The Department of Justice has announced the thwarting of a planned assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and of subsequent bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. The attacks were part of a Iranian Quds Force plot wherein the Iranians intended to obtain the services of a Mexican drug cartel hit team.
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 Quds Force special operations unit, have been charged in the plot. Arbabsiar was arrested on Sept. 29, 2011, at New York’s JFK International Airport. Shakuri evaded capture and is on the run:
Both defendants are charged with 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.
A restaurant in Washington, D.C., favored by Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir was targeted for bombing, and the plotters were agreeable to killing U.S. citizens that frequented the establishment — including U.S senators also known to eat there.
Interestingly enough, the plotters were thwarted by a confidential source of the Drug Enforcement Agency who met with Arbabsiar in Mexico. The DOJ document states that the confidential source ” … posed as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel.”
Defense officials have confirmed that no military reaction is in the works, while the State and Treasury Departments seem to indicate that the only immediate reaction against this act of war will be economic sanctions.
Reacting at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey notes that the Obama administration seems to be reacting to this terrorist plot by treating it as a law enforcement matter, which sets a disastrous precedent:
If we’re charging an official of the Iranian government with complicity or worse in this plot, then it ceases to be a law enforcement issue and becomes a military and political issue instead. This isn’t a case of espionage but of sabotage or worse, which would be an act of war by anyone’s definition. If we’re not willing to respond in kind, we then send a signal to hostile nation-states around the world that attacks on the U.S. are low-risk, high-reward affairs — and we’d better get ready for an avalanche of them.