tv CNN Newsroom CNN October 11, 2011 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT
uncovering an attempted assassination to the saudi ambassador to the united states. i want to begin with wolf blitzer. what do you make of this? >> it's a huge development, brooke. it's not often that the united states is charging a for engovernment to assassinate an ambassador, especially a close ally, del al jaber. who is close to the king abdullah and was a recent guest here on cnn and he's well known behind the scenes. he plays an active role in promoting saudi interest in washington throughout the united states. he goes back to the kingdom all the time to brief the king and top officials of what is going on. he's well known. not a huge surprise that he's
somebody that the iranian government, president ahmadinejad would hate, because the saudis and iranians have had a tough relationship over the years. the saudis are deeply concerned about iran's nuclear program and worry that it would endanger the saudi kingdom. there's a huge rivalry between iran and saudi as a result. it's a huge development when you see them make these allegations against the iranian government, that the al quds were directly involved in plotting an assassination against the saudi ambassador to the u.s. brooke? >> i want to run down the counts. conspiracy to murder a foreign official, foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce in the murder-for-hire,
to engage in foreign travel and use interstate facilities in the commission for murder of hire. commit to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism. eric holder earlier said that they will hold iran accountable. isha? >> let's play for our viewers some of what the attorney general said a short time ago as we leave out details of this alleged plot. let's listen. >> good afternoon. today the department of justice is announcing charges against two people who allegedly attempted to carry out deadly plot that was directed by factions of the iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador here in the united states. manssour, a nationalized citizen who holds an iranian passport and was arrested in new york is accused of working with the
iranian revolutionary corps to devise a scheme to assassinate the saudi ambassador to the insurance. according to a complaint, he organize straighted a $1.5 million assassination plot with an iranian-base member of the qud force and other iranian co-conspirators. the qud force is suspected of sponsoring attacks against the coalition forces in iraq and designated by the treasury in 2007 for providing support to the taliban and other terrorist organizations. the complaint alleges that the conspiracy was conceived, sponsored, and was directed from iran and constitutes a flagrant violation of u.s. and international law, including a convention that protects
diplomats from being harmed. in addition to holding them accountable for the alleged role in the plot, the united states is committed to holding iran accountable for its actions. they are charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to use an act of international terrorism among other charges. in custody since december 29th, 2001, while the other remains at large. according to the complaint earlier this spring, he met with a confidential informant who is posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel. the meeting, which took place in may and in mexico was the first of a series that would result in international conspiracy by elements of the iranian government to pay the informant $1.5 million to murder the
ambassador on united states soil according to documents that we filed few day in court. according to the complaint, those discussions led with the approval to facilitate the wiring of approximately $100,000 into a bank account in the united states as a do you know payment for the attempted assassination. also in the days since the defendant's arrest he has confessed to his participation in the alleged plot as well as provided other valuable information about elements of the iranian government's role in it. the disruption of this alleged plot marks a significant achievement by our law enforcement agencies as well as the close cooperation of our partners in the mexican government. i want to commend the outstanding work of the agencies involved in this investigation, including the fbi and director mueller who is here with us today as well as the drug enforcement agency and michelle.
