Secretary of defense addresses security amid economic turmoil
October 11th, 2011
10:14 PM ET

Secretary of defense addresses security amid economic turmoil

By Larry Shaughnessy

The man charged with protecting America from threats is worried about one threat coming from Capitol Hill.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, once a congressman himself, said Tuesday "partisan paralysis in our political system is threatening our ability to tackle these problems and find the solutions." And failure to break the deadlock may jeopardize America's leadership in the world, he said in a speech at the Wilson Center.

Panetta was clear he blames no particular party for the paralysis.

"Congress must be a responsible partner in this effort. They have as much responsibility for the defense of this country as we in the executive branch. This must be a partnership, Republican and Democrat alike," he said in what was called his first major policy speech since becoming secretary of defense.
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The U.S. will renew sanctions push in light of alleged Iranian plot
October 11th, 2011
09:59 PM ET

The U.S. will renew sanctions push in light of alleged Iranian plot

By Elise Labott and Jessica Yellin

The United States will be looking for nations around the world to get tougher on Iran in the wake of the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

The official said that although Iran is under multiple sanctions, many countries are not enforcing the restrictions, and sometimes if they have problems with Iran, they don't speak out publicly.

The official said the United States is going to be looking for countries to enforce existing sanctions, implement new ones and cut ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to basically match what the United States has already done.

To make the case, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials in the department are going to be placing calls to leaders and foreign ministers, U.N. Security Council members and others with influence on Iran, the official said.
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Filed under: Clinton • Iran
Underwear bomber's jihadist path
October 11th, 2011
09:01 PM ET

Underwear bomber's jihadist path

By CNN's Deborah Feyerick reporting from Detroit, MI

To those who knew him before he became known as the "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was a quiet, religious man. So how did the son of a prominent Nigerian banker with a graduate degree in engineering allegedly decide to wage holy war?

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday gave a 90-minute opening statement in the trial of AbdulMutallab, outlining a path that they say led to Christmas Day 2009 incident aboard a Detroit-bound airliner, which he is accused of trying to blow up with a device concealed in his underwear.

He was indicted on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, and possession of a firearm or destructive device in furtherance of an act of violence.

Inspired by jihadist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, the now 24-year-old student set off for Yemen in the summer of 2009, allegedly telling FBI agents he wanted to find al Qaeda and "become involved in violent jihad against the U.S." Once there, prosecutors say, he was recruited in a mosque by a man calling himself Abu Tarak. Together the men would talk daily, prosecutors say, about "jihad, martyrdom, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden." FULL POST

Iran and Saudi Arabia's 'hate-hate' relationship
October 11th, 2011
08:00 PM ET

Iran and Saudi Arabia's 'hate-hate' relationship

By Michael Rubin

Editor's note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Iranian outbursts towards the United States and Israel are nothing new, but the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington surprised many people. Iran's animosity toward Saudi Arabia, however, should have surprised no one.

Perhaps the only thing longer than Iran's animosity toward the United States is its hatred of Saudi Arabia. The two are divided not only by the Persian Gulf, but also by a Shiite-Sunni sectarian split and a Persian-Arab divide that goes back centuries.

Before Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Saudi Arabia had a love-hate relationship. On one hand, religious and ethnic differences plagued the two regional powers. On the other hand, both were traditional monarchies who found themselves on the same side of the Cold War, opposing communism and the radicals who threatened the status quo.

The fall of Iran's shah and his replacement by a radical Shiite regime, however, transformed the love-hate relationship into a hate-hate relationship.
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Filed under: Iran • Saudi Arabia
What is the Quds Force?
Two men are accused of conspiring to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, pictured here.
October 11th, 2011
05:14 PM ET

What is the Quds Force?

Iran's secretive Quds Force is the elite special operations unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The most militant wing of the Guard, Quds has reportedly carried out covert operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq.

The United States has accused it of aiding insurgent groups behind attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jane's global security site reports.

On Tuesday, the FBI and the DEA announced that they had disrupted a plot to commit terrorism inside the U.S., specifically that elements of the Iranian government were involved in a plan to kill Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Adel Al-Jubeir.

CNN's Barbara Starr explained the connection between Saudi Arabia and Iran, noting that there has been bad blood between the countries for some time.

Al-Jubeir is close with Saudi King Abdullah and works at the behest of the royal family. He is a visible, highly respected diplomat.

Saudi Arabia has publicly criticized the violence in Syria, Starr explained.

"The Quds Force is essentially looking at Syria as one of its satellite states for the last many years," she said, using the country "as a place from which to launch attacks, to support terrorism ... to run weapons all over the world."

