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Obama: Iranian Plot a Flagrant Violation of International Law

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. | Staff Writer | 12 October 2011
President Obama ( AP Images)

President Obama called an Iranian assassination plot a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.

Washington — President Obama says an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir and kill Americans in the United States is “a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.”

Obama telephoned al-Jubeir October 11, shortly after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced news of the plot and that two men would be charged for their alleged role in it, the White House said.

“President Obama underscored that the United States believes this plot to be a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law, and reiterated our commitment to meet our responsibilities to ensure the security of diplomats serving in our country,” the White House said in a statement. “He also underscored the close partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

The president also met with his national security team at the White House to thank members for disrupting the plot and for the close coordination between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the White House said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States will be consulting with its allies around the world on how best to send “a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended.” Clinton called the plot a dangerous escalation of the Iranian government’s long-standing use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism.

“This is not just, however, about Iran and the United States or even just about Saudi Arabia,” Clinton said in a speech October 12 in Washington. “Targeting an ambassador violates the [1973] Convention on the Protection and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, which of course includes diplomats. Iran is a signatory to this convention.”

Clinton said Iran is also in agreement with U.N. Security Council resolutions that implemented that convention, adding that “this kind of reckless act undermines international norms and the international system.”

She said Iran must be held accountable for its actions, and the United States has increased sanctions on individuals within the Iranian government who are associated with the alleged plot and Iran’s support for terrorism.

“We will work closely with our international partners to increase Iran’s isolation and the pressure on its government,” Clinton said. “And we call upon other nations to join us in condemning this threat to international peace and security.”

Holder told reporters October 11 that agents of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration disrupted a plot involving a naturalized U.S. citizen — Manssor Arbabsiar — and members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to set up a murder-for-hire scheme to target Saudi Ambassador al-Jubeir.

“According to the complaint filed today in the Southern District of New York, Arbabsiar is alleged to have orchestrated a $1.5 million assassination plot with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Qods Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators,” Holder said. The Qods Force is a unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Qods Force is also suspected of sponsoring attacks against coalition forces in Iraq, and was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2007 for providing material support to the Taliban in Afghanistan and other terrorist organizations, Holder said.

Arbabsiar and Shakuri are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism, among other charges. Holder said Arbabsiar has been in federal custody since September 29, while Shakuri — who is based in Iran — remains at large.

According to the federal complaint, Arbabsiar met in May with a confidential informant of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Mexico to set up the alleged assassination plot. A series of meetings followed to set up a plan in which elements of the Iranian government would pay the DEA informant $1.5 million to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington, preferably at a local restaurant where Americans would likely be killed.

“The complaint also states that in the days since [Arbabsiar’s] arrest, he has confessed to his participation in the alleged plot as well as provided other valuable information about elements of the Iranian government’s role in it,” Holder said. Holder told reporters this investigation and arrest were carried out with close cooperation from the Mexican government.

Vice President Biden said in an interview October 12 on ABC Television’s Good Morning America that the United States will make certain “the entire world and all the capitals of the world understand exactly what the Iranians had in mind. It’s an outrage that violates one of the fundamental premises upon which nations deal with one another, and that is the sanctity and safety of their diplomats.”

“They have to be held accountable, and we’re in the process of uniting world public opinion toward continuing to isolate and condemn their behavior,” Biden said.


The U.S. Treasury Department announced October 11 that sanctions would be imposed against five individuals, including four senior Qods Force officers connected to the alleged plot. The sanctions would also be imposed on the individual responsible for arranging the assassination plot, Treasury said.

Treasury designated Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports; Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani; Hamed Abdollahi, a senior Qods Force official who helped to coordinate aspects of the alleged plot and oversaw other Qods Force officials directly responsible for coordination and planning of the operation; Abdul Reza Shahlai, a Qods Force official who coordinated the operation; and Ali Gholam Shakuri, a Qods Force official and deputy to Shahlai, who allegedly met with Arbabsiar on several occasions to discuss the assassination plot and other planned attacks.

The Treasury Department also designated the Iranian commercial airline Mahan Air for providing transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services to the Qods Force.

Mahan Air’s close coordination with the Qods Force — secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights — reveals another facet of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism, says Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

“Iran once again has used the Qods Force and the international financial system to pursue an act of international terrorism, this time aimed against a Saudi diplomat,” Cohen said. “The financial transactions at the heart of this plot lay bare the risk that banks and other institutions face in doing business with Iran.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)