The US says it has broken up a major terror plot in which agents linked to Iran sought to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
Two men originally from Iran – one a naturalized US citizen – have been charged with counts of conspiracy, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
The plot was “conceived” in Iran by the Quds force, part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, he added.
The state department has listed Iran as a “state sponsor” of terror since 1984.
Laura Rozen is Senior Foreign Policy reporter at Yahoo News.
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Marco Werman: I am Marco Werman. This is The World. The United States is accusing Iran of plotting to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil. Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement this afternoon in Washington. Holder said 2 suspects linked to Iran have been detained. They were allegedly plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington. The plan supposedly also included bombing the Israeli and Saudi Arabian Embassies in Washington. Holder left no doubt as to whom US officials believe was behind the plot.
Eric Holder: As we have alleged in the complaints, say that this was directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and specifically senior members of the Quds force which is a part of the Iranian-Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Irani military. High-up officials in those agencies, that which is the integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot.
Werman: Laura Rozen is Senior Foreign Policy reporter at Yahoo News. Laura, you have been following this story, more precisely, what does the indictment allege?
Laura Rozen: It’s quite stunning. It said there is an Iranian-American man named Arbabsiar who approached someone who turned out to be a confidential drug enforcement agent in May, in Texas. He was trying to recruit, essentially, a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States and also carry out a possible bombing of the Embassy and a restaurant that the Ambassador is thought to frequent in the city.
Werman: Very complex plot indeed. What is the evidence that supports the indictment?
Rozen: Well, the most stunning part is actually when they arrest… The man went several times to Mexico to meet with the confidential informant who he thought was going to be the hit-man. He transferred money to him – $100,000 as a down payment on what would be a $1.5 million hit. On his third trip to Mexico to pay this person, he was turned back by the Mexicans, arrested in New York and he apparently told FBI agents that his plan was hatched by the Iranian Quds force associates in Iran. They were the ones who arranged the payments. He made calls to his Iranian contacts that the FBI tracked where they said that the plot should continue. So, in early October after he was arrested, before Iranians were aware that he was in custody, the United States are saying they have evidence that Iranian officials and Quds force members were backing this plot.
Werman: How has the Iranian government responded to this?
Rozen: They have denied it. I haven’t seen much of their reaction except to see their denial. This all comes in the context, as you know, of growing sectarian strains. In the Middle East we are seeing violence between Christians and Muslims. In Egypt you have seen a lot of Saudi versus Iran competition throughout the Arab Spring in places like Syria and Bahrain. And also deep Saudi anxiety, some of it revealed in US cables leaked by Wikileaks; Saudi anxiety about the Iranian nuclear program and growing regional power.
Werman: Laura, if true, what would be the Iranian interest in supporting a plot against Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States? We don’t have a lot of time left.
Rozen: I don’t know why the Iranian government would want to be connected with such a provocative terrorist plot. I guess there are allegations that they are backing proxy groups in countries throughout the Middle East to antagonize the others such as in Lebanon.
Werman: Laura Rozen, Senior Foreign Policy reporter at Yahoo News.
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