US uncovers Iran ‘plot’ to kill ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton
The US Justice Department said Wednesday it had uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate former White House national security adviser John Bolton and announced charges against a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Justice Department said 45-year-old Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, had offered to pay a person in the United States $300,000 to kill Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations.
The Justice Department said the plan was likely in retaliation for the US assassination of Guardsman Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020.
The allegation came as Iran weighs up a proposed deal during talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 agreement, which aims to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
For months, Tehran has held up the deal, demanding that the United States revoke its official designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a sponsor of terrorism.
“This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to retaliate against individuals on US soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt all these efforts,” US Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said.
According to the indictment, Poursafi attempted to arrange Bolton’s murder from October 2021, when he contacted an unidentified person in the United States online, first saying he wanted photos of Bolton taken.
That person passed the Iranian on to another contact, who then asked Poursafi to kill Bolton.
He offered $250,000, which was then negotiated to $300,000.
“Poursafi added that he had an additional ‘job’ for which he would pay $1 million,” the Justice Department said.
But that second person, court documents say, was a confidential source for the US Federal Bureau of Identification.
Foreign policy ‘hawk’
The ostensible killer stopped, waiting for an initial payment, but only sent Poursafi in late April, paying a total of $100 worth of cryptocurrency.
Poursafi was charged with using interstate trade facilities to commit contract murder, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and of providing and attempting to provide material support for a transnational murder plot, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Bolton, one of the leading “hawks” of US foreign policy and a strong critic of Iran, was National Security Adviser in President Donald Trump’s White House from April 2018 to September 2019.
He was ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006 in President George Bush’s administration.
The court documents revealed that Bolton knew about the plot and was collaborating with investigators, allowing photos of himself to be sent to Poursafi outside his Washington office.
During the months Poursafi discussed the plot with his US contact, he revealed it was linked to Tehran’s desire for revenge for the US assassination of Soleimani.
Soleimani was chief of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and personally maintained his network of allies and proxies in the Gulf region.
He became the target of a US drone strike just after landing at Baghdad airport on January 7, 2020.
Since that strike, Tehran has vowed to retaliate, and US officials have said the country was looking for one or more US officials.
Another official on Tehran’s list of targets was Mike Pompeo, who was secretary of state at the time of Soleimani’s assassination and previously director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
At the time, Pompeo said Soleimani had planned large-scale attacks on US targets such as embassies.