tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN October 11, 2011 1:00pm-3:00pm PDT
here in the region, we've seen a deterioration in the relationship between the u.s. and saudi arabia, a chilling effect going on, because the saudis saw the u.s. as supporting the revolutionary movement in egypt and they don't like revolutionary movements going on in this region. >> we will wait and see. thank you very much. thank you very much. we will continue -- wolf blitzer will continue this coverage, very serious story with clearly international implications, "the situation room with wolf blitzer" starts right now. >> brooke, thanks very much. happening now, breaking news. an alleged iranian plot to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states. two men now charged. one is due in court this hour. we're also following reaction this hour from tehran to riyadh to the white house and beyond. our correspondents around the world are standing by. and the united states is vowing to hold inner accountable, but how? we're working all angles of this major breaking news story right now.
i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room." we're also awaiting a statement by the secretary of state hillary clinton. she's about to make a statement on all of the breaking news. an alleged terror plot to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states. the justice department says iranian agents were seeking help from a purported mexican drug cartel to carry out the killing and the fbi and the dea busted the plot wide open. the attorney general of the united states, eric holder, gave details just a little while ago. >> today the department of justice is announcing charges against two people who allegedly attempted to carry out a deadly plot that was directed by factions of the iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador here in the united states. mansor arbabsiar, a naturalized
citizen who holds an iranian passport and was arrested last month in new york is accused of working with members of an arm of the iranian revolutionary guard corps to devise an international murder-for-hire scheme targeting the saudi arabian ambassador to the united states. according to the complaint filed today in the southern district of new york, he is alleged to have orchestrated a $1.5 million assassination plot with gholam shakuri and other iranian co-conspirators. now, the quds force is a unit of the iranian revolution yaer corps. it is also suspected of sponsoring attacks against the coalition forces in iraq and was designated by the department of treasury in 2007 for providing material support to the taliban and other terrorist organizations. the complaint alleges that this conspiracy was conceived, was sponsored and was directed from iran and constitutes a flagrant
violation of u.s. and international law, including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed. in addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the united states is committed to holding iran accountable for its actions. the two are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism among other charges. arbabsiar has been in custody since september the 29th, 2011, while shakuri remains at large. according to the complaint earlier this spring, arbabsiar met with an informant who was posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel. the meeting, which took place in may and in mexico, was the first of a series that would result in
an international conspiracy by elements of the iranian government to pay the informant $1.5 million to murder the ambassador on united states soil. according to documents that we filed today in court. according to the complaint, those discussions led arbabsiar to facilitate the wiring of $100,000 into a bank account in the united states as a down payment for the attempted assassination. the complaint also states that in the days since the defendant's arrest, he has confessed to his participation in the alleged plot as well as provided other valuable information about elements of the iranian government's role in it. the disruption of this alleged plot marks a significant achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as the close cooperation of our partners in the mexican government. >> attorney general of the united states eric holder.
let's go straight to the state department. our foreign affairs correspondent, jill dougherty, begins our coverage this hour. the breaking news we're watching unfolding, jill, beyond the plot that's alleged in this lengthy statement that the justice department read, we're also getting and i want you to clarify other information quoting senior officials suggesting that there was another plot, not included in this set of arraignment, if you will, set of documents targeting not only the saudi ambassador but the israeli ambassador and israeli embassy here in washington as well. that is true? >> right, wolf. how far along they were in that plot is unclear but they were discussing or considering attacking or hitting the saudi ambassador, the saudi embassy here and then also perhaps -- and the israeli embassy or ambassador and also not only here in washington, but in buenos aires, argentina. now, again, this is not
specific. it is not apparently in that legal complaint but it was allegedly something that he were discussing. >> and we're also hearing that the secretary of state, hillary clinton, is about to make a statement on this very subject. i know the u.s. is getting involved in dealing with other countries to try to put more pressure on iran, but what do we know about what the secretary is about to say? we're looking at live pictures coming from one of the diplomatic rooms over at the state department. >> well, if i were to make an educated guess, i would say she would want to send a message to other countries, that, number one, this is what happened, that it is outrageous in the view of the united states and that the other countries have to join together with the united states to take action against iran. now, what kind of action? we know that the treasury department is going to be targeting for more sanctions. five individuals who are allegedly tied to this plot. we know, wolf, that there are a lot of sanctions against iran right now, including against individuals, but what they're
going to try to do is put the squeeze on individuals who could be connected to the quds force and that is the group, you know very well, that is tied very tightly -- it's military but also paramilitary, it's also tied to the entire economy of iran. so what they want to do is really hurt them, and they really want to get back because this, they say, is extremely serious. >> and i just want to clarify, jill, the reports we're getting is that the saudi embassy would also be targeted and the israeli embassy would be targeted. there was some discussion of that. not necessarily the israeli ambassador to the united states himself, is that right? >> wolf, i'm a little unclear. i would say that they were thinking about or considering some type of action against either the embassy or the ambassador himself. now, in this case here in washington, we do know that the allegation is that there was a direct and amazing plot. in fact remember robert mueller just a short time ago described
it as almost a hollywood script in terms of how it was supposed to unfold. >> and if you read this document that the justice department released, it says the ambassador was going to be targeted at a popular restaurant here in washington that he liked to attend and it didn't make any difference if a lot of innocent people who were at that restaurant would be killed at the same time. that's the allegation included in the document. >> absolutely. and that they were going to do this by contacting, and they allegedly did, contact a person who was supposed to be, they understood, part or connected to a mexican drug cartel. but in reality was a dea, drug enforcement administration, source, an informant. so that is how it was revealed. that dea then told the fbi and then they went in and stopped the plot. so as we know they have arrested one person, arbabsiar, who was the person who was in the united
states. he's a naturalized citizen, holds two passports, iranian and american, he is arrested. but the other person implicated, shakuri is actually in iran and has not been caught. >> he remains at large, as they say. all right, jill, stand by. mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, i believe he's been fully briefed on this development. chairman, thanks very much for coming in. >> thanks, wolf. thanks for having me. >> give us your sense. is this a big deal, a modest deal, a little deal, what's going on here? >> well, this is a huge deal. this was briefed to me as chairman and the ranking member back in the middle of the summer as it started to unfold. i agree with the director of the fbi, it seemed a little bit hollywood. it just almost seemed i didn't mean plausible that iran would take this very serious next step and contact somebody they believe had access to the united states, transfer money for the operation to begin to kill the saudi ambassador on u.s. soil
here in washington, d.c., and with the discussion of collateral damage not being an issue. meaning civilians could be killed. and you think about -- we have been talking over the last few months about iran being the most aggressive state sponsor of terror in the world, and now stepping it up. i mean they have got more blood on their hands than most of the terror organizations on the state department's terror list, and that's what makes this so serious and it means that we're going to have to take steps to let iran know that we will not tolerate this behavior. >> what does that mean, take steps? the u.s. already has enormous sanctions imposed on iran. what else short of military action is the obama administration supposed to do? >> well, the first interim, i believe, is that we've got to get the iaea, you know, they're certainly cheating on their nuclear weapons program. they have said it themselves, they have given the stiff arm and they think world position with them. i think this clearly shows that
they're going to lose that, so we need a more aggressive iaea to put pressure on the developing of their nuclear weapon program. we need the europeans to really step up to the plate, and this is their opportunity. they can no longer stand aside and watch iran take this kind of action, and they know of their past bad behavior. this is a significant line that they have crossed. so i think this is an opportunity for the administration to get the europeans on board and send a very clear message to the chinese and the russians, listen, this isn't about your own regional self-interest, this is about a nation state who has gone and crossed the line, boundary, when they're talking about committing acts of terror, supporting acts of terror in another country like the united states. >> eric holder, the attorney general, robert mueller, the fbi director, they were both very precise in saying elements of the iranian government were involved in going through and plotting this alleged assassination attempt against the saudi ambassador.
