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Report of Plot to Kill Saudi Raises US-Iran Tensions

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, American officials accused Iran of being involved in a plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States.

BARACK OBAMA: "This is a - not just a dangerous escalation, this is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior by the Iranian government."

President Obama spoke at the White House Thursday at a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Mr. Obama said an Iranian-born American, Manssor Arbabsiar, had direct links and was paid and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.

BARACK OBAMA: "Even if, at the highest levels, there was not detailed operational knowledge, there has to be accountability with respect to anybody in the Iranian government engaging in this kind of activity."

In Vienna, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said his country is considering what he called a "measured response."

PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL: "They think by murder and mayhem they will influence the actions of this country. We will not bow to such pressures."

In a letter to the United Nations, Iran called the accusations "fabricated and baseless." Iran's Foreign Ministry has dismissed them as a "ridiculous farce."

American officials say the goal was to get Mexican drug traffickers to kill Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir with a bomb at a Washington restaurant. Officials say there were also plans to attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies.

Mr. Arbabsiar is a former used-car dealer in Texas. Officials say he unknowingly sought help from an informant for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. They say he believed this person had ties to Mexican drug groups.

Mr. Arbabsiar was arrested last month at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. He reportedly admitted paying one hundred thousand dollars toward a price of one and a half million dollars for the attack.

Attorney General Eric Holder said that a second suspect facing charges, Gholam Shakuri, may be in Iran. He said Mr. Shakuri belongs to the Quds force, a part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Quds force is suspected of involvement in attacks against American-led forces in Iraq, and of aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ali Reza Nader is with the RAND Corporation, a research group.

ALI REZA NADER: "First of all the Iranian security services including the Revolutionary Guards like to work through proxies, so other groups, whether they are Hezbollah or Hamas or Shia insurgents in Iraq or the Taleban in Afghanistan. They like to maintain some kind of plausible deniability, not necessarily be tied to spectacular terrorist plots."

Iran is widely suspected of involvement in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina in nineteen ninety-four. That attack killed eighty-five people. And Iran has killed Iranian dissidents in other countries. But Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says Iranian intelligence has lately avoided plots like that.

PATRICK CLAWSON: "I’m not surprised it was the Quds force involved, if these allegations are true, because the people from the Ministry of Intelligence are really too bright and understand the world too well to agree to such a hare-brained scheme. Whereas many of the people in the Quds force are really quite uninformed about the world outside of Iran and might have thought that they could have gotten away with such a thing, and that if they pulled it off that it would somehow help Iran."

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Alex Villarreal.


Contributing: David Gollust, Dan Robinson and