The U.S. Department of Justice has charged an Iranian intelligence officer for his alleged role in a plot to assassinate former U.S. National Security Advisor and 1945 contributor, Amb. John Bolton.
The alleged plot was hatched presumably over Bolton’s foreign policy views with respect to Iran, and after the U.S. killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’Quds Force, in a targeted strike in January 2020.
A Brazen Plot for $300,000
The Justice Department has charged Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, with trying to hire a hitman to kill Bolton in the U.S.
An intelligence officer with the Quds Force – roughly the Iranian equivalent of a mix between the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command – Poursafi also allegedly attempted to provide material support for the assassination operation, promising $300,000 to the hitmen. The assassination was allegedly planned to take place in Washington, D.C., or Maryland.
“The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them. This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a press release.
The hitmen would allegedly have been paid in cryptocurrency, and Poursafi indicated that there was another target for which he was willing to pay up to $1 million.
Iran Seeks Revenge
Following the targeted killing of Soleimani, the Iranian regime has vowed to take revenge, even plotting to assassinate the U.S. Army chief in Washington, D.C. However, almost three years after the slaying of Soleimani – who was a major player in Middle East proxy wars and was behind the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq, as well as thousands of innocent civilians – the mullahs in Tehran are still looking for their revenge.
Despite this failed assassination plot against Bolton, Iran shouldn’t be taken lightly. Tehran has shown the intent and capability, in other cases, to cause grievous harm to U.S. national security interests.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, through the Defendant, tried to hatch a brazen plot: assassinate a former U.S. official on U.S. soil in retaliation for U.S. actions. Iran and other hostile governments should understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to thwart their violent plots and bring those responsible to justice,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves.
If convicted, the Iranian intelligence officer faces up to 25 years behind bars – ten for the use of interstate commerce facilities for the commission of murder, and 15 for providing material support to a transnational murder plot – and a combined fine of up to $500,000. However, Poursafi remains at-large abroad.
Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, added: “An attempted assassination of a former U.S. Government official on U.S. soil is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The FBI will continue to identify and disrupt any efforts by Iran or any hostile government seeking to bring harm or death to U.S. persons at home or abroad. This should serve as a warning to any others attempting to do the same – the FBI will be relentless in our efforts to identify, stop, and bring to justice those who would threaten our people and violate our laws.”
Nothing New From Iran
Iran is no newcomer to assassination plots against U.S. citizens or other foreign nationals it deems national security threats – or indeed, threats of other nature.
The recent stabbing of author Salman Rushdie is a prime example of Tehran’s determination to take out individuals it deems unfriendly. Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses is banned in Iran, and in 1989, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the author – this is a legal decree in Islamic law, and essentially an order to kill Rushdie.
Preliminary evidence suggests that the assailant in this recent attack was supporting the IRGC.
“Iran has a history of plotting to assassinate individuals in the U.S. it deems a threat, but the U.S. Government has a longer history of holding accountable those who threaten the safety of our citizens. Let there be no doubt: The FBI, the U.S. government, and our partners remain vigilant in the fight against such threats here in the U.S. and overseas,” Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch stated.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.