what does that mean, elements? do you believe, for example, that the highest elements, including the president of iran, mahmoud ahmadinejad, personally authorized the assassination of the saudi ambassador? >> i can't say right now because of the nature of the information and how it was obtained, but i will tell you this. i have a very high degree of confidence that this an iranian government-sanctioned event. >> so mahmoud ahmadinejad knew about it is what you're saying? >> you can imagine something this significant, committing an act of terror on foreign soil, i can say it was an iranian government-sanctioned event. we need to be careful as this unfolds. but, again, as a former fbi agent myself, it's a little shocking to see at the level of the transaction the amount of the money, the quickness of the decisions that were made in order for certain elements of this to fall into place tells us that it is clearly tied to the
highest levels of the iranian government. >> and what can you tell us about these other reports we're getting that the israeli embassy here in washington, maybe the saudi and israeli embassies in buenos aires in argentina were also on the iranian alleged hit list? what can you tell bus that? >> well, you can imagine if they're this aggressive. remember, they went to recruit somebody and but for the good fortune happened to be working for the drug enforcement administration at the time, they went to contact this person because of their connection to the drug cartel. so during the course of that development, and they believed -- and this is a very, very, very, very, very credible source. the iranians believed through their cutout that they had somebody who had great access, who had access to explosives and firearms and an organization that would allow him to pull it off. so you can imagine the kinds of discussions that may have happened during the course of those meetings that would lead certainly the attorney general and the fbi to publicly state hey, guess what, they had other
targets on their list. and we do know, again, that iran is one of the senior and most aggressive state sponsors of terror. they have killed u.s. soldiers, at least been responsible for putting weapons systems into the theater in iraq and we believe in afghanistan that's taken the lives of u.s. soldiers. this is really an intolerable place for them to be. an giving all of those discussions and seeing the operational affirmative action here, if you will, that got this thing going, i can tell you it raised lots of concerns about those targets they talk about, the israeli embassy and other targets outside the united states, to the point where these countries, these ambassadors were brought in and briefed about security precautions they may want to take. >> do you have a good understanding, obviously everybody knows about the enmitty between the israeli regime, but why target saudi arabia. iran is not an arab country but it's a muslim country.
the sod ees aaudis is a muslim . was this a long planned out thing or something that just occurred in the last few months. >> the saudis do not want the iranians to get nuclear weapons. they feel that is such a destabilizing event in the middle east that it will cause huge amounts of trouble, so they have been cooperating with the international community to that end, to try to stop iran from actually acquiring nuclear weapons, which is their expressed desire. they have also watched as iran has used syria as a proxy state, hezbollah, that doesn't always have the best intentions to sunni arabs in the middle east, and so you have all of these combinations kind of coming to a head. and because of some differences they have had along the way, and iran is being more emboldened. remember they feel they are successful in iraq by introducing weapon systems that have killed americans and in afghanistan. they feel they have been successful in giving the stiff
arm to the international community on their development of nuclear weapons. they feel like they are rising in a pretty chaotic middle east, let alone world, and so they become brazen in their attempt to say we are going to show the world that we can dominate world and influence world affairs not just in the middle east and beyond and all of that i think was coming into play here. i think they believed this was in their interests to have this assassination here in the united states. to them it was a two-fer. you get rid of the saudi ambassador and say, see, we'll strike you anywhere in the world and, b, it embarrasses the united states because it happened on u.s. soil. that was just an added benefit for them. so you can see the way they have been thinking about putting this together and how dangerous it really is. >> one final question, mr. chairman. the use of someone involved in the mexican drug cartel, was that supposed to be what they call a cutout to protect in case it came out the allegation could be the drug cartel was killing the saudi ambassador, not iran,
to have a little distance between iran and the assassination? is that your understanding? >> oh, absolutely. this is not something they would have necessarily ever publicly taken credit for, but the right people in their minds would have known about this particular operation. but it was a cutout on a cutout. that's what made this a very sophisticated, and why many argue, and i believe that it had such close ties to the hierarchy of the republican guard and up in their government because it was a very sophisticated event. this is not something that a small group of terrorists could have tried to put together that were rogue inside of iran. this was a very long -- it was deliberate, they were planning all of the contingencies and so they had a cutout on a cutout happening out of mexico city. you can think about how much planning went into this and they were going to use what they saw as a real weakness for the united states, the rise of these drug cartels as a cover, if you will, for their operation.
but for the fact that this person was a dea source could have gotten a lot farther before discovered. >> mr. chairman, as you point out and as the fbi director, robert mueller, points out, this could have been a movie thriller, if you will. it's got all that drama, all that intrigue, all that potential. we'll stay in close touch with you. mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence committee. thanks very much. >> i was just going to say this was a movie with a happy ending, though. >> i suspect the story is not over with yet. there's more going to come out so let's see what's going to happen in the days and weeks to come. thanks very much. i want to alert our viewers in the united states and around the world, we're awaiting the secretary of state, hillary clinton, she's about to make a statement on what is next as far as u.s. retaliation against iran for this alleged plot. also the suspect, mansesor arbabsiar is expected in court.
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news this hour. an alleged plot by iran, high elements in the iranian government, to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir. we're just getting a statement into the situation room from the saudi embassy here in washington. let me read it in full to our viewers in the united states and around the world. the royal embassy of saudi arabia would like to express its appreciation to the responsible agencies of the united states government for preventing a criminal act from taking place. the attempted plot is a despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity. there's a statement from the saudi embassy in washington. you're looking at pictures of adel al jubeir, the saudi ambassador to the united states, someone who's been deeply involved in u.s./saudi relations for many years. let's bring in reza sayah. he's watching all of this unfold. reza, you covered iran for many years.
give us your immediate thought when you heard the united states government make this very serious allegation that elements of the iranian regime, the quds force specifically, part of the iranian revolutionary guard corps, was directly plotting to kill adel al jubeir, the saudi ambassador. >> reporter: wolf, i was somewhat surprised because this doesn't fit the iranian regime's m.o. the u.s. is certainly in the past accused of iran being a state sponsor of terrorism, of supporting groups like hezbollah that washington views as a terrorist organization, but washington has never directly accused the iranian government of being involved in a plot like this to go after a foreign diplomat on u.s. soil. but i give you better than my thoughts, i'll give you the thoughts of the iranian president, mahmoud ahmadinejad's spokesperson. it's past midnight in iran but we've managed to speak to him a couple of times and he strongly and at times mockingly has
denied these allegations. here's what he said and this is a quote. this is a child's story. it's not the first time america has come up with a story like this. americans are facing domestic problems at home and this is an attempt by them to distract the public by trying to convince them that there is an outside threat. he went on to say from their perspective this is a fabrication and america has become an expert at making false allegations against other countries. so a strong denial biy the iranian regime. what is a very serious allegation but a surprising allegation in that it's unprecedented. washington has never accused iran of being involved in a plot like this. a lot of questions remain as to what this plot was. if and how these factions of the iranian government were involved but this is certainly an allegation that will make a lot of headlines as it has already. >> we've been doing some checking with the state department and the u.s. government on earlier allegations, reza, of supposed
iranian direct involvement in terrorist operation outside of iran beyond hezbollah or the palestinian organizations, hamas, for example, and they have got a whole list of what they accuse iran of being involved in going back to the '80s. the 1988 kidnapping and murder of colonel william higgins, a u.s. marine involved in the u.n. operation in lebanon, in 1992 and 1994 bombings of jewish cultural institutions in argentina, the 1996 truck bombing of the towers, u.s. military residents in saudi arabia, they have got a whole bunch including more recently in iraq, they say iran was directly involved in plotting to kill american troops in iraq. so they have got a whole list of why they say iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. go ahead. >> reporter: those accusations are well documented. but you notice that none of them are on u.s. soil.
