The foiled Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. crosses a "very dangerous threshold," says House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers — one that demands an unprecedented level of action from the Obama administration to stop the rising Islamist power.
“The longer we put off an aggressive international approach to this, the worse off we are all going to be,” said the six-term Michigan Republican in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.
“Imagine a nation state that’s engaged in trying to kill U.S. soldiers and coalition forces in Iraq; that is plotting to kill an ambassador, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, here in Washington D.C.; oh, and by the way, they’re going to get nuclear weapons.”
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President Obama also will have to make the case to the world for action against Iran, and that will mean pressuring China and Russia to fall in line. The two UN Security Council permanent members need to be told they have to stand with the rest of the world in opposition to the Tehran government, Rogers said.
“It is important for us, us, as the international community, to band together and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you have to make a choice here, you have to be for them and for a state sponsor of terrorism, or you are going to be with the rest of the international community. This is your chance.’
“I’m not pollyannaish enough to believe they are all of a sudden going to change their minds but we need to make them very uncomfortable,” he added.
Rogers was speaking just as Obama told reporters that Iranian involvement in the thwarted plot was “part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior."
“What you're going to see is folks throughout the Middle East region questioning their ability to work effectively with Iran," added the president.
Rogers said he agrees with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran is about two years away from getting a nuclear weapon, and that must be stopped at all costs. He believes that the reason the plot targeted Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir was due to Riyadh’s strong position opposing a nuclear Iran.
“They have been aggressive about saying that it is really dangerous if Iran gets a nuclear weapon,” said Rogers. “It’s destabilizing to the whole region and it unleashes the hordes of their intelligence service to do really bad things.”
The plot to kill al-Jubeir by blowing up a Washington restaurant as he ate was revealed by Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday. Rogers, Obama and other leaders had known about it since being briefed in June. Two Iranians have been charged in connection with the plot, one is in custody and the other is still on the run.
Iran has denied any link to the plot, but Rogers was adamant that the plot was real and that senior officials in the Iranian government were behind it.
“Evidence is evidence,” he said. “I’m a former FBI agent and I can tell you, I’ve looked at the case, I’ve looked at the evidence, I was briefed when this thing started to unfold months ago and they have nowhere to go.
“The evidence in this case is incredibly strong and that’s why you see such a widespread agreement of Republicans and Democrats and senior intelligence officials and DOJ officials. Yes this happened. Yes, it was tied to Iran. Yes, this crossed a very dangerous threshold.”
Rogers said Manssor Arbabsiar, the man who is in custody, is cooperating and has admitted to ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force and to the very top in Tehran.
“This was an operation that would have cost $1.5 million, so you know someone senior in there has already been involved,” he said. “You know that the Quds force has a direct command relationship (with) the Supreme Leader.”
He said that because of the brazenness of the assassination plot it is safe to assume that it is not the first time – nor will it be the last – that Quds operatives have killed their enemies.
”It’s important to know the Quds force has been up to no good and dangerous activities for years, and went relatively unmolested by the rest of the world, unchallenged by the rest of the world. This is what led to this very brazen activity and, one could extrapolate, there is likely to be other plans… in the works.”
He said Quds operatives have been operating with impunity in both Iraq and Afghanistan in killing American and coalition soldiers.
Now, he said, it is time to “ratchet up” sanctions on Iran. “It would be a serious mistake if they didn’t feel some pain as a result of what was a very aggressive operation to commit an act of violence for political gain in the United States.”
But he said he does not agree with House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King of New York, who has called on Obama to expel all Iranian diplomats from the United States. “We don’t have a formal diplomatic relationship as it stands, there’s a consulate up in New York that we do some dealings with,” he pointed out.
“I always believe that even in a time of extreme tension, you need at least somebody to talk to, to either de-escalate or make an agreement about why they ought to change their ways. So I would be a little careful about going there.
“But that doesn’t mean we should not be incredibly aggressive about targeting Quds force people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about making sure that the Quds force operatives, wherever they are in the world, are going to have difficulty operating, and that we continue to put pressure on Iran.”
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