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Entries in Saudi Arabia (3)

Wednesday
Oct122011

Biden: 'Nothing Off the Table' After Iran DC Terror Plot

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that "nothing has been taken off the table" when it comes to the U.S. response to an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. and unleash deadly terrorist bombings in Washington, D.C.

"It is an outrageous act that the Iranians are going to have to be held accountable," Biden told ABC News' Good Morning America. "This is really over the top."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday the DEA and FBI had disrupted a plot "conceived, sponsored and... directed from Iran" to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in or outside a crowded Washington, D.C. restaurant which potentially would have been followed up by bombings of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies. The U.S. said an Iranian-American, 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar of Corpus Christi, Texas, was working for elements of the Iranian government when he attempted to hire hitmen from the feared Zetas Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit, but Arbabsiar was unwittingly speaking to a DEA informant from the start.

Senior Obama administration officials had previous told ABC News the U.S. response would not include the possibility of an armed conflict with Iran and -- though a complaint filed in federal court directly tied Iran's elite Quds military unit to the plot -- there was no information that Iran's top leaders were aware or had any role.

Biden said the U.S. was in the process of "uniting world opinion" against Iran as it goes forward with a response. The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday sanctions against five Iranians allegedly tied to the plot.

A lawyer for Arbabsiar has not returned requests for comment, but the man's wife, Martha Guerrero, said he was wrongly accused.

"I may not be living with him being separated, but I cannot for the life of me think that he would be capable of doing that," she told ABC News' Austin affiliate KVUE, noting the two had been separated some time. "He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm sure of that."

Iranian officials have strongly rejected the U.S. accusations, calling them a "fabrication." The head of the Iranian mission to the United Nations penned a letter Tuesday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing "outrage" at the allegations.

"The U.S. allegation is, obviously, a politically-motivated move and a showcase of its long-standing animosity towards the Iranian nation," the letter says. "The Islamic Republic of Iran categorically and in the strongest terms condemns this shameful allegation by the United States authorities and deplores it as a well-thought evil plot in line with their anti-Iranian policy to divert attention from the current economic and social problems at home and the popular revolutions and protests against United States long supported dictatorial regimes abroad."

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when Arbabsiar unwittingly approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Arbabsiar reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case.

Arbabsiar and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, were named in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York. They were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb, among other counts. Shakuri is still at large in Iran, Holder said.

Holder identified Shakuri as an Iran-based member of the Quds force.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed "utter disregard for collateral damage" in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

The complaint describes a conversation in which Arbabsiar was allegedly directing the informant to kill the Saudi ambassador and said the assassination could take place at a restaurant. When the informant feigned concern about Americans who also eat at the restaurant, Arbabsiar said he preferred if bystanders weren't killed but, "Sometimes, you know, you have no choice, is that right?"

U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 29 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and later put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

"Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would've been very real and many lives would've been lost," FBI Director Robert Mueller said of the foiled plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec272010

Obama Briefed on Counterterrorism Efforts, Egypt Accident

File photo. Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- President Obama attended to some presidential duties Sunday before enjoying his fourth day of vacation.

The president received a briefing on the “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts” from National Security Staff Senior Director for Counterterrorism Nick Rasmussen and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. This was after President Obama's adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, John Brennan, convened another inter-agency coordination call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, national security staff traveling with the president in Hawaii, and other representatives from the FBI, CIA and the counterterrorism community. It was the second of such calls since the president has been on the island.

“During the call, they reviewed our continued efforts to stay vigilant throughout the holiday season, and to coordinate with our foreign partners,” the White House said.

In addition, the White House said the president was briefed on the “tragic traffic accident,” that took the lives of a number of American citizens in Egypt this weekend and “the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to support the victims and their families.”

Obama also had a phone conversation with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who is recovering from back surgery in New York.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov192010

Critics Slam Obama Admin. for 'Hiding' Massive Saudi Arms Deal

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has quietly forged ahead with its proposal to sell $60 billion worth of fighter jets and attack helicopters to Saudi Arabia without the usual amount of Congressional oversight, despite questions raised in legislative inquiries and in an internal congressional report about the wisdom of the deal.

The massive arms deal would be the single largest sale of weapons to a foreign nation in the history of the U.S., outfitting Saudi Arabia with a fully modernized, potent new air force.

But some critics are questioning the arrangement, and the seemingly backdoor efforts by the Obama administration to avoid a more probing congressional review. Congress was only notified about the deal last month, just as members were headed home for the November elections, leaving members of Congress just 30 days to review the sale and raise objections. The shortened review period concludes Saturday. With most members leaving Washington on Friday, any significant effort to block the deal appears dead for now, officials said.

The Obama administration has touted the deal as a boon for American jobs, and as a move to solidify the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia at a time when American intelligence is dependent on the Islamic nation for help in the war on terror. Earlier this month, it was a tip from Saudi intelligence that helped foil an al Qaeda plot to hide a bomb in a desktop printer aboard a UPS cargo plane.

The arrangement would ship 84 F-15 fighter jets and more than 175 attack helicopters to the Saudis over the next 15 years. The choppers in particular, would "bolster Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism capabilities," Gates and Clinton wrote in their letter this week to congressional leaders.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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