The government charged two men with alleged connections to Iran with conspiring to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.
The plot was "sponsored and ... directed from Iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law," Holder said at a news conference. "The U.S. is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions," he said.
Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, reached out to a Drug Enforcement Administration informant whom he thought was a member of a Mexican drug cartel to solicit the gang's help in the assassination attempt on Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, ABC News reports. The plotters also intended to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies.
Arbabsiar, now charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, among other crimes, has confessed to the plot Holder said, and provided what Holder said was valuable information about the Iranian government's role. The other suspected plotter, Gholam Shakuri, is based in Iran and remains at large.
Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, told officials he was "directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin in the Iranian army, ABC reported.
"This case illustrates that we live in a world where borders and boundaries are increasingly irrelevant," FBI Director Robert Mueller said. Though the plot may read "like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would have been very real," he said.
Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general, said that the U.S. was able to "penetrate and thwart the plot before it could result in harm to the ambassador or anyone else."
President Obama was first briefed on this issue in June, and he directed the administration to provide "all necessary support to this investigation," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, and the president is enormously grateful for their exceptional work in this instance and countless others,” Vietor said in an e-mailed statement.