their agents and analysts worked closely with prosecutors here at the department's national security division as well as in the southern district of new york over these many months to monitor this alleged conspiracy, obtain valuable information, and bring one of the primary plotters to justice. i want to thank them for their remarkable work and with that i'd like to turn it over to director mueller. >> good afternoon. this case illustrates that we live in a world where borders and boundaries are increasingly irrelevant, where one kousht industry south to conspire with a drug cartel in another country to assassinate an ambassador on the united states soil. although it reads like the pages of a hollywood script, the impact would have been very real and many lives would have been lost. >> i want to go straight to reza
who is in islamabad. i know you've reached out to the spokesperson for ahmadinejad. the question s. what would he have known and the spokesperson, you said, essentially laughed at you? >> reporter: yeah and it was a strong denial by the spokesperson of ahmadinejad, he mockingly said, this is a quote, it's a child story. it's not the first time america has come up with a story like this. this is interesting, he said americans are facing a domestic problem and this is an attempt by them to distract the public and an outside threat and went ton say that it is a fabrication and has become an expert at making false allegations and a strong denial by the spokesperson and told us that he has not read through the entire
complaint. >> the iranian revolutionary guard, essentially calling it like the s.e.a.l. team 6. my question s. what kind of relationship wolf ahmadinejad have with al qud? >> well, president ahmadinejad was a former revolutionary guard member and, of course, the qud is a faction of the revolutionary guard but it's simply not clear what kind of influence or sway the president would have on a group and and it's important to remember, these are serious allegations but at this point, they are just allegations. the fact is, these are two countries, the u.s. and iran, engaged in an information war. the fact is, both of thieves
countries and their leaders have made serious allegations against one another that didn't turn out to be true, often times, or didn't turn out to be as serious as first thought. the question is, is this allegation one much them? is this allegation, whatever happened, as serious as what the just disdepartment said has happened. and the serious implication is factions with the iranian government and if you look at this regime's history, it doesn't fit their m.o. is it possible that they were involved? certainly. do these allegations need to be proven, i would say certainly before pointing to resolutions. >> reza, thank you. >> i want to bring in one of my colleagues, who is in d.c. to talk to me more billion all of
this with the saudi ambassador to the united states. give me a sense of your thoughts of this alleged plot? >> well, this goes right to the heart of the tensions in the middle east. a situation has caused heightened tensions between shiite iran and the sunni kingdom of saudi arabia. i will take you back to bahrain, and you remember that saudi sent in forces and troops to crush that uprising. and then you have up risings that are mainly shiite uprisings and the king says will be crushed with an iron fist and you can see that an iranian plot may be directed at assassinated or killing the saudi ambassador.
so this is really the regional picture for you here where you have two big middle eastern powers, one sunni led kingdom and then a shiite nation of more than 80 million people. this, isha, is a picture in the middle east that explains some of the tensions in iraq as well between muslim countries, one persian and one arab, have a lot at stake in proxy battles as well in the region. so this explains a little bit of the background of why, ooichl s be a reason if indeed this alleged plot proves to be true. >> another point that is important for to us bring out for our viewers is the status of
ahmadinejad at this point in time. what might he have known about this alleged plot, how far up mooit this have have gone allegedly and it's important to speak out, if you can speak to this, the fact that ahmadinejad is himself in quite a precarious situation at home with a great amount of tensions and divisions within the government. >> right. he is right now fraj jooil within his own country, with forces inside of his own country threatening his leadership. but one thing that we have to add, isha, of course, is the nuclear program within iran. this is something that is very a concern for saudi arabia and they will consider this a way that israel considers a nuclear program by iran to be a threat to it. so you have not only sectarian intentions but also this
military dimension involving saudi arabia and iran where you have these two big super power countries very much at arms and more on one level and this is the background that you have to read was announced today by the united states department, isha. >> joining us from d.c. with expert analysis, thank you. >> and coming up after the break, the former director of the cia, bob knows about attempted assassination plots working with the cia. he has thwarted many. breaking news after this short break. medicare coverage is earlier this year. it begins october 15th and ends december 7th; so now is the best time to review your options. here's a plan that could give you the benefits and stability you're looking for, an aarp medicarecomplete plan
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welcome back. a busy, busy tuesday. i've got to pause and take you live to new hampshire, where according to our source of our own, this man, governor chris christie is because b to endorse mitt romney ze knows how government works. not a legislator trying to figure out how to use executive power but an executive who has used executive power and will make american lives better. that's why i'm endorsing mitt romney for president of the united states. [ applause ] and as republicans, our number one goal this year has to be to preserve our american way of life and that american way of life was built by entrepreneurship, built by allowing the unleashing of