this one is, and that's what makes this particular allegation different. and i think the very important question to ask is if indeed president mahmoud ahmadinejad, quds, the revolution guard got together and decided let's carry out a plot like this -- by being part of this plot and carrying out a plot like this. i think a lot of people are going to be of the view that they would have a lot to lose, more to lose than to gain, not the least of is the ire of the american government and the fact is if the iranian government wants to go after u.s. targets, they have plenty of opportunities in the middle east, in iraq, in afghanistan. and i think the big question is if indeed they did plot to attack the embassy of israel,
the saudi arabian ambassador, what did they have to gain. another thing to remember is these are two countries that have been going at it in an information war too. these are two governments with leaders who plenty of times have accused one another and those accusatio accusations, those allegations either didn't turn out to be true or didn't turn out to be as serious as first thought. i think it's very important to wait for the details to come out and certainly for the trial. >> good point indeed. it's one thing to go after targets outside of the united states, it's another thing to target the saudi ambassador allegedly right here in washington. reza sayah, sand tand by, we'll back to you. we're talking about the saudi ambassador to the united states, adele al gentleman bejg adel al jubeir. he's lived here for several years. he's very close to king abdullah, one of his key
advisers. adel al jubeir is 49 years old, a graduate of the university of north texas in 1982 with degrees in political science and economics. he then received a masters degree from georgetown university here in washington in 1984. he's been a frequent guest on cnn over the years. he's someone we know very, very well over the years. he's been directly involved in trying to promote closer u.s. saudi relations. i got to know him personally when he was the national security adviser to the then crown prince of saudi arabia, who is now king abdullah of saudi arabia. as i point out, very close to king abdullah. he's flying from washington to saudi arabia almost every other week to brief the king personally on the latest developments. let's continue our breaking news coverage right now with our national security contributor, fran townsend. she serves on the external advisory boards of both the cia and homeland security department
as well as the former fbi assistant director tom fuentes. i want to get to both of you in just a moment, but i'm just learning that jason carroll is outside the court house in new york where the suspect, manssor arbabsiar, is about to be arraigned in this courthouse. jason, what do we know? >> reporter: let me set the scene for you here, wolf. basically this was a procedural sort of event what we saw at the courthouse here today and we got our first look at manssor arbabsiar. he wore blue jeans, he wore a blue plaid shirt, he was basically looking somewhat relaxed as he entered the courtroom. he spoke briefly with his attorney before the proceeding got under way again. this was more procedure more than anything. he was not required to enter a plea during the proceeding and he did not. the judge did advise him of his
rights. for instance, telling him that his statements could be used against him. also his right to be represented by an attorney. the defense also saying that they had -- that they had reviewed the federal complaint, the criminal complaint which alleges, as you know, among a number of things conspiracy to commit murder against a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, also conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, also according to the complaint arbabsiar did confess to the allegations while being interviewed. again, wolf, just want to make clear this was not an arraignment, this was more procedural more than anything. another court date has been set for october 25th, i believe. yes, october 25th. again, arbabsiar did not make any sort of statements during this proceeding. at one point his attorney let the judge know that there are some -- there's some sort of medication that he'll be needing while he's being detained. that paperwork went through.
so this was procedural more than anything. i suspect on october 25th that is when we will be hearing more from arbabsiar. >> other than wearing a baseball cap, what did he look like? describe a little bit of what this suspect looked like. >> it was interesting. as you know, he's 56 years old. again, he was wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, brown shoes. seemed very casual, salt and pepper hair. he looked -- and this is just from a personal opinion. he looked just like any average man that you would see on the street, wolf. nothing that stood out about him. he just looked just like any average man that you would see on the street. salt and pepper hair, clean shaven. that's really pretty much the best way you can describe this man at this point. >> was this a court-appointed attorney he has or somebody hired? >> yes. this was a federal court-appointed attorney. obviously he's going to have an opportunity to meet with her, discuss more about what will be going on.
this is sabrina schroff. she will be representing him from this point on. once again according to the criminal complaint he has confessed to many of the allegations that are being set forth against him. so it will be interesting to see what sort of defense he'll be coming up with. >> and we're showing our viewers a picture of manssor arbabsiar, the suspect in this case, the man who allegedly plotted to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir. that's from the corpus christi, the sheriff's department in texas where he was living for these several years, a naturalized u.s. citizen as well as a dual iranian citizen. manssor arbabsiar, there he is the picture of the suspect. i don't know if you can see that suspect, jason, but he seems to have dark hair, no salt and pepper. maybe this is an older picture of manssor arbabsiar, but it's taken a few years ago.
>> let me just add something. i cannot see the picture there, but i can tell you he does have salt and pepper hair. i was sitting in the second bench, the second row there in the courtroom. i would say just about eight feet from him. he definitely has salt and pepper hair at this point. somewhat of a receding hairline. balding in the back, in the top and the back of his head. once again, i cannot seat picture that you're looking at but i did see the man in the courtroom today. >> maybe he colors his hair and didn't have it colored over the last few weeks and that's why he looks different today than he did in that picture that the corpus christi sheriff's department has released. jason, stand by. you'll give us more flavor of what happened inside that courthouse behind you. i want to bring in fran townsend. >> it's a huge deal. the iranians is clearly sanctioned at a very high level. it includes the head of quds
force, the individual they identify as the head of this particular operation. wolf, you don't get that without having had some electronic surveillance as well as the informants identified in the complaint. that's why i think, i suspect based on my own experience you have something like mike rogers saying he's very confident that this was sanctioned at the highest levels. that really does suggest a whole new low in the relationship between the iranians and the saudis. look, the saudis understood this because for the longest time they didn't post an ambassador in iraq after there was a government there because they were afraid the iranians would come into iraq and assassinate their ambassador were. you have the hage coming up, the king of saudi arabia is referred to as the custodian of the two holy mosque. will they use pilgrims as cover
to get quds force in there to start unrest. this is a real sign of extraordinary tension between these two countries and in the region. adel al jubeir because of his relationship, wolf, as you know for many years to the current king of saudi arabia, who's been very ill, is a direct sort of shot, if you will, at the king. i mean clearly if they wanted to get someone very close to the king, adel al jubeir was the guy you would target. given the freedoms here in the united states that we enjoy, it's an easier place for them to operate. and so i think this causes real tensions. i expect we'll hear secretary clinton say this is going to have to go to the u.n. security council and those who have been reluctant to impose tougher sanctions on iran like russia and china will be under enormous pressure now. there's no disputing that iran is a state sponsor of terror with the revelations that we've heard today. >> i don't want our viewers to be under any illusions. the relationship, as fran points out, between adel al jubeir and king abdullah is incredibly close, has been for many years,
almost like a father/son relationship and that may have played a role in the plot to assassinate him. tom fuentes, formerly of the fbi and now a cnn contributor is here as well. the whole mexican cartel involvement in this, based on what you know, was that just coincidental that there was an informant working in this mexican drug cartel that happened to be working also for the fbi? >> we don't know that yet, wolf, but it could be. it could easily be that or that they had other intercepts from overseas that led them to try to get that informant introduced to the subject. i'm sure we'll find that out in the days ahead. but the idea of using the mexicans is pretty sound. you have thousands of murders being committed daily almost in mexico. you have a group operating in northern mexico that are trained former mexican special forces troops that went rogue. so their ability through their cross-border connections into the united states, their drug
distribution networks into the united states, it would be very easy for the cartels to ship explosiv explosives, weapons, assassins, anything they need across the border into any part of the united states they chose. >> but are they open to be hired by the iranians to go ahead and assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states, these elements of the mexican drug cartel? is that something, part of their usual job performance, if you will? >> i don't think it's usual but part of their job performance is they are an organized crime group committed to making money in any way possible. so the idea of assigning this to a cup el of their people to go carry this out for a million and a half dollars, it could be. we don't know that for sure. but there are plenty of people in mexico or in the united states for that matter available for hire to carry something like this out so they would be the cutout or the double cutout as mike rogers said to try not to have this come back to the iranian government. >> briefly explain what a cutout an a double cutout means. if you've read spy thrillers
over the years, you know, but a lot of our viewers may not be familiar with the term. >> the idea is if the person that commits this act is killed at the time of the act or is captured, then it looks like the mexican drug cartel had some issue with the saudi government and wanted to do this. so it doesn't come back to iran. so if they can cut out at least once if not twice so the actual person who's the assassin has no clue who hired him. so if the informant had been an actual member he would know that he's meeting with an iranian subject, but when he goes to the cartels, they would only know they are hired by him. they would not know iran or any other country spaurngsed it so it would be much easier for iran or any other government to deny any involvement in the assassination. >> tom fuentes stand by, fran townsend stand by as well. the u.s. government is alleging that high levels of the iranian
government were directly involved in planning the assassination of saudi arabia's ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir and may also have been involved in plots to bomb the saudi embassy in washington, the israeli embassy in washington as well as the saudi and israeli embassies in buenos aires, argentina. much more breaking news coverage right after this. you name it. i've tried it. but nothing helped me beat my back pain. then i tried salonpas. it's powerful relief that works at the site of pain and lasts up to 12 hours. salonpas.
