US energy envoy Pascual to step down

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US Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual announced Friday he will step down in July, U.S. officials told the Back Channel.

The departure plans come as oil proces have spiked amid the new security crisis in Iraq, as al Qaeda-linked the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overtook the city of Mosul.

Pascual, a former US envoy to Mexico and Ukraine, stood up the new energy affairs bureau three years ago, but was never confirmed. He is expected to head next to Columbia University.

Pascual’s deputy Amos Hochstein is considered a possible nominee to succeed him.

Texas man pleads guilty in plot to assassinate Saudi envoy

A former Texas used car salesman pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring in a plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy to the United States.

Mansoor Arbabsiar, 58, a naturalized American from Iran, pled guilty to three counts, including soliciting a murder for hire scheme, and conspiring in a terrorism plot against the United States. He could face twenty-five years in prison and will forfeit his assets.

Arbabsiar was charged last year wth conspiring with four members of Iran’s Qods force-among the, his cousin-in a bizarre plot to recruit members of a Mexican drug gang to blow up a Washington restaurant frequented by the Saudi envoy, Adel al-Jubeir. The plot came on the radar of federal authorities after Arbabsiar attempted to seek the help in Mexico, in May 2011, of a man fhe thought to be a member of the Zetas drug cartel. That man turned out, however, to be a paid informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency. Federal terrrorism investigators were allegedly monitoring Arbabsiar when he wired $100,000 to the DEA informant in the summer of 2011, as the downpayment for the alleged hit job, for which he had agreed to pay $1.5 million.

Iran’s mission to the UN last year called the allegations ‘baseless,’ and several outside observers have found the details of the allegedly thwarted plot far-fetched.

But in a demonstration of how seriously top US officials have viewed the case, Arbabsiar’s guilty plea was announced Wednesday by a half dozen top US law enforcement chiefs, including Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and DEA chief Michelle Leonhart.

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