US on global alert for Iranian reprisal that may jeopardize Shalit release
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 12, 2011, 10:52 AM (GMT+02:00)
Washington Wednesday, Oct. 12, published a worldwide travel advisory warning US citizens to beware of Iranian-instigated terrorist attacks following the uncovering of an Iran-directed plot to assassinate Saudi Arabian ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir and bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies.
The US holds Iran accountable for its actions, said Attorney General Eric Holder, following which Tehran turned to the UN Secretary General to accuse the US of warmongering.
US officials are deeply concerned that Tehran may not take lying down Washington's charge that the Revolutionary Guards' Al Qods Brigades were complicit in the assassination plot or the success of a prisoner exchange deal releasing the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity.
After being caught out, Iran is behaving as though it is under threat of war, its fury fueled by the US-Egyptian-Israeli-Hamas prisoner deal which threatens to cut the Islamic Republic out of Palestinian affairs and curtail its influence in the Gaza Strip, an important outpost.
The Washington advisory issued Wednesday said: "The US government assesses that this Iranian-backed plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador may indicate a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against diplomats from certain countries, to include possible attacks in the United States."
With a valuable Middle East holding about to be lost, Iran is capable of unleashing terrorists for acts that would force the hands of the United States and Israel. By drawing Hamas into such operations, Tehran would seek to torpedo the Shalit deal a moment before its consummation.
Sources in Washington therefore criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for jumping the gun by his announcing the deal Tuesday for domestic political kudos. "Prisoner swaps are counted successful only after or during the fact," said one official.
Other Western intelligence sources commented that by letting the cat out of the bag a week in advance, Israel gave Iran and Hizballah time to sabotage it. Both maintain a strong presence of undercover agents in the Gaza Strip who are fully capable of blowing away the deal Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal struck with Israel in the framework of an accord with the United States for packing up his Hamas bureau and command centers and moving them out of Damascus.
As Israelis joyously celebrated news of the forthcoming release of their soldier from five years in Hamas captivity, US officials in Washington released details of the plot instigated by Iran to murder Saudi ambassador Al-Jubeir, one of King Abdullah's closest advisers.
US Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller named Iranian-American Mansour Arbabsiar, 56,and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in the federal court in New York. It included counts of conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb.
Shakuri is still at large in Iran. Holder identified him as an Iran-based member of the Al Qods force.
The complaint described a conversation in which Arbabsiar was allegedly directing the informant to kill the Saudi ambassador and said the assassination could take place at a restaurant. When the informant feigned concern about Americans who also eat at the restaurant, Arbabsiar said he preferred if bystanders weren't killed but, "Sometimes, you know, you have no choice, is that right?"
The Attorney General said that the plan was "conceived, sponsored and was directed from Iran" by a faction of the government and called it a "flagrant" violation of U.S. and international law. "The US is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions," Holder said.
US officials disclosed that Arbabsiar met twice in July with a DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two amounts of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.
Those officials stressed that had the plotters succeeded in assassinating a foreign diplomat on US soil, it would have been deemed an act of war. Its actual planning too was an act of Iranian aggression against the United States.