Washington (AFP) – The US Justice Department said Wednesday it had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton, and announced charges against a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Justice Department said 45-year-old Shahram Poursafi had offered to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 to kill Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations.
The Justice Department said that plan was likely set in retaliation for the US killing of top Guard commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020.
The allegation came as Iran weighs a proposed agreement in Vienna talks to revive the 2015 agreement that aims to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
For months Tehran has held up the deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), demanding that the United States remove 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 exact revenge against individuals on US soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts,” said US Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen.
According to the charges, Poursafi tried to arrange Bolton’s murder beginning in October 2021, when he contacted online an unidentified person in the United States, first saying he wanted to commission photographs of Bolton.
That person passed the Iranian onto another contact, who Poursafi then asked to kill Bolton.
He offered $250,000, which was then negotiated up 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 an informant for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The informant stalled, waiting for an initial payment, but only in late April did Poursafi send money, paying a total of $100 in cryptocurrency.
Poursafi was charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, which brings up to 10 years in prison, and with providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot, which carries a 15-year sentence.
Foreign policy ‘hawk’
Bolton, one of the leading “hawks” of the US foreign policy establishment and a strong critic of Iran, was national security advisor in the White House of president Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019.
In the administration of president George Bush, he was ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-2006.
He was strongly opposed to the 2015 JCPOA putting limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and supported the Trump administration’s unilateral pullout from the pact in May 2018.
The court documents indicated Bolton was aware of the plot and cooperated with investigators, allowing photographs of himself outside his Washington office to be sent to Poursafi.
The also reveal that Poursafi was receiving intelligence on Bolton’s movements from other sources inside the United States.
In encrypted messages with the informant, Poursafi disclosed that the plot related to Tehran’s desire for revenge for the US killing of Soleimani.
Soleimani was head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and personally maintained its network of allies and proxies across the Gulf region.
He was targeted by a US drone strike just after he landed at Baghdad’s airport on January 7, 2020.
Since that strike Tehran has vowed to extract revenge, a security was ramped up for US official, including for Mike Pompeo, who was secretary of state at the time of the assassination of Soleimani, and before that director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In a statement Bolton blasted Iran’s government as “liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” and urged President Joe Biden to not restore the nuclear agreement.
The European Union, which is brokering the talks, said Monday a final deal had been submitted to the United States and Iran.
In March, the Washington Examiner reported that the department was investigating an Iranian plot against Bolton and that the case was delayed be the nuclear negotiations. The department denied timing the case according to the talks.
“Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences,” said current White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.