-- WASHINGTON —Two men, including a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran, were charged Tuesday in a chilling plot "conceived, supported and directed'' by the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States while he worked in U.S., Attorney General Eric Holder said.
The $1.5 million plot, foiled by U.S. drug agents in Mexico posing as willing co-conspirators recruited from the ranks of a drug trafficking ring, allegedly involved the bombing of a restaurant frequented by Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir.
Holder said Al-Jubeir was never in any danger because the plot was being monitored by the U.S. undercover agents from the time it was first outlined during a May meeting in Mexico.
Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, described in court documents as a U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of the country's Qods Force, a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Both men were charged with conspiracies to murder a foreign official; use a weapon of mass destruction; commit an act of international terrorism and travel internationally as part of a murder-for-hire plot.
Holder said Arbabsiar was arrested last month at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after he was refused entry into Mexico where he was scheduled to finalize the assault plan with the U.S. undercover agents.
Arbabsiar has allegedly confessed to U.S. investigators, saying that he was "recruited, funded and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran's Qods force, according to court documents.
"These Iranian officials were aware of and approved of the use of (the recruits who they did not know to be U.S. undercover agents) in connection with the plot, payments to the co-conspirators; the means by which the ambassador would be killed and the (other) casualties that would likely result.''
During one planning meeting in July, according to court documents, an undercover agent raised the possibility that innocent bystanders could be killed in such an attack.
Arbabsiar allegedly responded, saying that the assassination needed to move forward, regardless of other casualties. "They want that guy (ambassador) done. If the hundred go with him, f---'em…No big deal.''
The attorney general said "appropriate action'' would be taken against the Iranian government for its alleged role in the planned assassination. He did not elaborate on the specific action.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Obama was first briefed on the matter in June and directed the administration to "provide all necessary support'' to the investigation.
"The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies,'' Vietor said.