In the fall of 2011, the Obama administration revealed that American officials had discovered an Iranian terrorist plot against Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. Working through a local emissary, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers planned to hire members of a Mexican drug cartel to snuff out the ambassador at a local eatery. Little did the Iranians know that the drug dealers’ hit man they sought to hire was, in reality, an informant for the U.S. government.
In its complaint against the operation’s alleged point man, a used car salesman named Manssor Arbabsiar, the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that the assassination plot was just one of a few contemplated attacks. In a footnote, the DOJ explained that Arbabsiar and his co-conspirators “had discussed the possibility of attacks on a number of other targets.” The complaint continues (emphasis added): “These targets included foreign government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with another country, and these targets were located within and outside of the United States.”
In an interview published on WTOP.com last week, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, confirmed that Israeli interests were targeted. Oren explained that, in addition to targeting the Saudis, Iran sought to strike Israel’s embassy in Washington.
“They also planned to blow up the Israeli Embassy, my embassy in this town," Oren told WTOP. Oren added that he learned of the plot against the Israeli embassy in “real time,” just as the American public began to hear the details of the IRGC’s machinations.
Court documents reveal that the Iranians allocated $1.5 million for the plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador, but $5 million overall for the plots Arbabsiar was allegedly coordinating when he was arrested. That means that the bulk of the money, $3.5 million, was allocated to plots other than the plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador.
Some have questioned the seriousness of this IRGC-conceived plot. But it is not surprising that the IRGC would seek to work with a cut-out -- in this case, a Mexican drug cartel -- to do its dirty work. After all, the IRGC is even willing to work with its one-time enemy, the Taliban, to kill American forces in Afghanistan.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month, Ambassador Oren warned of Iran’s worldwide terrorist ambitions and plotting. The subtitle to Oren’s piece reads: “Iran is the world's leading terror sponsor without nuclear weapons. With them, it can commit incalculable atrocities.”
Indeed, without nuclear weapons, Iran has already plotted to kill Saudi and Israeli diplomats in the heart of America’s capital.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.