Adel al-Jubeir, shown here in a 2004 photo, served as. foreign affairs advisor to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia before taking the post of Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Tuesday accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, with help from a purported member of a Mexican drug cartel.
"The United States is committed to hold Iran accountable for its actions," Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir has served as Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States since 2007, according to the embassy's website.
Two people, including a member of Iran's special operations unit known as the Quds Force, were charged in New York federal court. Holder said the bomb plot was a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.
"We will not let other countries use our soil as their battleground," Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said at a press conference in Washington with Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Read the criminal complaint
Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, whom authorities said was a Quds Force member.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says many lives could have been lost in the plot to kill the ambassador with bombs in the U.S.
Holder said the U.S. government would be taking unspecified action against the Iranian government as early as Tuesday afternoon. Asked whether the plot was blessed by the top echelons of the Iranian government, Holder said the Justice Department was not making that accusation.
Arbabsiar unknowingly hired an informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the plot, prosecutors said. Posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel, the informant met with Arbabsiar several times in Mexico, authorities said. The price tag was $1.5 million and Arabsiar made a $100,000 down payment.
Bharara said no explosives were actually placed, and no one was in any danger.
Shakuri remains at large. Arbabsiar was arrested Sept. 29 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday. Prosecutors said he faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors said Arbabsiar has confessed to his participation in the murder plot.
President Obama was first briefed on the plot in June, said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.
"The disruption of this plot is a significant achievement by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the president is enormously grateful for their exceptional work in this instance and countless others," Vietor said.