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John Bolton, then-national security advisor of the United States, in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein, SOPA Images, Getty)

U.S. Justice Department Charges Iranian with Assassination Plot

The U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for his alleged plan to assassinate former U.S. security adviser John Bolton.

According to a statement issued by the Justice Department on 10 August, Iranian national Shahram Poursafi offered $300,000 to individuals based in the United States for killing Bolton in Washington, D.C., or Maryland. The DOJ speculated that the plot was likely in retaliation for the killing of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani.

The Iranian national and member of the IRGC was charged with “use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and with providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot,” the DOJ said.

Bolton was national security adviser to President Donald Trump for 17 months. He resigned from the position in 2019.

Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad in 2020. At the time, Iran promised that it would have revenge for Soleimani’s death.

In a phone interview with the Washington Post, Bolton said that “he had been warned by the FBI at first generally and then with a little more specificity last fall that there was a threat from Iran.” By December, Bolton had U.S. Secret Service protection.

“Bolton is one of several former high-ranking officials who have been provided security details after leaving office to protect them from potential targeting by Iran,” the Post reported. “These former officials include Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and his former Iran envoy Brian Hook.”

The plan was uncovered when one of the individuals Poursafi contacted was also an FBI informant. Poursafi originally contacted this informant in October 2021 and asked the person “to take photographs of the former National Security Adviser, claiming the photographs were for a book Poursafi was writing,” according to court documents.

Over months of correspondence, the request evolved from photos to murder-for-hire, with Poursafi communicating that he was “under pressure” from his superiors to assassinate Bolton. He also noted he had hoped the murder would occur on the anniversary of Soleimani’s death, according to the DOJ’s statement.

Poursafi also offered a second job that would pay $1 million.

“Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also targeted by the Iranians, a person close to Pompeo confirmed,” Politico reported.

If convicted, Poursafi faces a total of up to 25 years imprisonment and a fine up to $500,000. He has not been arrested and remains at large abroad.

“The charges came at a particularly delicate moment in the two countries’ relations, as they consider a ‘final text’ proposal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that the European Union offered this week,” The New York Times reported. “American officials have said they are losing patience with the talks, which began in April of last year.”

Iran has denied the allegations against Poursafi, calling them “baseless,” according to Agence France-Presse.