over there, mohammed? >> well, not a lot of reaction beyond the statement you read a short while ago. i spoke to a saudi government official just a few moments ago and he said the statement from the embassy would speak for itself. i pressed a little further and asked does this mean there will be an escalation as far as any military action, as far as what the saudis might plan, what are they trying to do? he said right now no comment on that, they just are going to let the statement from the embassy speak for itself. but we expect to hear more from the saudis and more from the saudi press once day breaks here tomorrow. we're now in the middle of the night. once day breaks, we expect to hear much more from saudi officials on this rapidly developing story. >> let me just read the statement from the saudi embassy here in washington that was just released. the royal embassy of saudi arabia would like to express its appreciation to the responsible agencies of the united states government for preventing a criminal act from taking place. the attempted plot is a despicable violation of
international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity. that statement coming out from the saudi embassy. you're looking at pictures of the saudi embassy here in washington. a lot of our viewers are confused, and understandably so. they know iran is a muslim country, mohammed, they know saudi arabia is certainly a muslim country. why would the iranians allegedly target saudi arabia's ambassador for assassination? >> reporter: well, wolf, what's key here to try to understand is that saudi arabia and iran are foes here in the region. they see each other as each other's biggest enemy here in the region. and they're locked in this battle for regional dominance. saudi arabia is a sunni country. iran is a shiite country so you already have that. they're at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to that, a sectarian divide. you also have to look at the arab spring, things that have escalated the tension between iran and saudi arabia. it's long been known there's
tension between these two countries. but if you look at just the issue of bahrain, once the protest movement started and really got under way in bahrain, what happened there, the gulf countries here shall the arab countries thought iran was try to foment unrest in bahrain because it's 70% shiite population with sunni leadership. saudi arabia, other gulf countries sent into troops into bahrain to support the ruling family there, the government there. iran was not happy about that. they saw that as a threat to them. but the gulf countries, the gcc, saudi arabia, united arab emirates, other countries all said iran was trying to foment unrest in bahrain. so even a tiny country like bahrain could spark a lot more tension and really a boiling over the tensions between saudi arabia and iran. so it's really something that goes back a long way and in recent months the relationship has only gotten a lot worse. >> all right, thanks very much. mohammed jamjoom is reporting
for us and monitoring the saudi reaction. we'll check back with him. one of the alleged conspirators is a member of iran's notorious quds force which the united states has accused of backing terrorists. barbara starr is working this part of the story. they say gholam shakuri was an iran-based member of the quds force which is, according to this document, a special operations unit of the iranian islamic revolutionary guard corps. what can you tell our viewers about that? >> this force is the most militant wing of iran's islamic revolutionary guard corps. this has been front and center for the central intelligence agency, for the pentagon for years now. it is alleged that they have shipped weapons into iraq that have been responsible for killing u.s. troops, that they are backing militias inside iraq, that they have shipped weapons into afghanistan, that they are backing hamas and hezbollah, that they have engaged in assassinations, in
terrorist plots, in covert operations. they are well funded. they are invested heavily across iran's economy. much of their money is in so-called legitimate businesses in iran. they get their cash from those businesses. and the u.s., wolf, has been trying to counter this by trying to shut down any international banking transactions with these kinds of companies and with these kinds of quds operatives, that's why today what you rapidly saw was more sanctions from the treasury department on the quds force. but this is an organization that has really been in the u.s. cross hairs for some time, the dilemma, of course, is what to do about them and what to do about them now that they apparently have taken this additional step. >> if you go to the state department's website and you look up iran and the allegation of why iran is listed by the u.s. government as a state sponsor of terrorism, the first line that jumps out at you is
iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism. >> well, you know, this is one of the questions that eric holder, the attorney general, brings up. he talks in his news conference earlier today about holding iran responsible, about iran directing this operation, but the question we all have remains the same. did this go all the way to the top? did this go to mahmoud ahmadinejad? did he order this? >> and that is something that i'm sure they have suspicions at the highest levels of the united states government but are not ready to make that statement yet. you heard mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence chairman told us. >> he's pretty sure. >> he's pretty sure it went to the highest levels of the iranian government. barbara, stand by. we're following the reaction that's coming in now not only from the united states, from saudi arabia, from iran but elsewhere from around the world. we're getting more details on this alleged plot as well. much more coverage right after this. there's only one bottle left !
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we just got a picture, a courtroom sketch of the suspect in this alleged terror plot, manssor arbabsiar. he's accused of trying to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir. we're following all the breaking news, this alleged plot by the iranian government, high elements according to the u.s. government, of the iranian quds force trying to kill the saudi ambassador to the united states. our united nations correspondent, richard roth, is watching what's going on. richard, i take it that the united states government, the obama administration is notifying the u.n. security council of this? walk us through what's going on. >> well, the united states is contacting its security council partners to notify them of the details and gravity of the plot. there's no emergency security council meeting that's been
called. may indicate strategy or how significant this case may prove to be, unclear at this time. we're certainly aware of the story, we're not willing to comment saying check with our embassies in washington. now, as this story tends to unfold, the u.s. through secretary of state clinton, who we're still expecting to speak, may learn more regarding the timetable but i think it's clear from other reporters that the u.s. at the very least will try to isolate tehran and put more pressure through sanctions and other means to remind people of the threat to the united states that iran poses. this could also be useful information called out at another time to build a case for perhaps more additional sanctions at the u.n. however, we've already had 4 rounds of sanctions, the last one in the summer last year, and that doesn't seem to have curbed iran's nuclear program secrecy, among other issues. included in that last round of sanctions were those targeting the revolutionary guard -- >> hold on, richard.
hold on, secretary of state hillary clinton is now speaking. let's listen. >> the fbi and others gave announcing the disruption of this plot. it was a terrific achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and we will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a very strong message that this kind of action, which violates international norms, must be ended and other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered. thank you. thank you all. >> all right. the secretary of state, you heard her thanking the fbi and the justice department for this action, warning that the united states is now about to undertake
additional measures. richard roth is still with us, our united nations correspondent. richard, beyond the u.n. security council, this was an arab -- this is an arab country, saudi arabia. i assume the obama administration will also seek to strengthen the sanctions against the iranians through the arab league, the gulf cooperation council, enlist international support, if you will, to go after the iranian government. >> yes, you say that. but at the security council i think there are a lot of countries who are sanctioned out, despite the perhaps gravity of this alleged plot. russia and china just vetoed a resolution last week on syria, and that didn't even include sanctions, and that resolution was watered down to not even include the word "sanctions" just the threat of further options. the u.s. has had stronger unilateral sanctions against iran than european countries. i think secretary clinton would like to ramp up other kz to take a bigger bite out of the political wing of the iranian
regime. anything that might have had anything to do with this alleged plot. the quds component, paramilitary link as mentioned by fbi officials certainly with ties to the revolutionary guard. it was the revolutionary guard at the center of the last round of sanctions that china and russia did go for but it's taken months for the u.s. to get security council approval every time they have done this. they trumpet the action but so far nothing seems to have visibly changed and iran doesn't seem to change his ways. mahmoud ahmadinejad was at the u.n. general assembly just a couple of weeks ago denouncing the u.s. >> richard, thanks very much. we have a professor here from tufts university. a great university up in boston. when you heard this allegation from the united states government, the obama administration, that high elements of the iranian government were plotting to kill adel al jubeir, the saudi ambassador in washington, what did you think? >> i thought it was shocking
news, largely because it changes everything. it is not that iran has not carried out attacks of this sort of assassinations in europe, but to target any individual in the united states is a major escalation of their policies. but also the choice of the saudi ambassador was very interesting, largely because there's a lot of tension in the region that's caused by the arab spring. they have been having a cat and mouse game in lebanon, in syria, in bahrain, and it shows that the iranians are feeling the pressure of what's happening in the arab spring and are reacting to it. >> we heard from mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, suggest that this could not have occurred unless the highest elements, presumably mahmoud ahmadinejad, maybe even the ayatollah, were directly involved in authorizing this kind of assassination plot. do you believe that? >> if indeed the quds force was involved, then the highest leadership in iran would have to know.
