The United States claims to have uncovered a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The U.S. filed a criminal complaint against Manssor Arbabsiar alleging that Mr. Arbabsiar solicited a Drug Enforcement Agency informant, thought to be a Mexican drug cartel member, to bomb a D.C. restaurant while the ambassador was present. The complaint further alleges that Mr. Arbabsiar, a U.S. naturalized citizen, conspired with a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to pay the hit men from the Mexican drug cartel $100,000 as a down payment, followed by $1.5 million more if the attack was successful.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced Monday, October 17th, that Iran would be willing to consider the evidence alleging Iranian involvement in the plot. The announced willingness of Iran to consider the issue contrasts the response by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei called the allegations “meaningless and absurd” and contends that the allegations are part of scheme by the United States to isolate Iran.
Khamenei is not the only critic of the allegations alleging Iranian involvement. Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and author, told CNN that the plot “just does not fit the Quds Force’s [modus operandi].” If Iran was targeting Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of other places to have carried out an attack, not on U.S. soil. An attack of a Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil would clearly be construed as an attack on the United States and contrary to “Iran’s interest in any legitimate way.”
The allegations are supported by four pieces of evidence: taped conversations between the informant and Mr. Arbabsair, taped conversations between Mr. Ababsair and his alleged co-conspirator in the Quds Froces, details about the $100,000 down payment transfer, and a confession by Mr. Arbabsair made after his arrest on September 29th. Critics remain skeptical as to the motivation behind Mr. Ababsair’s confession and the strength of the connection between Mr. Ababsair and the Quds Forces. The original complaint against Mr. Arbabsair, which remains sealed, might explain part of the motivation behind Mr. Arbabsair’s confession.
As of now, Mr. Ababsair is in U.S. custody, while his co-conspirator is at-large and believed to be in Iran. The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced Monday, October 17th, that the issue has been referred to the U.N. Security Council. President Obama has promised to push for the “toughest possible sanctions” against Iran.