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October 11th, 2011
04:40 PM ET

Assassination Plot: The Quds Connection

With reporting from Jamie Crawford, Charley Keyes, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott and Gloria Borger

At the center of the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States is the alleged involvement of the Quds Force, the elite special operations unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The most militant wing the corps, Quds Force has reportedly carried out covert operations in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of working with members of an arm of the IRGC in devising a murder-for-hire plot, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York and announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  Arbabsiar is accused of "orchestrating the $1.5 million plot with Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the (Quds) Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators," according to the complaint.

A reading of the complaint, along with public comments by officials, suggested that the U.S. government came to the conclusion that Quds Force was linked to the plot based on claims the defendant made to an informant.  But the question left unanswered is whether the alleged conspirators were free-lancing or got a nod of approval from senior officials in the regime.

The administration does not have "specific information" tying Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, to the plot, but specific information does link senior Quds Force officials, a senior administration official familiar with the case told CNN's Gloria Borger.  When pressed, senior administration officials would not link the plot to the highest levels of the Iranian government, Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin said Thursday.

A senior U.S. official told CNN's Elise Labott that given how compartmentalized Iran's leadership is, it was also unclear the extent to which the plot was known - or approved of - within the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.

"It could be someone in the IRGC who was freelancing; it could be one stovepipe of the Quds force that felt they had the resources and the means to conduct something," the senior U.S. official said. "It's still unclear."

But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who was briefed about the plot this summer, went further in accusing the Iranians of being behind the plot.  FULL POST

October 11th, 2011
03:57 PM ET

U.S. military: no change in posture because of plot

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence
A senior defense official says there has been no change to U.S. military posture in reaction to the terror plot allegedly backed by Iran. The official says American Navy ships in the region have not been re-positioned, and at this point there are no plans to do so.

“The act is already done. One of the people involved is still at large, but the other principal is in custody. So what does changing military posture do?, the official says.

The official says while the Pentagon continues to concentrate on keeping an eye on the Quds Force and Iran’s actions in the region, especially Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, this incident is “much more of a law-enforcement matter.”

The official was not surprised at the level of cooperation apparently given by the Mexican government to foil the terror plot. “We’ve got a very good working relationship with the Mexican military in a number of ways, especially counter-narcotics. The US Navy and Marine Corps are very involved with their Mexican counterparts, and work together in several ways, including training.”

BREAKING: Treasury announces sanctions against five in terror plot
October 11th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

BREAKING: Treasury announces sanctions against five in terror plot

The Treasury Department sanctioned five people for their alleged involvement in the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Here is the announcement –

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the designation of five individuals, including four senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) officers connected to a 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. As part of today’s action, Treasury also designated the individual responsible for arranging the assassination plot on behalf of the IRGC-QF.

Designated today pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF were: Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports who acted on behalf of the IRGC-QF to pursue the failed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador; IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani; Hamed Abdollahi, a senior IRGC-QF official who coordinated aspects of the plot and oversaw the other Qods Force officials directly responsible for coordinating and planning this operation; Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF official who coordinated this operation; and Ali Gholam Shakuri, an IRGC-QF official and deputy to Shahlai, who met with Arbabsiar on several occasions to discuss the assassination and other planned attacks.
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Filed under: Iran • Quds Force • Saudi Arabia • Terrorism
BREAKING: U.S. accuses Iran of backing assassination plot
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Photo; AFP/Getty Images
October 11th, 2011
03:03 PM ET

BREAKING: U.S. accuses Iran of backing assassination plot

U.S. agents have disrupted a $1.5 million "murder-for-hire scheme" involving Iran, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday.

Holder said the alleged plan was directed by elements of the Iranian government and involved a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

READ THE JUSTICE COMPLAINT

"The U.S. is committed to holding Iran accountable," Holder said.

A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the alleged plot "is a fabrication."

Ali Akbar Javanfekr said the Iranian government is awaiting details, but suggested U.S. authorities are attempting to distract American citizens from "domestic problems" by convincing them there is an outside threat. FULL POST


Filed under: Iran • Terrorism
Guess who is not coming to the South Korea state dinner?
October 11th, 2011
02:32 PM ET

Guess who is not coming to the South Korea state dinner?

By Sr. State Dept. Producer Elise Labott

State visits for foreign leaders are meant to signify the importance the U.S. president places on the relationship with a particular country.

Such is the case for South Korea, whose president, Lee Myung-bak, arrives in Washington later this week for a state visit. Lee's arrival comes on the heels of a free trade agreement with Seoul being sent last week to Congress for final approval.

In addition to an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama Thursday, Lee will be feted at a State Department luncheon on Wednesday hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a state dinner Thursday at the White House.

But it looks as if Obama's choice to be his new ambassador to Seoul won't be part of the festivities, due to a nail-biting political standoff over his confirmation which former diplomats warn could affect U.S. relations with a major ally and trading partner.
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