american spirit and american incentiveness on the economy and growing a bigger and bigger pie. the biggest difference between mitt romney and president of the united states, the president of the united states has unleashed its campaign strategy already and that is to divide america, to tell americans who are not doing well right now and who are scared, that the pie of america is so only so big and if you want more, you have to take it from others. i know that mitt romney believes that the american pif can be grown bigger, that it can been infinite size because of the american inji knew tea, effort, and character. that is what this is about. that they want to believe that somebody's future can be
greater, not trying to did i vice an ever shrinking pie among the american people. it's been, really in the end, an easy decision for me. i know that america needs a new course and i want it to be with the person who i believe will be the best person to lead america on that course and that's governor mitt romney. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, chris. let me turn to questions that you have. mark? >> the perry campaign in the past has approved that and what do you think of the tactic of imputing someone's religion? whal do you think about what happened on friday? >> my tat tud about this is the same as my attitude has been about those noex new jersey who disparaged in both parties my decision to apoint a muslim
judge. they have nothing to do with the quality of somebody's ability to lead. you have to evaluate their record and their character and integrity, not based upon their religious beliefs and based on who they are, and i think that any campaign that associates itself with that type of conduct is beneath the office of the united states, in my view. >> mark, governor perry selected an individual to introduce him who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse governor perry and a reason to not support me. and governor perry said that that hit it out of the park. i don't believe that this kind of device has a place in this country. i believe in the spirit of the founders when they suggested and crafted in the country that they are a nation that tolerated different people, a face of
religious diversity and that respect that they embodied in the constitution itself, would not become part of a candidate in the united states. i believe in the spirit of the embodiment and the nation that this has been crafted and i would call upon -- >> that was a couple of days. they were waiting and wondering if the man on the left side of the tv, governor christie, would run for the president of the united states and now we know that he will not and he's endorsed mitt romney hours ahead of the gop debate. isha, back to you. >> i want to bring in bob bear,
formerly with the cia. what do you think of this alleged plot? >> well, i'm taking this very seriously. we are already in conflict with iran over the nuclear program and on the other hand, i have a problem with the fact that the iranians would have used iranian nationals. this is completely you uncharacteristic. they've always used proxies, whether it's lebanonese but rarely would they use their own people to carry out the ta attack. >> the two that are being charged, iran base member of the quds force z keep in mind,
that's their arm of terror. it was the qud force behind the attack on american soldiers in iraq in 2007, killed five of them. it was the qud force who blew up our troops in 1983. >> knowing the power rupture and carried out by members of the iranian government, aside from the quds force, who else are you looking at? who else is of interest to you? >> well, that would be the only arm that would do it, also there was a ren ne gad, part of the government that would want to make them fail and welcome a limited attack on the facilities to change the message because of the bad economy and the demonstrations. but we simply don't know enough about it right now. >> and when you hear that the attorney general is saying that
they are going to go after iran to hold them accountable, talk of a possibility of further sanctions, i mean, what is your sense in terms of the usefulness of sanctions or effectiveness of sanctions, i should say? >> well, we are out of sanctions at this point. they haven't done enough to change the policy of the government. and it's -- you know, again, this goes back to the potential for escalation between us and iran. and certainly saudi arabia would like to do something about iran and if it is real, the saudis would push us to do something. >> we are going to wait to get more reaction -- >> bob baer, this is brooke. you're a former cia. you know how this works in terms of, you know, i don't even know how many assassination attempts are thwarted on high-ranking officials globally each year. my question to you, though, is
that we have not entirely explored this with regard to mexico and how the attorney general would not entirely elaborate by saying thank you to the mexican president for his significant cooperation here. what do you make of this? how one of these machine who apparently ended up meeting with dea in mexico, a meeting in may, he wanted $1.5 million and that seems to be sort of the beginning of the end for this plot. does that strike you as odd? >> well, on one hand, mexico -- we have a porous border with mexico and it would be easy to get people across and we could be dealing with fabricators, people who are really out for money. any time narcotics comes into one of these investigations, it sort of undercuts the credibility that there really was a plot. the iranians, when they do an
assassination, it's never about money. it's always about skill. getting it done, getting away, and uncovering their tracks. so these multiple meetings, bringing governments in, other governments, using narcotics, and getting caught, actual coming into the country, it seems sloppy to me. because if the iranians really put their mind to assassinating the saudi ambassador, they could do it. >> it's frightening. bob baer, thank you for calling in. isha? >> i want to get mr. jordan, former ambassador to saudi arabia -- we haven't actually established contact with him yet. but i want to go to the white house, and bring in jessica yellin to get the latest as to what she is hearing billion this alleged plot.
