Foiled terror plot suspect has Corpus Christi ties

October 11, 2011 8:17:12 PM PDT
The U.S. says it has stopped an attack on the Saudi Arabian ambassador here on U.S. soil. Two men are facing charges in the case. One of them is a naturalized U.S. citizen who has ties to Corpus Christi, so we went there to visit the places where he lived and worked for years.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old U.S. citizen who also holds an Iranian passport, was charged along with Gholam Shakuri, who authorities said was a Quds Force member and is still at large in Iran. The government complaint alleges Arbabsiar was working with the Iranian government, using connections to a Mexican Zeta cartel associate to get the explosives and do the deal.

The Treasury Department listed addresses for Arbabsiar in two Texas cities -- the Austin suburb of Round Rock and the Gulf city of Corpus Christi -- and prosecutors say he frequently traveled to Mexico for business.

ABC13 traveled to Corpus Christi to visit the places where Arbabsiar lived for years and talked to people who knew him.

"He was a friend but that's not acceptable, I do not tolerate that; that's not good," Benjamin Mostafa said.

Mostafa says he graduated from Texas A&M Kingsville in the 1980s. Mostafa, who is also from Iran, was stunned to hear the man he called "Jack" was involved in an international terror plot.

"The last time I saw him was seven, eight months ago. He was supposed to go overseas to get married and then I saw that wedding party on the TV," Mostafa said.

Arbabsiar's last address was at a postal and shipping location. The owner would not talk to us but Mitchel Hamauei, who owns a shop next door, did tell us about a man he has known for years.

"Nice guy, very nice, very energetic, he was a real jokester, he was a joking kind of guy; that is why it shocked me to hear what he was accused of and indicted on," Hamauei said.

Hamauei says Arbabsiar never mentioned terrorism and did not seem like a person who would allegedly organize a violent crime.

"He's a grown man, he knows what he is doing, he knows what he did and unfortunately he is going to have to pay the consequences," Hamauei said.

Arbabsiar moved from Corpus several months ago but we're told he came back from time to time to check his mail and visit night clubs there.

How does the plot affect the United States' relationship with the other countries involved?

This is the sixth publicly known terror plot uncovered and dismantled by federal investigators this year. What makes it different is that it involves the governments of two different countries, and one expert explains what this means for international relations.

While they may shake hands for the camera, Doctor David Cook with Rice University says the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran has never been good.

"I think most Americans don't actually watch the Middle East unless it intrudes upon their actual lives," Cook said.

U.S. officials say the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir. He's the face of Saudi pro-Americanism, and according to this religious studies expert, a particularly effective ambassador following September 11th.

"He had an almost impossible task but he still managed to derail widespread public anger against the country of Saudi Arabia," Cook said.

Representatives from the countries involved reacted with the U.S. saying, "The President was first briefed on this issue in June and directed his Administration to provide all necessary support to this investigation..."

But Iran rejected claims by the U.S. it was involved in a plot to assassinate Al-Jubeir calling it a "prefabricated scenario" and a "ridiculous show."

The Mexican government says it "reiterates its full commitment to preventing and combating terrorism through international cooperation."

"Saudi Arabia is very close to the United States; this is a relationship that Iran has a strategic interest in derailing," Cook said.

Dr. Cook says he expects this failed assassination attempt to have little impact inside Iran and frankly will change little in the relationships of all the countries involved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Load Comments