Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference this afternoon – oddly enough, on the same day he might be receiving subpoenas from Fast and Furious investigators – to announce a major counter-terrorism bust.
CBS News reports on Holder’s announcement:
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday a foiled plot by “factions of the Iranian government” to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
“The United States is committed to hold Iran accountable for its actions,” Holder told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir has served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States since 2007, according to the embassy’s website.
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.
[…] The case, called Operation Red Coalition, started in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant wanting a Mexican drug cartel to help with the assassination, a federal law enforcement source told CBS News.
(Emphases mine.) CNN has more details about the suspects:
The criminal complaint filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York names Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force, which is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad, according to the Justice Department.
Arbabsiar was arrested on Septemnber 29, 2011, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He will make his initial appearance on Tuesday before in federal court in Manhattan, the Justice Department said. He allegedly confessed to his participation in the murder plot, according to the Justice Department.
Shakuri remains at large.
The men are charged with the following crimes: conspiracy to murder a foreign official; conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives); and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries. 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.
Holder said these two were involved in “a deadly plot directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador on U.S. soil with explosives.” They were apparently thinking about blowing up a restaurant where the ambassador liked to eat.
ABC News reports that the terrorists were also thinking of taking out the Israeli embassy in Washington, along with the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies in Argentina.
According to a detailed review of the case at Business Insider, the captured conspirator Arbabsiar says “men he understood to be senior officials in Iran’s Qods Force” were “aware of, and approved of” the use of indiscriminate bombs to kill the targeted Saudi ambassador, and didn’t care about collateral damage. Arbabsiar told a confidential DEA informant that his Iranian paymasters “want that guy done, if a hundred go with him, f**k ‘em.”
Arbabsiar was planning to hire muscle from a Mexican drug cartel (not Sinaloa, the one that bought all the Fast and Furious guns, but their enemies the Zetas.) He was on his way to Mexico to finalize the deal when the Mexican government refused him entry, and the U.S. government arrested him upon his return to JFK International Airport.
He is said to have confessed everything within hours of his arrest. While in custody, he made monitored phone calls to his Qods Force contact Shakuri in Iran, who encouraged him to hurry up and get busy with the murdering. The price tag for the operation was $1.5 million.
What happens next? CNN offers a preview:
Attorney General Eric Holder, when asked how Iran would be held “accountable” in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, said he expected action from the White House, the State Department and Treasury within the next few hours.
A US official expanded more about how the U.S. might hold Iran accountable. The official told CNN’s Elise Labott that there are likely to be more sanctions and the U.S. will be taking this up with to the United Nations Security Council and other members of the international community.
Sanctions? A complaint to the U.N. Security Council? In response to a direct act of war from the government of Iran?