what is also interesting is timing. it is reported that president obama was actually briefed on this in june. that means that the planning of this goes back to february, january. we have to see what was happening then in the middle east, in saudi-iranian relations and u.s.-iranian relations for them to make this plot go forward. >> you've been studying iran for many years and are one of the great authorities on the subject. what were they hoping to achieve by killing adel al jubeir. >> well, the saudi part of it, i could see why they would want to ratchet up the pressure on the saudis. they are in a very tense rivalry with saudi arabia. lebanon and syria, in bahrain, and they may have wanted to send saudi arabia a very strong signal of trying to sort of bully saudi arabia to back down off of its resistance to iran. but the choice of the location is an enigma because iran will gain nothing by actually giving the united states ammunition to
go to the u.n. security council to get more sanctions, to rally the international community against iran, to turn public opinion against iran. we're going into an election year. this event is sure to make iran a very important point of dewait in the elections. >> in the charges that were spelled out today by the u.s. government, they spoke very narrowly on the alleged assassination plot of the saudi ambassador but u.s. officials are saying there was a broader plot they didn't spell out to bomb the saudi embassy and the israeli embassy here in washington as well as the saudi and israeli embassies in buenos aires, argentina, and that suggests that maybe the iranians had a much broader initiative that they were plotting. >> indeed. again, the choice of location is very key here. carrying out terror attacks in buenos aires or in the arab world is nothing new and it would have already had made things much more difficult for iran with the international community. but to carry them out in the
united states would have put the united states and iran relations into a deep freeze and on a potentially very dangerous collision course. it is very difficult to see how iran would calculate that the united states would not react very aggressively to an actual bombing in washington, d.c. >> vali nasr, thanks for coming isn't. >> thank you. >> to our viewers, breaking news we are following. u.s. officials are vowing to hold iran accountable for an alleged terror plot on american soil. the attorney general of the united states says agents foiled the scheme to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the united states. he said the plot was directed by elements, elements inside the iranian government. we're getting our first look at one of the suspects in the alleged plot. he's a naturalized united states citizen who appeared in a new york city courtroom just a little while ago. the other suspect is a member of iran's revolutionary guard. a spokesman for iran's president is dismissing the u.s. allegations as a fabrication designed to distract the american people from problems at
home. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." a little while ago the fbi director, robert mueller, announced what was going on during a briefing on this alleged terror plot. let's listen to see what the fbi director had to say. >> this case illustrates that we live in a world where borders and boundaries are increasingly irrelevant. a world where individuals from one country sought to conspire with a drug trafficking cartel in another country to assassinate a foreign official on united states soil. and it reads like the pages of a hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost. these individuals had no regard for their intended victim, no regard for innocent citizens who
might have been hurt or killed in this attempted assassination. they had no regard for the rule of law. with these charges, we bring the full weight of that law to bear on those responsible. and we send a clear message that any attempts on american soil will not be tolerated. this was not a typical case for any of us. given the global ties we unraveled and the scope of the plot itself, but it represents the full range of threats we face and it illustrates the need for continued collaboration, collaboration between agencies, departments, collaboration between countries. we said it many times before, but it does bear repeating. it is only working side by side that we are able to stop plots like this before they can take hold. we will continue to work together to find and stop those who seek to do us harm, whether
they attempt to strike overseas or here at home. whether it is a conspiracy to kill a foreign official on u.s. soil, a terrorist attack on united states citizens or street crime in our communities. >> robert mueller, the fbi director, speaking here in washington, announcing these allegations against the iranian government, this alleged plot to go ahead and try to assassinate saudi arabia's ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir. the suspect in this case was just in a courtroom a little while ago. our national correspondent, jason carroll, is outside the court house in new york. tell us what was going on inside, jason, for those viewers here in the united states and around the world who are just tuning in. >> reporter: well, it was interesting, wolf. i sat just a few feet away from arbabsiar during the federal proceeding. basically he walked in, spoke with his attorney for just a few moments before the proceeding got under way. he was wearing blue jeans, a blue plaid shirt, brown shoes.
he seemed somewhat relaxed during the proceeding, which lasted just about ten minutes or so, less than ten minutes. this is a proceeding that's basically procedural. i guess that's the best way to describe it. arbabsiar was not required to enter a plea during the proceeding and he did not. the judge, however, in this particular case overseeing the proceeding, u.s. magistrate michael dollinger, did advise arbabsiar of his rights. for example, the right to remain silent. he wanted to make sure that he understood that. also making sure that he understood that whatever statements he made could be used against him. the defense also indicating that they, of course, had read through the complaint which alleges among other things conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, conspiracy to murder a foreign official. that, of course, being the saudi ambassador. the complaint also saying that arbabsiar did confess to at least some of these allegations when he was speaking to federal agents when he was taken into
custody on september 29th. that happening at jfk. we are now told just at about 8:00 p.m. also his attorney, who's representing him, sabrina schroff, had indicated that while he is in custody, wolf, he will be needing some sort of medication. those medications were discussed with the judge. also arbabsiar filled out some sort of financial statement, signed his name to that as well and at the very end of the proceeding, a preliminary hearing was set for october 25th. so perhaps at that time he'll be entering a plea. i'm sure in between that time we'll be hearing more about this alleged plot. >> he's not going anywhere, he's staying in jail. no bail for the suspect, jason. walk us through that process. >> reporter: absolutely. well, during a proceeding such as we have today, normally in a case like this, bail is something that would be discussed. that is something that was not even an issue in this particular case, wolf. simply because of obviously how
dangerous this person is. flight is something else that weighs into whether or not someone will be eligible for bail. that wasn't even an issue in this particular proceeding. >> jason, stand by. we're going to get back to you. jason is outside the court house in new york. lisa sylvester is joining us now with more on this naturalized american citizen accused in the terror plot. lisa what, do we know about this individual? >> well, manssor arbabsiar is a naturalized citizen with an iranian passport and u.s. officials are saying that his cousin is a senior official with a special unit of iran's revolutionary guard. we are learning more about arbabsiar. we saw him in court a short while ago. he is 56 years old. he is tied to the corpus christi, texas, area and also round rock, texas. i have to tell you, wolf, this is a guy who within the last few years has really flown under the radar. and the paper trail on him is pretty thin.
