The Treasury Department just announced new sanctions on Iranian officials who they allege were connected to the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States by hiring what they thought were Mexican cartel members to bomb a restaurant.
Four of the Iranians named in the new sanctions are senior officials in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds force (IRGC-QF), which is implicated in the complaint filed today by Justice Department officials that explained the plot. The fifth Iranian sanctioned was Manssor Arbabsiar, the naturalized U.S. citizen alleged to be responsible for arranging the assassination plot on behalf of the Quds force who was arrested on Sept. 29 and has confessed while in U.S. custody.
Treasury announced the new sanctions in a press release on Tuesday afternoon. The action makes it illegal for Americans to do business with and freezes the U.S.-based assets of IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani, Hamed Abdollahi, a senior IRGC-QF official who allegedly coordinated aspects of the plot, Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF official who allegedly coordinated the operation; and Ali Gholam Shakuri, an IRGC-QF official and deputy to Shahlai, who allegedly met with Arbabsiar several times to discuss this assassination and other plots.
"Iran once again has used the Quds Force and the international financial system to pursue an act of international terrorism, this time aimed against a Saudi diplomat," said David Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "The financial transactions at the heart of this plot lay bare the risk that banks and other institutions face in doing business with Iran."
Further actions are expected to be announced by other administration agencies soon.
Here are the allegations Treasury made as justifications for the new sanctions designations:
Arbabsiar met on a number of occasions with senior IRGC-QF officials regarding this plot and acted on behalf of senior Qods Force officials - including his cousin Abdul Reza Shahlai and Shahlai's deputy Gholam Shakuri - to execute the plot. During one such meeting, a $100,000 payment for the murder of the Saudi ambassador was approved by the IRGC-QF. After this meeting, Arbabsiar arranged for approximately $100,000 to be sent from a non-Iranian foreign bank to the United States, to the account of the person he recruited to carry out the assassination.
As IRGC-QF Commander, Qasem Soleimani oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this plot. Soleimani was previously designated by the Treasury Department under E.O. 13382 based on his relationship to the IRGC. He was also designated in May 2011 pursuant to E.O. 13572, which targets human rights abuses in Syria, for his role as the Commander of the IRGC-QF, the primary conduit for Iran's support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate (GID).
Abdollahi is also a senior IRGC-QF officer who coordinated aspects of this operation. Abdollahi oversees other Qods Force officials - including Shahlai - who were responsible for coordinating and planning this operation.
Abdul Reza Shahlai
Shahlai is an IRGC-QF official who coordinated the plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir, while he was in the United States and to carry out follow-on attacks against other countries' interests inside the United States and in another country. Shahlai worked through his cousin, Manssor Arbabsiar, who was named in the criminal complaint for conspiring to bring the IRGC-QF's plot to fruition. Shahlai approved financial allotments to Arbabsiar to help recruit other individuals for the plot, approving $5 million dollars as payment for all of the operations discussed.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.