U.S. authorities broke up an alleged plot to bomb the Israeli and Saudi Arabian embassies in Washington and assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, court documents and a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The alleged plotters were identified as Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri — both originally from Iran — in the criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in New York City.
Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested in late September. Shakuri is still at large.
The plot was disrupted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration.
U.S. officials said one overarching question is whether elements of the Iranian government were behind the plot. Court documents identified Shakuri as a member of the Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Shakuri approved the plan to try to kill the Saudi ambassador during telephone conversations with Arbabsiar, the complaint said.
In July and August, Arbabsiar paid $100,000 (64,086 pounds) to a DEA informant for the murder of Saudi ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, court documents said.
Arbabsiar was arrested late last month at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. After his arrest, court papers said, Arbabsiar confessed to authorities.
The men are charged with one count of conspiracy to murder a foreign official, two counts of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire and one count each of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.”
Reuters via the New York Times, “Iranians Charged In U.S. Over Assassination Plot.”
Saudi Arabia’s military rolled into Bahrain on Monday, threatening to escalate a local political conflict into a regional showdown with Iran.
Saudi Arabia has been watching uneasily as Bahrain’s Shiite majority has staged weeks of protests against a Sunni monarchy, fearing that if the protesters prevailed, Iran, Saudi Arabia’s bitter regional rival, could expand its influence and inspire unrest elsewhere.
The Saudi decision to send in troops could further inflame the conflict and transform this teardrop of a nation in the Persian Gulf into the Middle East’s next proxy battlefield between regional and global powers.
By midday, about 2000 troops — 1,200 from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates — entered Bahrain as part of a force operating under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation regional coalition of Sunni rulers that has grown increasingly anxious over the sustained challenge to Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. “This is the initial phase,” a Saudi official said. “Bahrain will get whatever assistance it needs. It’s open-ended.”
The decision is the first time the council has used collective military action to help suppress a popular revolt — in this case a Shiite popular revolt. It was rejected by the opposition, and by Iran, as an “occupation.” According to Iranian news reports, Iran even went so far as to call the troop movement an invasion. Iran has long claimed that Bahrain is historically part of Iran.
The troops entered Bahrain at an especially combustible moment in the standoff between protesters and the monarchy. In recent days protesters have begun to move from the encampment in Pearl Square, the symbolic center of the nation, to the actual seat of power and influence, the Royal Court and the financial district. As the troops moved in, protesters controlled the main highway and said they were determined not to leave.”
– "Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Put Down Revolt," from the New York Times
Troops crossed from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain on Monday to help quell unrest there, a move Bahraini opposition groups denounced as an “occupation,” while pro-government legislators called for the imposition of martial law.
An unnamed Saudi official told Agence-France Presse that military vehicles carrying more than 1,000 Saudi troops had crossed the bridge linking Saudi Arabia to the tiny island kingdom. His account was corroborated by witnesses in Bahrain, who said they saw more than 100 trucks crossing the bridge, but there was still no official confirmation from the Bahraini government.
The Associated Press reported that a Saudi security official said the troops came from a special unit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and that they were there to protect critical buildings and installation like oil facilities.
“We’re awaiting confirmation but do not have it,” a spokeswoman for the Bahraini government said by telephone.
Mohammad al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said several of his fellow activists had seen the troops arriving.
The opposition statement said it considered the arrival of any soldier or military vehicle “an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain.”
Updates on the violence in Saudi Arabia.
Updates at Reuters, AFP and Bloomberg.
The U.S. (sort of) weighs in.
Saudi Arabia’s ‘Day of Rage’ is scheduled for Friday, March 11. More information on Friday’s planned protests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Guardian and CNN.
You can check out the ‘Saudi Revolution’ Facebook page here.