based in Iran.
Shakuri allegedly confirmed to Arbabsiar the plot should move forward as quickly as possible, stating: ‘Just do it quickly, it’s late’
‘After this incident many in the kingdom will expect the kingdom to take measures, the least of which will be to pull the Saudi ambassador from Iran,’ said Abdullah Alshammari, a government official in Riyadh.
‘In the opinion of Saudi decision makers, this situation is not going to pass easily.
‘There were always problems with Iran and Saudi Arabia, what is new now is that America is involved… The fact that the Saudi ambassador was the target in the United States, I believe this will mean the kingdom and the United States will take a joint decision together.’
He added: ‘An ambassador of the level of Adel Al-Jubeir, who was an adviser to the royal court, that is a great provocation for Saudi Arabia and therefore we expect that the kingdom will take steps in this matter.’
The plot comes amidst rising tensions between Iran and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia after the Saudi government last year attempted to build an alliance to push back against Iran’s alleged aggression in the region.
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.
Relations were already sour between the Islamic republic and Washington, which accuses Tehran of backing terrorism and pursuing nuclear arms.
Holder declined to say what measures the Obama administration would take, but said they would be coming soon.
‘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,’ he said.
The 21-page criminal complaint, unsealed today, identifies the two alleged plotters as Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri.
Both are originally from Iran but Arbabsiar, 56, is a naturalised U.S. citizen.
Arbabsiar was arrested on September 29 in New York at JFK airport, according to Holder.
He was working for the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard and had confessed to a plot.
Officials said he had flown from Iran to Mexico City, via Frankfurt, but had been refused entry to Mexico and had been put on a plane to New York.
Mexico worked closely with U.S. authorities to help foil the alleged plot – issuing an immigration alert on Arbabsiar after U.S. authorities told Mexican counterparts that he was the subject of an arrest warrant.
Julian Ventura, undersecretary for North America, said the alert prompted Mexican immigration officials to turn Arbabsiar away when he tried to enter Mexico on September 28.
Arbabsiar was arrested the next day when he arrived at New York’s Kennedy International Airport.
Ventura said: ‘From the outset, Mexico and the United States exchanged information and acted together.
‘The government of Mexico reiterates its full commitment to international cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism and condemns any attempt by any individual, group or international player to commit actions of this nature from our national territory.’
After his arrest, Arbabsiar made phone calls to Shakuri in Iran which were monitored. During the calls, Shakuri allegedly confirmed that Arbabsiar should move forward with the plot to murder the Ambassador and that he should accomplish the task as quickly as possible, stating on October 5, 2011, ‘Just do it quickly, it’s late.’
Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires and Argentina were also discussed as part of the plan, according to officials.
Shakuri, who is based in Iran, remains at large. He is a member of Iran’s Quds Force, a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which sponsors and promotes terrorist activities abroad.
The Treasury, meanwhile, identified the Iranian official coordinating the plot as, Abdul-Reza Shahlai, a cousin of Arbabsiar.
Shahlai was three years ago identified as a terrorist by the U.S. Government for organising violence in Iraq.
He is said to have worked with the anti-U.S. Mahdi Army to attack soldiers.
In one of the attacks he is alleged to have planned in January 2007, up to a dozen fighters infiltrated a government building in Karbala, dressed as American security officers.
PLOT SPARKS U.S. TERROR ALERT
The State Department is warning Americans around the world of the potential for terrorist attacks against U.S. interests following the alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.
In a new worldwide travel alert issued late on Tuesday, the department said the foiled scheme could be a sign that Iran has adopted a ‘more aggressive focus’ on terrorist activity.
It said Iranian-sponsored attacks could include strikes in the United States, where the alleged plot against the Saudi envoy was supposed to have taken place, as well as other countries.
‘The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the potential for anti-U.S. actions following the disruption of a plot, linked to Iran, to commit a significant terrorist act in the United States,’ it said in the warning.
‘The U.S. government assesses that this Iranian-backed plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain countries, to include possible attacks in the United States.’