jessica. >> reporter: hi, isha. the president was first briefed on this in june. a senior u.s. official tells me that the u.s. will not tolerate a target on our u.s. shores. we should expect further steps to try to isolate iran and that the u.s. will work with international partners towards that end. we have multiple sources telling us that we should expect at the very least new sanctions against iran and we should expect something announced later today towards that end. of course, there could be further action at the security council as you have heard others say. what a senior official tells me is that they think this is an acceleration that will hurt iran not just here in the u.s. but overseas where it will not be looked upon fondly where they have attempted to attack or set
a plot to attack another member of the middle eastern nation, partner nation in the middle east. and the big picture, again, as the white house and no doubt the rest of the administration would like to see is that this would further isolate iran. i can add to this that this administration has said that they have been in regular contact with the saudi government throughout this investigation and has had contact with al jubeir. >> jessica, thank you. joining us on the line is robert jordan, former u.s. ambassador to saudi arabia. thank you for joining us. i want to get your sense as to why iran might have allegedly gone after the -- gone after the saudi arabian ambassador to the united states? why? >> well, it's very important to
understand that the saudis and iranians believe that they are in a mortal battle for supremacy in the united states. the saudis view iran as a threat to their arab world and iran has been insinuating itself into many of the struggles of the middle east in a way that is completely contrary to the saudi national interest and in fact of course to the u.s. national interest. ambassador al jube ooichir, who close friend of mine, is at the forefront of articulating the foreign policy, the saudi policy that iranians are so desperate to counteract and i think he is
a target. there is credibility to this story. and the saudis have viewed iran as a threat, not only with the shiite in the eastern province and in bahrain but throughout the entire arab world. >> you just pointed out that al jubeir is a good friend of yours. how might he take such news? >> you said that the saudi ambassador is a friend of yours. i'm just wondering, knowing him as you do, his likely reaction to this was a chilling plot. >> ambassador jubeir is a pro. he is someone of impeccable
credentia credentials. his father was a diplomat. he is someone who i think can be counted on to be a collaborative, positive force in the relationship between the united states and saudi arabia. so it's not only an attack on saudi arabia but it's an attack of the united states in many ways to target this ambassador. >> what is your sense of the repurchase discussions that this will have in the region, these allegations? >> i think that iran will be further isolated if thes allegations are true. iran will be viewed much as north korea is viewed, as a rogue nation outside of the legitimate parameters of international discourse and we'll really find it really difficult, i think, to proceed in the family of nations. this is a -- in my view, a
colossal blender on the part of iran, if the allegations are true. >> robert jordan, thank you for your time. thank you. >> a colossal blunder, he says. >> yes. >> the fourth piece of this is mexico. i want to bring in juan carlos lopez with cnn espanol. can you help us understand how mexico and the significant cooperation of the mexican government near thwarting this assassination. >> brooke. i've been looking at the indictment and according to the indictment, manssor arbabsair had his dealings with those until mexico and met with a
confidential source who s. had already worked with the united states. he had been charged with -- he received drug charges in a state and in exchange for his investigation, those charges were dismissed and he has been a paid source of paid informant to the u.s. that's where the conversation started and that's where the negotiations started and it was through his contacts in mexico that he started the conversations. this confidential source informed tape recorded the conversations and the last trip that manssor makes to mexico is denied entry and is sent back to the united states. ice a naturalized u.s. citizen. he believed he was dealing with a mexican cartel. the cartel that they are referring to this is very similar to the zetas and there
are former military police officers who have military training and whovil have access the high caliber weapons. they are well known for carrying out terrorist attacks and attacking civilians in mexico but there is no evidence of them carrying out attacks in the united states, such as a bomb in a restaurant to kill the ambassador to saudi arabia. he was compensated for his cooperation in this investigation. >> juan carlos, thank you. also, more breaking news. we are just getting word of a prisoner exchange involving israel and gilad shalit. stay right there.