his last known address was april, 2004, to july, 2010. if you look that up and trace it back, it is actually the location of a business called one stop mail. this is essentially a p.o. box location. we called there and they said they have never heard of him. checking his criminal record, we also looked into his past. he does have a couple of misdemeanors. one is from april, 2004, from the austin, texas, area and that is for driving with an invalid license. a little further back in 1997 there was another driving with an invalid license and evading arrest. for that he served 90 days in jail. also there are federal liens on his file by the irs roughly from 2003 for roughly $5800. that was cleared up. there's another lien from a private creditor for $2,000 from 1999. u.s. information shows that he actually has two passports, one is from the united states, the
other is iranian. wolf. >> do we know anything about a wife, children, grandchildren, his profession, education, anything along those lines? >> right now we know -- and again, there's just not a lot of information on this guy. it almost seems that this was a deliberate attempt by this guy to really fall right under the radar. we do believe that he has a wife. we are in the process of trying to track that down, track that information down. again, he has his cousin. so we're trying to find out exactly who his relatives are and who are his connections. we do have a lead on a wife and are pursuing that right now. >> and his most recent job, do we have any idea what he did ostensibly to make a living? >> no, we don't. it looks like he might have at some point have been involved in several businesses. he was tied to an auto business at one point but it's unclear if he was a partner or an owner of that. but it does come up on his files on his listings. so we're trying to track that down to see. but at this point it looks like he might have been a businessman of some sort. but again, the problem is going back and following the paper
trail, everybody is saying they have never heard of this guy. >> lisa, i know you're working the paper trail and your other sources. we'll check back with you. our state department correspondent jill dougherty is watching all of this unfold as well. we just heard from the secretary of state making that statement, brief statement saying this is a serious, serious matter as far as u.s. attitude towards the iranian government and mahmoud ahmadinejad are concerned. so what does the u.s. do about this? >> number one, immediately as you heard, the treasury department has sanctions against specifically five people. four of them are senior officials in the quds force. that is part of the revolutionary guard corps. and they are the people, those five, they say, who were pretty much, let's call them the master minds or at least sponsoring and directing this plot. that's the allegation. then the other thing that secretary clinton talked about, you heard her say isolate. isolate is really the key,
because what they want to do is not only have unilateral u.s. sanctions, which at this point are almost tapped out, you could say, and there's very little business between the countries. what they want is the rest of the world to join in. so secretary clinton is really lobbying, talking, they are explaining what happened and urging people to join in with them to isolate as much as possible iran. it's a very, very serious issue. wolf, as you know, you've really got four countries that are involved. the united states, iran, saudi arabia and mexico. >> and potentially israel as well if you believe what senior u.s. officials are saying that this was just phase one, the alleged plot to kill the saudi ambassador, but phase two was to bomb the saudi and israeli embassies here in washington as well as the saudi and israeli embassies in ben owes aires, argentina. that's the information you're getting, right, jill? >> yes. i'm not too sure that you can go really hard with it and say it
was a worked out plot at all. it is something we are told they were considering. it is something that they potentially wanted to do. how far down the road they were, we don't know. >> let's walk through this plot that is spelled out in this document that the u.s. government released, the plot to -- the alleged plot to kill saudi arabia's ambassador to the united states with the help of mexican drug cartel. walk us through what we know on this, jill. >> well, the word that robert mueller of the fbi used is "hollywood script." and it does read like a hollywood script. but the allegation is that this began in iran. they wanted to kill the saudi ambassad ambassador. they then used two people or at least two that are named at this point. there could be more. but two. and the one person, arbabsiar, is a naturalized u.s. citizen. in other words, he had a dual passport, he had an american
passport, he had an iranian passport. he's in the united states. he is communicating with the other -- with gholam shakuri who is part of the quds force back in iran. they organized this and how are they going to carry out the assassination? well, they decide that they are going to get in touch with mexican drug lords and what is when arbabsiar contacts what he thinks is part of the drug lord world in mexico. turns out to be a dea, drug enforcement administration, informer. that informer talks to him. they talk about the plot. the dea contacts the fbi, and then they stop the plot. and how it was supposed to unfold, there are some recorded conversations we are told, it's alleged, and they say that they talked about maybe it would be easier to shoot the ambassador. but if it came to it, if they had to get him, let's say, in a
restaurant that he frequented, well, then that just has to happen. and if other people have to die, that is what the government is saying, other people have to die, that's just too bad. what is what the conspirator said. >> and in the document they spell out some of the language that the suspect allegedly used, including a lot of references to the f word. we're watching this closely. jill, stand by. the mexican government has now just issued a statement. part of it saying from the outset mexico and the united states shared information and coordinated their actions in strict compliance with domestic and international law. mexico was able to neutralize a significant risk to mexico's national security, while at the same time reinforcing bilateral and reciprocal cooperation with the united states. that statement in part coming in from the government of mexico just moments ago. we're getting a lot more information on this alleged plot to kill saudi arabia's ambassador to the united states. we're following the breaking news. much more in "the situation room" right after.
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that iran at the highest levels was involved in plotting to assassinate the saudi arabia ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir, even if it meant killing him at a restaurant that he liked here in washington and killing a lot of innocent people in the process. the allegation made in documents released a little while ago by the justice department and the fbi. only moments ago the senate majority whip, dick durbin, spoke of this alleged terror plot on the senate floor. >> this iranian plot, state-sponsored iranian plot to destroy the saudi and israeli embassies here in washington, d.c., this is an outrage, that they would reach this far, this obviously into the united states. we know that they have backed terrorism forever, as my colleague said, recognized by our government as a state sponsor of terrorism. we need to heighten the sanctions on iran and make it
clear that this type of action will not be countenanced. >> you hear dick durban, the senate majority whip just moments ago. let's bring in reza sayah. he's watching all of this and getting iranian reaction to what is going on as well. they are disputing in very strong terms, reza, these allegations from the obama administration. >> reporter: yeah, no question about it, wolf. strong denials coming from the office of iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad. the spokesperson for the president almost mockingly describing these allegations as a child's story, describing them as an effort by the obama administration to distract the american public from america's domestic problems. here he is speaking to cnn just a moment ago. >> translator: i think the u.s. government is busy fabricating a
new scenario and history has shown both the u.s. government and the cia have a lot of experience in fabricating these scenarios, and this is just the latest one. i think their goal is to reach the american public. they want to take the public's mind off the serious domestic problems they are facing these days and scare them with fabricated problems outside the country. >> reporter: that was the spokesperson for iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad. we asked him if he knew the two individuals who have been charged. he said no, but he also added that if iran verifies that indeed they are iranian citizens, the iranian government would make an effort, wolf, to help them. but again strong denials coming from the president's office. >> reza, as you pointed out, if in fact these allegations are true that, a, there was an iranian plot to kill the saudi ambassador in washington and, b, if there was a bigger plot to
blow up the saudi and israeli embassies in washington as well as in buenos aires, argentina, that would really be a dramatic escalation in what u.s. officials charge would be iranian-sponsored state terrorism. >> reporter: i don't think there's any question that if indeed these allegations are proven to be true, it would be an escalation in this relationship that's already very tu multiple o tumultous. but what would the intention of iranian government be if indeed they were part of this plot. i think it's important to remine everyone these are just allegations. but i think a lot of experts would say they would have nothing to gain and maybe more to lose. i think a lot of people are going to question if indeed these allegations are true. the fact is iran, if it wants to go after u.s. targets, if it wants to go after saudi targets,
there's plenty of targets available in the region. bahrain, for example, lebanon, for example, u.s. targets in iraq and afghanistan. so i think a lot of people are going to be of the view that if indeed iran was involved in this, they'd have much more to lose than gain and i think that's why some would question if indeed these allegations are true. >> would it be part, reza, of iran's mode us operandi to try o use mexican drug cartels in this alleged plot? >> they have been accused of using other groups before. first and foremost, hezbollah. that's why repeatedly the u.s. has called them the state sponsor of terrorism. but what's important to remember is this type of accusation is unprecedented. washington accusing iran of plotting an assassination of a
diplomat on u.s. soil. and i think if you take a step back and watch what's happening in washington right now, there's a lot of lawmakers who are hawkish about iran who are already talking about retaliation and further sanctions, and this perhaps more than anything could be an indication of washington going on a more aggressive path when it comes to iran as opposed to the diplomatic path that was so heavily advertised by the obama administration when he first took office, wolf. >> reza sayah, we'll stay in close touch with you. our own brian todd is working this story and is getting more on the suspect and more on the breaking news right after this. woman: saving for our child's college fund was getting expensive.
the breaking news this hour, the u.s. officials are promising action against iran for the alleged plot to kill the saudi ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir, right here in washington, d.c. one of two suspects was also an iranian citizen, appeared in court a little while ago. president obama is said to be briefing world leaders about this alleged plot. the united states already has ordered sanctions against five iranians with ties to the alleged scheme. saudi arabia is thanking the u.s. for foiling what it calls a despicable plan to murder its ambassador to the united states. iran is calling all of these allegations a fabrication. but the attorney general of the united states, eric holder, says the tehran government will pay a price. >> in addition to holding these individual conspirators accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the united states is committed to holding iran accountable for its actions.
arbabsiar and shakuri are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass disruption and conspiracy to commit terrorism among other charges. let's go to jessica yellin, who is getting more information. jessica, the president has been briefed on this for many months, i should say. >> yeah, dating back to june was when he was first briefed, which dates this plot for some time now, wolf. a senior administration official here says that the u.s. and this administration won't tolerate the targeting of a diplomat on our shores. i should say that a senior administration official, another one, tells me that this administration is working closely with international partners to isolate iran. that they think it's a dangerous escalation by iran and a flagrant violation of international law. now, as you know, the treasury department has already announced sanctions against the five
individuals named in this plot. i can tell you that means the moment those sanctions are announced, those assets are frozen. but an official, senior official tells me they are also looking at other ways to step up further financial isolation of iran. and they are broadly looking for additional ways to apply financial pressure on them and that they believe that the sanctions to date have had significant impact but there are still other things that could be done. so you want to ask sort of what more can be done given the intensity of the sanctions regime that the u.s. already has on iran. i can tell you that to date, wolf, what we have done as a nation is apply pressure to iran for bad behavior, for acts of terrorism, for pursuing their nuclear program, but we have not broadly enacted sanctions just for their political posture, the way the u.s. has against, say,
syria or libya, and perhaps that is something that the u.s. could look at down the line as one possibility. but again, the u.s. -- officials saying on the record that they are looking at other ways to step up pressure on iran. clearly here they're not looking at military steps now, they're looking at financial and other forms of diplomatic pressure, wolf. >> presumably they have other steps in mind. jessica, when i spoke to mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence committee here in washington about an hour or so ago, he made it clear that based on all the information he's getting, and he's been well briefed for several months on what's going on as the chairman of this powerful committee in the house of representatives, he has no doubt that the highest elements of the iranian government were directly involved and authorized this alleged plot. are officials at the white house, background or on the record, are they going as far as mike rogers did in the conversation we had here in "the situation room."
>> they are not, wolf. they are not going that far and they are not touching that. i have absolutely no confirmation from here that they have any indication how far up this plot may have reached. but i'll continue to pursue it. >> all right, jessica, thanks very much. jessica yellin is over at the white house. let's bring in our own brian todd. he's taking a closer look at the key suspect in this case, manssor arbabsiar. what are you learning? >> the chief suspect in this case, manssor arbabsiar, met with a dea undercover informant earlier this year. the complaint said that informant was posing as an associate of a major drug trafficking cartel. that cartel is the zetas, one of mexico's most notorious and violent cartels. the complaint says arbabsiar told the informant that arbabsi arbabsiar's associates in iran had discussed a number of violent missions for the informant and cartel to perform including the murder of the saudi ambassador. if this is proven true, it would
not be the first time the iranians had been accused of going through surrogates to carry out a terrorist or assassination plot. the two deadliest to date, the 1992 bombing of the israeli embassy in buenos aires, argentina, which killed more than two dozen people and the 1994 bombing of the jewish community center in buenos aires that killed 85 people. in both cases intelligence official its believed iran worked through operatives tied to hezbollah to carry out the attacks. iran has denied involvement in those plots. then you've got more isolated targeted plots, some right here in the u.s. u.s. diplomatic cables published by wikileaks say in 2009 a hit man was hired to kill a prominent iranian dissident in california. that dissident was a radio host who had often called for the overthrow of the iranian government. the cables say the man who tried to hire the hit man claimed to have worked for iranian intelligence. that plot was never carried out because the hit man got cold feet and told authorities about it.
a targeted plot right there in california. >> i remember three decades or so ago a plot -- an actual assassination of a former iranian diplomat here in washington and the accusation was that the iranian regime killed this guy. >> that's true, wolf. that's got the eeriest similarities to the one today. there was a man holding meetings of iranian dissidents at his home just a few miles from here in the d.c. area. in july of that year a man who borrowed a postal truck and disguised himself as a mailman came to his door, said he had a package for him and shot him to death. that suspect was an american born muslim convert. his birth name is david bellfield. u.s. prosecutors and other authorities believed he acted on the orders of the iranian government. he got away, made his way to iran and has lived there ever since as a fugitive. he apparently got into acting at
one point and is even believed to have a roll in a movie. the iranian government has denied involvement in that attack as well. the guy does this, gets away with it, gets to tehran and has been harbored as a fugitive. that was the closest we've come and that plot was successful. they killed an iranian diplomat right here in washington. >> in bethesda, maryland, a suburb. i remember the news at that time. brian, good work. thanks very much. let's get some perspective now on what's going on with a middle east scholar, a senior fellow at the hoover institution. i don't know what you can say about this, but it did come as a pretty huge surprise to me. i don't know about you. >> well, it's amazing. i mean you and i know and so many people in washington know al jubeir. we don't even know the ambassador. he has been in washington so long, he knows the ways of washington, he's a friend of so many of us. he has been in washington since his days as a student at
georgetown university. and then he worked for the former ambassador. he is loyal to king and country. he is not a decision-maker in saudi arabia. this is the odd thing about it. he is not a member of the royal family. so this tells you something about the incoheerns of iranian policy. >> if these allegations are true allegations by the justice department here in washington, why would the iranians want to kill al jubeir. >> it's amazing. i think when you have our attorney general and when you have our director of the fbi and when you have our attorney for the southern district of new york all come out and issue this indictment, you have to take it very seriously. but you also keep in mind there are many, many irans, if you will. there are many parts of the iranian government. like we can say ahmadinejad didn't make that decision but he doesn't have to make that decision. the quds force can make that decision. the quds force has its own money, makes its own decision and pays no heed to ahmadinejad.
this could be one of many outfits. >> why would they want adel al jubeir dead? what would that achieve? >> that's exactly the question that i had when i heard of this incredible plot. what would you gain? would you send a message to saudi arabia? again, there are many different messages you can send to saudi arabia. but i think the fact that there is this conspiracy, that they are willing to commit this deed on american soil, this is a very troubling development. you're absolutely right, wolf, they gain nothing. it's not like somehow or another that if you assassinate the saudi ambassador, saudi policy is going to change. all we know about ambassador al jubeir is his gift and talent as representative and spokesman for his country in washington, d.c. that's it. >> yeah, we know him quite well. we've known him for many years. i went with him to saudi arabia
back in 2002 before the war in iraq when i went over to the air base outside riyadh. he's been around washington for a long time. but here's the other disturbing part of this story. if you believe this document that the justice department released, they said that these mexican cartel guns for hire, if you will, they were going to try to kill him at a popular restaurant that he liked here in washington and it didn't make any difference if they killed a whole bunch of innocent people who were dining at that restaurant at the same time. is this standard operating procedure for the iranians, for the quds force, shall we say, that they would go ahead and just blow up a restaurant in order to kill the saudi ambassador? >> absolutely, why not. if you are part of the quds force, and we have encountered the quds force, if you will, they have been waging a kind of underground war against american forces in iraq, they have been engaged in all kinds of dirty business, they would have no
mercy for anyone caught up. and they don't believe anyone is innocent. and so if you are going to commit this deed, if you are willing to commit this deed, if you are willing to pay for it and there is money, money has changed hands, this is not a small amount of money that has been committed to this operation. even the first $100,000 tells you again that there is this chaos in the iranian world and parts of the iranian government may not know what the other parts of doing. >> the story remains to be played out because these coming days and weeks are going to be rather tense, i suspect, in this u.n./iranian relationship. we'll stay in close touch with you. thank you. >> thank you. we're getting new information on the suspect. there's a second suspect also involved who's on the loose right now. the u.s. government believes he has fled to iran. stand by. more information on the breaking news right after this. the postal service is critical to our economy--
suspect in this alleged plot to kill saudi arabia's ambassador to the united states, adel al jubeir. what else are you picking up, lisa? >> well, the fbi has been at his home in round rock, texas, and his wife, martha, is believed to be there although she has not been answering the door for our producer or answering the phone. we spoke to the fbi in the san antonio office. they referred us to the department of justice, but they did say that they are conducting what they call a regular and usual criminal investigation at that address. and it appears, it appears at this time that there is a younger manssor arbabsiar, age 21, which shares the same address in round rock with the 56-year-old arrested. we are also learning more about manssor arbabsiar, the father here. we know that he's 56 years old. he does have a couple of misdemeanors. one is from april of 2004 from the austin, texas, area. it is driving with an invalid
license. a little further back in 1987 there was another driving with an invalid license charge and also an evading arrest charge. he served 90 days in jail for that. u.s. official information shows that he actually has two passports. one u.s. and one iranian. wolf. >> thanks, lisa. i know you're working this story for us. we'll get more information to our viewers. a little while ago the secretary of state, hillary clinton, addressed this alleged plot at the state department. >> well, i think that you saw the press conference that the attorney general and the director of the fbi and others gave announcing the disruption of this plot. it was a terrific achievement by our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and we will be consulting with our friends and partners around the world about how we can send a
very strong message that this kind of action which violates international norms must be ended and other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered. >> the secretary of state, hillary clinton, speaking at the state department just a little while ago. let's bring in holly right now for more analysis. a lot of people don't really appreciate how this iranian/saudi relationship has deteriorated in rooes recent years. >> it has. in 2007 president ahmadinejad of iran made a state visit to riyadh. told me that the king later said it was a state visit of hypocrisy and ever since there have been many proxy battles, whether it's lebanon, syria, whether it was the uprising in bahrain, that saudi troops helped quell. this was a shia-led uprising in
bahrain. so you've seen the rift between the two countries that has taken a sectarian sort of quality, identity to it. really put these two big regional superpowers against each other head-to-head in the region in a battle for influence. but as i said, iran is a shiite country, saudi arabia is a sunni arab kingdom so there are many differences there. >> i've had many conversations with top saudi officials over the years. as worried as the israelis might be about iran's potential to develop a nuclear arsenal, the saudis are probably just as worried. >> that's a great point to make because they do see in saudi arabia the iranian nuclear program and how militarized it becomes, perhaps in the same way israel does. what's interesting, as you may know in november of 2010 a wikileaks cable revealed saudi arabia did support the idea of taking out militarily some of these nuclear installations in
iran. so it's really just a question of seeing how far this tension is ratcheted up and how it ends up playing out in the region. >> gloria, there's been some extensive communication, i understand, already between the u.s. and other governments. >> well, there has been. what i've just learned, wolf, is that within the last couple of weeks, the national security adviser, tom donlin, actually traveled to saudi arabia and briefed king abdullah on the terror plot personally. i was told this by a senior administration official who said that the saudis were outraged, not only because of the plot but also because the ambassador is so close to the king. i was also told, wolf, that the administration does not have specific tying the supreme leader into the plot, but as you heard from the house intelligence chairman, they do have specific information tying the senior officials in the quds force to the plot, so the big question that we have remaining is do we assume there was some
communication between these senior officials and the political regime there or not? we don't know the answer to that. i also know, wolf, that it's quite likely that the administration will brief the diplomatic corps here in washington on the terror plot. they have not done that yet. >> i want both of you and our viewers listen to what mike rogers said here in "the situation room" just a little while ago. >> i can say with high confidence i believe it was an iranian government-sanctioned event. i don't mean to be cute with you but we need to be careful as this unfolds. as a former fbi agent myself, it's a little shocking to see at the level of the transaction, the amount of the money, the quickness of the decisions that were made in order for certain elements of this to fall into place tells us that it is clearly tied to the highest levels of the iranian government. >> that's a pretty strong statement. he's been briefed over these several months as this plot
unfolded, so i guess the question is -- what's the u.s. going to do about it? what's saudi arabia going to do about this? >> and also, i think, another question that people have been asking, very well informed and knowledgeable analysts, what did iran, regardless of who might be behind this alleged plot. what would they get out of it? what would be the strategic benefit of mounting allegedly or planning on mounting an attack against the top saudi diplomat in washington? that's really a question that's out there and some people are scratching their heads about it. >> the only thing i can imagine and i've known adel al jubeir many years iend he is an kroout for saudi arabia as he should be but he's been behind the scenes most effective arab ambassadors in washington in terms of speaking out against iran and it's nuclear program.
the only thing i can imagine is maybe the iranians got wind of adel al jubeir's involvement speaking out on this issue and said, you know what, they're going to go -- if you believe this allegation, they're going to go hire these drug cartel killers to assassinate him. >> right. and i think you also ask the right question, which is what did the saudis do now? the senior administration official i spoke with said, look, we've already announced additional sanctions. but he said there is further intent to target the irgc, the islamic revolutionary guard corporation as an organization and the saudis will clearly be a part of that effort. and they believe that the saudis can be very effective with other arab nations in terms of trying to do this. >> very quickly, how is this going to play in the arab world? >> well, i think perhaps some might say unfortunately this is going to reinforce the idea that sectarian alliances determine the way politics unfold in that
region whereas perhaps a few years ago there was a bit of something between the two countries with state visits. one by ahmadinejad in 2007 to riyadh with king abdullah, even though afterward the king might have set a few not-so-nice things about it in private. but still this is a rapid deterioration of a relationship and with all these proxy battles unfolding in the region, whether it's lebanon or syria or elsewhere, this is going to be seen extremely -- in an extreme sectarian light. >> go ahead. >> the question is how do you exert more pressure on countries like russia, china, to isolate iran. that's another big geopolitical question. >> knowing the saudis as i do, they will seek revenge for this alleged plot and we'll see what happens next. guys, thanks very much. more of the breaking news right after this. or no collars. we are business in america. and every day we awake to the same challenges. but at prudential we're helping companies everywhere
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cnn national security contributors are with as well. fran what do we know in terms of retaliation from the u.s. towards iran, what do we expect is possible? >> you know, the only thing u.s. officials are currently talking about, wolf, is the fact that they're going to brief their colleagues on the u.n. security council and the diplomatic community in washington. we've seen a statement from
prime minister cameron in the usuk supporting the u.s. investigation. i expect what you're going to see now is move towards tough ur sanctions and an ability to leverage this horrible set of facts for iran with russia and china, who have been reluctant to support additional sanctions but it's not clear what they'll do beyond that. i think you're going it see the treasury department move aagainst additional officials in the qud force associated with the plot. beyond that, there's no talk about certainly military action or any other action in addition to sanctions and financial sort of freezing actions. >> tom fuentes is here. when you heard about the alleged plot as documented today, it brought back personal memories to you? >> i thought back to the attacks in the early '90s and bayne nose aries where iran order bombings in '92 and '94 of a jewish
community center and the israeli embassy, and more than 100 people were killed in both bombings altogether. a lengthy investigation by the argentinians with support from the united states led to direct ties all the way back to the top of the iranian government. i was on interpols executive committee when 2007 red notices were issued for the arrest of those who carried out the attack. the argentine government sought red notices against the president -- >> president of iran? >> of iran, yes, their foreign minister and ambassador to argentina but under international law and interpol rules they could only issue notices for nondiplomats and nonhead of state. >> what are red notices? >> an international notice that any country that has ability to take into custody one of the subjects do it and the original country will extradited back so the argentine government would
ext extradited any of the individual as rested. by interpol issues notices it's saying the legal department of interpol at headquarters in france reviewed the investigation, reviewed the probable cause and concur with government that seeks the notices to have those notices issued. >> was the u.s. government and the ar tgentinian government on the same page as reaching the highest elements of the then-iranian government. >> yes. the u.s. assisted argentina and the iranian government -- the iranian government looked at it at the time that argentina was a puppet of the united states and that's the only reason they wanted notices was to further u.s. political gain in the region. >> i want to show viewers a photograph we're just getting in right now. the house of the suspect, manssor arbasiar in round rock, texas. you can see the house where he and his family have been living
over these past few years. we're getting a lot more information minute by minute about this suspect, manssor arbasiar, the other suspect, who is still at large. the u.s. believes he's in iran right now, gholam shakuri. you see what's going on. when you heard about this, tom, you heard -- it brought back memories of what was going on in the '90s. i guess you weren't all that stunned by revelations today. >> not just '90s but qud force and hezbollah carried out attacks for decades. they've attacked u.s. forces in iraq even after the bombings in ar beg argentina, within a week jewish community centers in london, two bombings in london, one person killed compared to the more than 100 totalled in argentina, the attacks over the years have gone on and on. this is not unusual. what is unusual is that hezbollah, in particular, and
the qud force have not carried out attacks in the past in the u.s. because they fund-raise here. >> we'll take a quit break. tom, stand by. more of breaking news. [ horn honks ] hey, it's sandra -- from accounting. peter. i can see that you're busy... but you were gonna help us crunch the numbers for accounts receivable today. i mean i know that this is important. well, both are important. let's be clear. they are but this is important too. [ man ] the receivables. [ male announcer ] michelin knows it's better for xerox to help manage their finance processing. so they can focus on keeping the world moving. with xerox, you're ready for real business.
presidential candidate mitt romney. christie announced his decision today saying, quote, romney is the man to lead america. the governor pointed to romney's business in gubernatorial experience as key to solving the country's problems. the endorsement comes just hours before romney and his republican rivals face off in a presidential debate in new hampshire. and the gop field will not include rudy giuliani. the former new york mayer in 2008 republican presidential candidate announced today he is not entering the race and explaining why he's not launching a bid he referred to governor christie's decision to stay out if it's too late for christie to get in, it's too late for me. an israeli soldier held by hamas for five years in gaza will soon be released prime minister netanyahu said shalit will return to israel as part of a prisoner exchange deal with palestinians. and president obama is pushing his jobs bill in