By Pete Kasperowicz
House Republicans on Wednesday night said the Obama administration needs to take dramatic steps to explore reports that Iran tried to conspire with people in Mexico's Zeta drug cartel in an attempt to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.
Republicans said the plot shows the extent to which Iran is interested in and capable of conducting terror within the U.S. territory, and said a harsher response is required. But lawmakers speaking on the floor offered no specific recommendations in terms of responses.
"This event that has occurred should tell us a lot of things," Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said on the House floor. "One, that the country of Iran is so bold that they believe they can commit a crime of terror on the soil of the United States and get away with it."
Poe added that Iranian operatives also appear willing to recruit members of the Mexican drug cartel to help, which opens up a border security dimension to the story.
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) added that recent press reports say Mexican drug cartels on their own are already reportedly plotting to create a safe zone within the U.S. for their shipments.
"It is a real concern when you're talking about 1,200 miles of border between the United States and Mexico, that someone would have a plan to invade our country and take control of those border counties," Carter said. "I would call that invasion."
The Justice Department charged two men Tuesday with conspiring to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington in a bomb plot it said was sponsored by elements of the Iranian government. Separately, the Treasury Department on Tuesday announced it has arrested four senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers connected in the plot.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) argued that the Obama administration has yet to indicate it is properly concerned with how these events are tied together, and said more pressure needs to be brought on Iran as a start.
"If they are committed enough to try to foment an attack here, and literally try to blow up the Israeli embassy here, or kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., let me suggest to you that the intent is so clear that our entire focus now should be upon dealing with the capacity," he said. "Perhaps this president would do better if he were able to focus on the threats of our nation without being so busy apologizing for American at every opportunity."
Carter suggested that if the Zeta cartel was to be enlisted to smuggle explosives all the way up to Washington D.C., they or others might also be used to smuggle tactical nuclear weapons from Iran, once Iran has that capacity. Franks said that given the Obama administration's relaxed border enforcement, in particular related to illegal drugs, this possibility could easily happen.
"Maybe they could just hide it in a bale of marijuana," he said. "That would help them get it across."