. welcome back, everyone. i was a very busy tuesday. news that a deal tentatively has been struck between the israeli government and hamas to see the release of captured it izzy soldier gilad shalit, who was captured back in 2006. i want to get more details. i understand that mr. netanyahu spoke a while ago. >> reporter: in the last hour and a half the contours of this deal have become clear. now, what we've heard directly
is that a deal has been struck between the palestinian militant group holding gilad shalit among them and the israeli government that would receive somewhere around 1,000 palestinian prisoners free in exchange for gilad shalit. he's an israeli soldier captures by hamas and other militant groups operating in the gaza troop in the summer of 2006 and his five-year long captivity has become a major issue here in israeli society. every year, on the anniversary of his capture, every birthday that he celebrates in captivity, has become sort of a day of national mourning here in israel. so news of a possible deal here, very big news in israel and likewise this is huge news if this deal comes through and is a huge deal for the palestinians
and a huge deal if they are releasing that many palestinian prisoners. at this point i must caution that there have been many times before where word of a deal has been sort of imminent and it has collapsed at the last minute. we seem to have gone a bit further here. both hamas and the israeli government are saying that it's a done deal and we do not know the details about all of the palestinian prisoners that will be released or the exact details of how it will be done. we're told by one group that this exchange will be taking place in stages. so that the first stage we will see a certain number of palestinian prisoners released. the second taj we would see gilad shalit released to a third country, egypt, most likely, and then in the third stage, the rest of the palestinian prisoners would be released agilad shalit would come home.
these are all details that have not been announced but this sh wh is what we're expecting. they are expected to be voting on it but it's safe to assume that the israeli prime minister netanyahu would not have called this meeting or made these announcements if he did not think that a positive vote was anything but assured, isha. >> thank you. let me bring in my international colleague who can speak on this developing story. hala, do you remember last time we got any proof of live video or message from gilad shalit? what do we know about the condition that he may be in. >> well, the last time was -- i cannot give you the precise day but we have seen video proof of life over the last couple of
years. he has a thin build to begin with. he did look thin but what is interesting about this is one of the things prime minister netanyahu said this is a best deal we could have expected given the situation in the wider arab world. whether this is preparing people for possibly not wanting people to read this as a sign of weakness coming from the israeli government if indeed this deal involves the most prominent palestinian prisoner held by the israelis, as well as up to 1,000 palestinian prisoners in exchange for gilad shalit, which we believe is in the gaza strip, he is preparing those people who think that they are giving too much in exchange for gilad shalit. this is a prisoner who was
abducted by palestinians, who is considered sort of a national symbol as far as israel is concerned and his return to the country will be an extremely emotional event for israel. these are two events that we need to keep in mind. politically on one hand and then another national event. it is extremely significant. >> hala, thank you. brooke, they have been working tirelessly to keep this story front and center to ensure his release and it looks like a possible deal has been made. we will see. if i may, let's bounce back to the other international story, an announcement from the department of justice, that two men, a naturalized u.s. citizen with iranian and u.s. passports and the other an iranian citizen.
one is still at large. facing multiple counts here in this now thwarted assassination attempt of the saudi arabian ambassador to the united states. it's a 25-page -- or 21-page federal complaint. i'm going to read for you some snip pets as far as the how and when and where, recorded conversation taken from one of the defendants, manss manssor arbabsiar and he and the confidential source were talking about how they would kill the saudi arabian ambassador. he says, he wants you to kill this guy. and the source says, there's going to be like american people there in the restaurant. you want me to do it outside or in the restaurant? and arbabsiar says, it doesn't matter how you do it. and they talk about how they
wanted this man killed and how much he cared that there might be collateral damage or innocent people hurt. they want that guy, the ambassador done, meaning killed, if 100 go womith him, forget th. but he didn't say forget. talking with the u.s. paid confidential source about planning the saudi ambassador's assassination, that the confidential source says this. i'm going to blow him, the ambassador up, shoot him, whatever you want. arbabsiar says, yeah, it doesn't matter. whatever is easy. how is possible for you. let's go to jill dougherty and talk about these sanctions coming down from treasury involving the five individuals tied to this plot. tell me about this. >> well, right. we've been talking about the sanctions and now we know that
the treasury department is going to be leveling these sanctions and targeting these sanctions against five individuals who are tied to this plot. and that is important because it's no longer we're not talking about a general sanctions rej m regime. up to this point, the united states has targeted individual targets and many of them involved in the members of the quds force and we have been talking about that over the last hour that. is the part of the revolutionary guard corps in iran which is not only military but it also has tenticles throughout the iranian economy. and, also, we're told that the state department will be and is, i'm sure, talking now to other countries, describing what happened and one of the reasons that the state department has tried to talk to other countries
and get them on board is that just by having the united states impose sanctions won't do the trick, that the united states needs other countries. it needs europeans and many other people. if it's to have some type of an effect because, after all, the united states at this point has very little economic relationship with iran and it's other countries that do. and so that's why the united states wants to get them aboard. brooke, as we were standing here thinking about all of this, i think it's really important to point out to our viewers that, you know, how serious it is to allegedly try to kill an ambassador. an ambassador is a representative of a country. the property that embassy. in fact, i live very close to the saudi embassy. i look at it every morning. >> oh, wow. >> every day as i go to work. it's legally considered property
as if you were in saudi arabia. that is saudi arabian territory and trying to kill an ambassador is very serious. another point that i would make is that robert mueller believes that -- they are alleging that these men who wanted to plot had other plots in mind against other people here in the united states. not a lot of details on that. but that would also be very significant. this, you can say, is really huge. again, all allegations at this point but the allegations are enormously serious on many different levels. the relationship between the u.s. and iran, the relationship between the united states and saudi arabia. the relationship, the entity between saudi arabia and iran. and then this amazing wrinkle of
using allegedly a mexican hit man or -- >> right. >> -- or mexicans to carry out the plot. it's just as mueller said, it's a hollywood script. >> it's a hollywood script he said with very serious implications and if i remember his phraseology, this would have just been an opening act. >> right. precisely. >> and the saudi embassy, right there neat the potomac and near the kennedy center, you see it each and every day. we don't know -- we know the intended target was obviously a saudi ambassador at a specific rec restaurant but we don't know where that restaurant would have been? >> no, we don't. the understanding is that apparently it's a restaurant that the ambassador frequented and they did not say -- well, they discussed, apparently, allegedly, do you do it inside the restaurant? do you do it outside? >> right. >> and the crucial part for the mexican was to allegedly provide the explosives, the wmd as they
have referred to it, which would be used for in this plot. >> a saudi ambassador, conspiracy to commit international terrorism. jill dougherty, thank you so much. still some questions to come. what does this mean for the security of the united states? we have two security experts. tom fuentes and fran townsend continuing this conversation live after this quick break. my name's jeff. i'm a dad, coach... and i quit smoking with chantix. knowing that i could smoke during the first week was really important to me. [ male announcer ] along with support, chantix is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix reduced my urge to smoke -- and personally that's what i knew i needed. [ male announcer ] some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood, hostility, agitation,
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undoubtedly continue this breaking news story of the thwarted assassination attempt. >> i've known him for many years. he's a graduate of georgetown university here in washington, spent a whole career basically in washington, security adviser to the then crown prince, now kick of saudi arabia, king abdullah, so he's very much involved in u.s./saudi relations across the board. we'll be following the breaking news. enormous ramifications of what this potentially means. what will the u.s. government, the obama administration do to retaliate, if you will, against the iranian regime if this is all proven that they were directly responsible for plotting to kill the saudi ambassador and kill some other people in washington here as well. mike rogers, the chairman of the house intelligence committee,
