(Bloomberg) -- Former national security advisor John Bolton was the target of an Iranian murder-for-hire plot, according to charges filed by the US against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
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The alleged scheme by Shahram Poursafi was likely meant to avenge the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds force, according to a statement Wednesday by the Justice Department. The US claims Poursafi, who it says is abroad, tried to pay $300,000 to have Bolton murdered.
The charges come as Washington and Tehran remain deadlocked over the 2015 nuclear deal the Trump administration abandoned four years ago. That move triggered a crisis in relations that contributed to the US decision to kill Soleimani, the country’s most powerful military figure, in a January 2020 drone strike in Iraq. Like former president Donald Trump, Bolton is an adamant foe of the deal.
In a statement, he thanked the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service for their efforts.
“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” he said. “Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged, their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani rejected the charges as “baseless” and “driven by political goals and motivations.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly warns against any action taken against any Iranian citizen under the pretext of these ridiculous accusations,” Kanaani said in a statement.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Bolton said he had been aware of the threat to his life since 2020, warned by the FBI, and that he has learned that it was “very, very, very specific.” He said he has been attended by the Secret Service since Dec. 1.
Trump cut off his protection the day he resigned, Sept. 10, 2019, after they fell out over how to handle adversaries like Iran and North Korea. National security advisors normally get a few months of coverage after they depart, Bolton said, but the agents showed up that very day and “took the bells and whistles off my house and started saying goodbye.”
He said he hadn’t spoken to Trump since the day before his resignation.
A Trump-era decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization has at times plagued efforts by the administration of President Joe Biden to revive the nuclear talks. The two governments are currently deciding whether to accept a European Union-drafted text to restore the deal, which would ease sanctions on Iran’s economy in exchange for strict caps on its atomic activities.
Read More: US Charges Man With Plotting to Kill Bush as Iraq War Revenge
The plot against Bolton allegedly started in October when Poursafi asked a US resident, who was serving as a confidential source for the US, to take pictures of Bolton, claiming they were for a book he was writing. A month later he offered to pay the source $250,000 -- which was raised to $300,000 as they bargained -- to “eliminate” Bolton, according to the US. That same month, Poursafi allegedly told the source his “group” would require video confirmation of Bolton’s death.
In January, Poursafi mentioned to the source that he reported to only one person, although there was a chain of command, the Justice Department alleges. He expressed regret that the planned murder wouldn’t come in time for the anniversary of Soleimani’s death, according to the US. The government says Poursafi later mentioned he had a second hit job lined up.
If convicted, he could face as many as 25 years in prison.
The case is US v. Shahram Poursafi, 22-mj-176, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
(Adds statement from Iranian Foreign Ministry in second section and details of Bolton’s security in third.)
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