They opened fire, killing one U.S. soldier. Four others were abducted and found shot dead soon after.
The case looking into the Mexican cartel plot, called Operation Red Coalition, started in May when Iranian-American Arbabsiar from Corpus Christi, Texas, sought help for the assassination from a Mexican drug cartel and inadvertently approached a U.S. informant.
Arbabsiar allegedly wired $100,000 to the informant as a down payment for the $1.5million assassination fee.
He told the informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide ‘tons of opium’ to the drugs cartel.
According to the complaint, Arbabsiar claimed he was being ‘directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government’ including a cousin who was ‘a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform’.
He told agents he was recruited and funded by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran’s Qods Force.
He allegedly said these Iranian officials were aware of and approved of the plot.
It is unclear if Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was aware of the plot. His spokesman laughed off the accusation.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr told CNN: ‘I think the U.S. government is busy fabricating a new scenario and history has shown both the U.S. government and the CIA have a lot of experience in fabricating these scenarios and this is just the latest one.
‘I think their goal is to reach the American public. They want to take the public’s mind off the serious domestic problems they’re facing these days and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country.’
Javanfekr said if the Iranian government verifies that these individuals are indeed Iranian citizens, it will make every effort to help them.
IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, called the accusations ‘America’s new propaganda scenario’ against the Tehran government.
Alizreza Miryusefi, the press attaché at Iran’s mission to the United Nations, said the accusation was ‘totally baseless’.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the allegation is a ‘prefabricated scenario’.
‘These old-fashioned behaviours are based on the long-standing hostile American-Zionist policies and are ridiculous show in line with scenarios to provoke division,’ he told Iran’s Fars news agency.
Arbabsiar is further charged with an additional count of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
On Tuesday, at a largely procedural court appearance in Manhattan, he was told he would be held without bail.
The Treasury Department said it is imposing economic penalties against four people who are linked to the plot, including Arbabsiar and Shakuri.
Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen said the financial transactions at the heart of the alleged plot ‘lay bare the risk that banks and other institutions face in doing business with Iran’.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the plot.
Spokesman Ramin Mihman-parast said: ‘Such worn-out tricks which are upon old and hostile policies of the U.S. and the Zionist regime is a comic show in direction of making special scenarios with the aim of sowing discord.’
WHY WOULD IRAN TRY TO KILL THE SAUDI AMBASSADOR ON U.S. SOIL?
The alleged plot to murder the Saudi ambassador is most likely an attempt by Iran to spread instability in the Middle East and increase its own regional influence.
The Saudi regime is said to have been forming an anti-Iran ‘alliance of necessity’ with Israel this year – to counter the threat to their dominance in the region posed by the Arab Spring uprisings and Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
The two countries have for years been locked in a so-called cold war, with both trying to increase their political clout over neighbouring countries.
American ally Saudi Arabia’s interest lies in preserving the regional status quo and it has for years been using its vast wealth to shore up its friends in the region.
The Saudi royal family’s oil billions and the country’s lack of democracy mean it is most interested in keeping the peace in the region – lest any disruption encourage its citizens into an uprising similar to those seen in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
American enemy Iran, which is also far from democratic, thrives on instability and has much to gain from creating power vacuums that it can use to promote its ideology by giving financial and military support to groups which share its political and religious beliefs.
One of the most recent examples was the backing of Shi’ite militias in Western Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Radical President Mahmoud Ahmidinejad’s regime also has complex ties to Hamas in the Palestinian West Bank of Israel.
The two countries are also divided by religion, with Iran the historic home of Shi’ite muslims in the region while Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and is overwhelmingly Sunni.
But the two countries are predominantly locked in a battle for power and influence, with Saudi Arabian fears over a Iran’s nuclear programme featuring particularly highly, rather than a struggle over religious ideology.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
786314 1812399 62
his path of destiny = 62 = Capture. Handcuff. Arrest. Detail. Jail. Imprison.
find out your own numerology at: