Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that “the United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions,” but other officials indicated that it was not yet clear who in the Iranian government was behind the alleged plot.
“There’s a question of how high up did it go,” said an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House thinking. “The Iranian government has a responsibility to explain that.”
Federal authorities said they foiled the plan because the Iranian American, Mansour Arbabsiar, happened to hire a paid informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry it out. Arbabsiar, 56, was arrested Sept. 29 in New York and later implicated Iranian officials in Tehran in directing the plot, U.S. officials said.
In addition to Jubeir, officials said, the plot envisioned later striking other targets in the United States and abroad, including a Saudi embassy, though those plans appeared preliminary at best. Arbabsiar has acknowledged that he was recruited and funded by men he understood to be senior officers in the Quds Force, an elite division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for foreign operations, court documents say.
An Iran-based member of that force, Gholam Shakuri, is also charged in federal court in New York with conspiracy to murder a foreign official and to commit an act of international terrorism, along with other counts.
The Iranian government denied the accusations, calling them a new round of “American propaganda” and saying they were fabricated to divert attention from U.S. economic troubles and the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“The U.S. government and the CIA have very good experience in making up film scripts,” Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said in Tehran. “It appears that this new scenario is for diverting the U.S. public opinion from internal crises.”
Ali Larijani, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator and current head of parliament, described the U.S. allegations Wednesday as “silly and mischievous.” He told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency: “They made noises that they arrested those who wanted to bomb the Saudi Embassy. Foolish words that, by using expanded media coverage, were clearly meant to cover up their internal problems.” He added: “We have normal relations with the Saudis. There is no reason that Iran wants to do these childish things they accuse us of.”