New York City, Oct. 14 - The recently uncovered Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and blow up the Saudi Arabia and Israel embassies in Washington is a significant development in Iran’s escalating terrorist activities, according to a top diplomat in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“This is part of a wider, aggressive pattern of relentlessly pursuing a nuclear military program and developing long-range missiles,” Jeremy Issacharoff, deputy director general for strategic affairs for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said at a briefing in New York with a major media outlet. The briefing was part of a media tour with The Israel Project. Issacharoff continued, “The conspiracy demonstrates Iran’s capability to precipitate major crises.”
U.S. officials announced the Iran-backed plot Oct. 11 when they unsealed a criminal complaint against two men from Iran allegedly planning to carry it out. Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri were charged in New York. Shakuri is part of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a branch of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that conducts terrorist activities abroad. Shakuri is at large; Arbabsiar, who holds dual Iran-U.S. citizenship, was arrested in September.
According to a U.S. Justice Department statement, the two men were charged with “conspiracy to murder a foreign official; conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives); and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries.”
The plot, Issacharoff said, “was not something outside of the Iranians’ lexicon.”
Until now, Issacharoff said, Iran has focused on terrorist activities such as smuggling weapons to terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas and to countries ranging from Afghanistan to Iraq and Nigeria. “The only thing that surprises me is why this didn’t happen bigger and sooner and in different ways.”
Iran has been diverting attention from its nuclear weapons program, which continues to move forward, said Issacharoff, adding that Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to produce three nuclear bombs. “People have taken their eye off the ball.”
Iran is the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism. The Islamic republic’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel should be “wiped off the map,” denied that the Holocaust occurred and often makes statements condemning Israel and the West. Ahmadinejad also has suggested that 9/11 was a U.S. conspiracy and the killing of Osama bin Laden was part of a cover-up.
Issacharoff has been involved for years in Israel’s diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis Iran and is regarded as an expert on U.S.-Israel relations as well as arms control, as demonstrated by his membership in the U.N. Secretary-General’s Advisory Board for Disarmament Affairs – a body consisting of 20 experts in arms control and disarmament from around the world.
As deputy director general, Issacharoff is responsible for Iran, non-proliferation, arms control, counter-terrorism, Israel defense exports and regional security. Among his many posts, he served from 2005-2009 as deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy in Washington.