has been fully briefed on this. he'll be joining us live at the top of the hour. we're going to go through point by point by point what we know specifically, what we don't know, who was involved, who wasn't involved, what this might mean looking ahead so we have a lot of news to cover in the situation room. >> thank you for that, sir. in the time remaining let's continue this conversation with two experts here. we have tom fuentes and also fran townsend. tom, i just want to begin with you here as we hear about these two men charged, one of whom is in the united states, the other still at large, charged with this attempted assassination or thwarted assassination attempt of the saudi ambassador. you hear that this involves the mexican government, obviously iran, as you reference the s.e.a.l. team 6 of the iranian revolutionary guard, you hear all of these pieces of this tremendously complicated puzzle. what's your reaction? >> well, my reaction is that it would have been sanctioned at
the highest levels of the iranian government to commit these acts and that it would not be the first time that they have conducted international acts of terrorism. as i mentioned earlier, they conducted two major bombings in argentina in the early '90s and the investigation in that case led all the way to the top of the iranian government. and interpol issued red notices three years ago in connection with the members involved in that case. in that case the explosives were sent to buenos aires through diplomatic pouches through iran so they are bold and capable if they want to commit an outrageous act, which in this case it's hard to figure that the saudis wouldn't consider this an act of war if they actually conducted this assassination. >> at this point, tom, stay with us, i want to bring in fran. fran, what do you think the white house would have known -- how much would they have known, how involved would they have been in this operation when it unfolded. >> when i was in the white
house, the ambassador was adviser to the now king of saudi arabia so there was no question that the white house would have been fully briefed and monitored the ongoing operation as it was unfolding. remember fbi director bob mule -- bob mueller is briefing the president every week. remember the ambassador's relationship to the king of saudi arabia makes him a particular target here. i will tell you saudi arabia understood -- has understood very well the capability of the iranians because for the longest time they would not post a saudi ambassador to iraq because they feared for his safety and that he might be targeted by iran inside iraq. so this is -- this capability, this sort of threat is not a shock to saudi arabia. >> fran, if i could just get one more question in. it's brooke. as we're talking about these sanctions issued to these five individuals and jill dougherty reporting from the state department saying they're talking to other countries, we
hear attorney general eric holder saying iran will be held accountab accountable. what might that mean? >> when you look at the list of five people targeted with sanctions, this goes and includes the person that was responsible for this operation. what does that tell us? not only was there clearly an informant but it suggests there was electronic surveillance that was used. if they could tract this all the way inside to the top of the quds force they know iranian government at its highest level sanctioned this assassination. >> fran, tom, thank you very much. we're going to take a quick break. when we come back we're going to bring in mohammed to give us some perspective on recent tensions between saudi arabia and iran. stay with us for that.
welcome back. of course cnn can cover this story like no one else. we have folks globally, including mohammed who is in abu dhabi. we've heard from reza sayah and we've already gotten reaction from iran saying this whole story is a fabrication. i have yet to hear any reaction from saudi arabia. i know you've been trying. have you gotten anywhere? >> brooke, the saudis just aren't speaking yet. we're expecting that they will issue a statement soon. it's not a surprise. the saudis don't usually talk to big stories like this as soon as they happen.
it usually takes them a while to formulate some kind of a statement. it seems like right now they're letting the fbi and white house and other u.s. officials take the lead on this. i would expect a statement in the coming hours, maybe by tomorrow morning, but as of yet nothing from the saudis. >> what about just big picture, the relationship between iran and saudi arabia. they're certainly at odds. can you extrapolate? >> that's right, brooke. i mean saudi arabia and iran are foes of each other in this region. what we've seen, we've heard other people speak about this, what we've seen the past few years, more an more proxy wars going on between iran and saudi arabia in this region. it's really a battle for who's the most dominant regional force. you've seen this play out in countries like yemen, in the north of yemen a couple of years ago there was a rebellion. the saudis were involved, the iranians were involved. they were pointing fingers at each other, each saying the other country was trying to
foment unrest. most recently bahrain. once the protest movement got under way in bahrain this past february, in march you had saudi forces and other gcc backed forces going in to bahrain to back the sunni government of bahrain. iran saw that as a threat to them. the saudis, the uae, other forces were pointing fingers at iran trying to inspire the shiite protest noouchlt in bahrain. so a lot of tension between saudi arabia and iran. a battle for dom nancy in this region and it doesn't seem like that tension is going away any time soon. >> we have heard the u.s. say they will hold iran accountable. what action do you expect saudi arabia to take? >> we just don't know at this point. even more interesting right now, beyond the dynamic of iran and saudi arabia, saudi arabia and the u.s., you know, since the arab spring really took root here in the region, we've seen