U.S. Implicates Iran in Saudi Ambassador Assasination Plot

Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, wanted to hire a Mexican cartel to carry out the hit

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Update (2:27 p.m. EDT): The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement saying it was charging two men in the alleged plot to assassinate Al-Jubeir. One is Arbabsiar and the other is Gholam Shakuri, who the U.S. Attorney's Office describes as "an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force, which is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is said to sponsor and promote terrorist activities abroad." The charges, filed in the Southern District of New York, explicitly make the link between the Iranian government and the assassination attempt.

Original: A man who said he was working for Iran allegedly tried to hire a Mexican cartel to attack Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington, D.C., ABC News reported on Tuesday. The story comes via unnamed federal counter-terrorism officials who told reporter Brian Ross that 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American man from Corpus Christi, Texas, contacted a DEA informant who he thought was a member of the Zetas drug cartel. Arbabsier allegedly offered the informant $1.5 million to assassinate Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir with a bomb, and then bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case. Counter-terrorism officials said they believe the cousin may be part of the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force.

According to ABC, Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 in August, and offered to sweeten the deal as he "reportedly told the undercover DEA informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide 'tons of opium' for the Mexican cartels."

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