By Jordy Yager - 10/17/12 06:15 PM EDT
A 58-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring with Iranian military officials in a plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. while in Washington, D.C., last year.
Federal officials have charged Manssor Arbabsiar with three counts of conspiring to commit an act of terrorism against the United States, using foreign commerce facilities while attempting to carry out a “murder for hire,” and conspiring to do so.
The murder was set to take place at a Washington restaurant that was also frequented by senators, and the conspirators allegedly were willing to kill as many bystanders as needed to get the job done, saying that it was no “big deal,” according to federal officials.
“They want that guy [the ambassador] done [and] if the hundred go with him, f--k 'em,” Arbabsiar allegedly told the DEA informant.
The guilty plea comes less than three weeks before Election Day, amid a barrage of Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s foreign policy due to the handling of a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Next week’s final presidential debate is set to be held on the topic of foreign policy.
The U.S. government contends that Arbabsiar was in contact with members of the Qods Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that “conducts sensitive covert operations abroad, including terrorist attacks, assassinations and kidnappings,” according to the Justice Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder lauded the case and used the guilty plea as a warning to other terrorist organizations.
“A little more than a year after his arrest, Manssor Arbabsiar has admitted to his role in a deadly plot approved by members of the Iranian military to assassinate a sitting foreign ambassador on U.S. soil,” said Holder in a statement following the guilty plea.
“Today’s plea and the disruption of this plot should serve as a reminder of the exceptional efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies in protecting America against terrorist attacks and in holding accountable those who plan such actions,” Holder said.
Arbabsiar faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and is slated to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2013.
Updated at 2:42 p.m.