An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to assassinate former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed a powerful Iranian general, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.
The suspect, Shahram Poursafi, was identified by U.S. officials as a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.
Prosecutors said the plot against Bolton, who was former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for a year and a half in 2018 and 2019, was likely in retaliation for the January 2020 strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, who was the head of Iran's elite Quds Force.
The Justice Department said Poursafi tried to pay people in the U.S. $300,000 to kill Bolton in Washington or the neighboring state of Maryland. The plot unfolded over several months starting late last year, with Poursafi at one point telling a contact in the U.S. that “he was under pressure from “his people’” to get the killing done quickly.
Poursafi remains at large overseas. If eventually captured and convicted, he would face up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot.
In a statement Wednesday, Iran called the charges politically motivated.
"Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the pretext of these ridiculous and baseless accusations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, according to Iranian media.
Current U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that “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. We will continue to bring to bear the full resources of the U.S. government to protect Americans.”
In a statement, Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work in investigating the case.
"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.
But he deplored the efforts by U.S. President Joe Biden to rejoin the international pact to constrain Iran’s nuclear development program that Trump pulled the U.S. out of.
“American re-entering the failed 2015 nuclear deal would be an unparalleled self-inflicted wound, to ourselves and our closest Middle East allies,” Bolton said. “I remain committed to making sure it does not happen.”
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department's top national security official, said it was "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."