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By Kris Alingod
Iran has dismissed allegations from American officials that it plotted to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. Two Iranians were charged on Tuesday with murder and planning an act of terrorism, rankling already contentious relations between the Islamic nation and the U.S.
Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told state-run Press TV the claims were "ludicrous" and based on "age-old and hostile" policies of the United States against Tehran.
According to the Tehran Times, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, denounced the allegations as "warmongering" and a "threat... to the peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region."
The chair of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in Iran's parliament, Alaoddin Boroujerdi, also told FNA on Wednesday that the allegations were made "to divert the public opinion from the crisis Obama is grappling with."
President Barack Obama is facing mounting dissatisfaction about his nation's continuing unemployment, weak economy and heightened pre-election year political bickering about whether the wealthiest should pay higher taxes. On Tuesday, protesters remained in Wall Street and a jobs bill his administration had campaigned for failed in the U.S. Senate, facing unanimous opposition from Republicans.
The White House said in a statement in response to the alleged assassination plot that Obama had called Saudi Arabia's envoy to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, to "express solidarity" and make clear that the attempted attack was "a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law."
The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday charged two men in New York for planning to bomb a restaurant in Washington, DC, that Al-Jubeir frequented.
Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen with dual American and Iranian passports, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based officer of the Quds Force, allegedly hired a man they thought was a member of a Mexican drug cartel to kill the ambassador. They also wanted the cartel member to perform "a number of violent missions," including bombing an embassy of Saudi Arabia, which is a key U.S. ally.
According to prosecutors, Arbabsiar began meeting with an informant of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration posing as a cartel member in Mexico in May. He later wired $100,000 to an undercover FBI account as down payment for the murder of the ambassador.
Arbabsiar allegedly agreed to an assassination costing $1.5 million and carried out by four other associates of the undercover agent. In addition, he approved of a plot involving explosives and the killing of a number of bystanders. Shakuri and other suspected co-conspirators in Iran likewise approved of the plan.
Arbabsiar and Shakuri have been 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. Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29 after he was refused entry into Mexico, while Shakuri remains at large.
Prosecutors say Arbabsiar confessed to participating in the plot after his arrest. He said a cousin, who is a senior member of the Qods Force, had approached him in early spring about hiring a drug trafficker to kidnap the ambassador. In addition, his cousin and other men he believed to be senior officials of the Qods Force funded and directed him during his meetings with the undercover agent.
The Qods Force is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite force created after the 1979 Iranian revolution. According to the U.S. State and Treasury departments, Iran's Revolutionary Guards train, fund and provide weapons to terror groups and Iraq-based militants.
Washington does not maintain diplomatic ties with Iran and relies on Swiss diplomats to represent American interests in the Islamic republic. It classifies Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and believes the nation provides assistance to Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and members of the Taliban. It has successfully sought UN sanctions against Iran for nuclear proliferation activities.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference announcing the charges that apart from prosecuting Arbabsiar and Shakuri, "the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions."
The same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the charges a "terrific achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence communities."
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Clinton said the United States would consult allies about how to send a "very strong message" to Iran and how to "further isolate" the Islamic republic from the international community.
Iran-linked bombing attempt disrupted in Washington, DC
The FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration have disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to Iran, federal officials confirmed on Tuesday.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said the plot read like a Hollywood movie thriller.
The plot included the planned assassination of Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, with a bomb. Sequential bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, DC, were to follow, the Justice Department reported. Bombing attempts of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aries were also discussed.
The alleged terror plotter, Iranian-American Mansor Arbabsiar, 56, claimed he was "directed by high ranking" Iranian officials, federal officials said during a briefing on the case.
Dubbed "Operation Red Coalition," the investigation began in May when Arbabsiar, from Corpus Christi, TX, allegedly approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, counter-terrorism officials said.
Arbabsiar thought he was dealing with a member of the dreaded Zetas Mexican drug organizations. The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as implications of international terror plot became apparent.
A $100,000 down payment on the bombing was made.
Arbabsiar was arrested Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Justice Department officials said. He is due to make his first court appearance in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday.
Officials report that Arbabsiar is cooperating with officials.
A second man the FBI said was involved in the plot, Gholam Shakuri, is an member of the Qods force, a special operation unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
He is still at large.
World - Iran Denies Alleged Plot to Kill Saudi Envoy | Global Viewpoint