A member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was charged in a plot to murder former national security adviser John Bolton, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Shahram Poursafi, 45, of Tehran, is accused of attempting to arrange Bolton’s assassination likely in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. Poursafi, who also goes by Mehdi Rezayi, attempted to pay $300,000 to individuals in the United States to carry out the killing in Washington or Maryland, the Justice Department said.
“The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “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.”
Poursafi, who remains at large, was charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot.
In a statement, Bolton thanked U.S. authorities for tracking the threat and bringing criminal charges.
“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 added. “Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged; their commitments are worthless; and their global threat is growing.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan released a statement after the charges were announced.
"We have said this before and we will say it again: the Biden Administration will not waiver in protecting and defending all Americans against threats of violence and terrorism," Sullivan said. "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."
In a statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran seriously warns of any actions against Iranian citizens based on fictitious accusations. The Islamic Republic of Iran insists on using the framework of international law to defend itself and its citizens."
The charges were brought more than 2 1/2 years after the U.S. killed Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. The secretive Quds Force, a division of the Revolutionary Guard, is widely believed to support many terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah.
Iran has called the Soleimani killing a “callous terrorist act” and sanctioned several current and former U.S. officials in response.
In April, Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged to Congress that there were threats against former U.S. officials.
Asked whether the Revolutionary Guard is “actively trying to murder former senior officials of the United States,” Blinken said: “I’m not sure what I can say in an open setting, but let me say generically, that there is an ongoing threat against American officials, both present and past.”
“We are making sure, and we will make sure, for as long as it takes that we’re protecting our people, present and former, if they’re under threat,” Blinken added during the Senate Foreign Relations hearing.
Iran announced sanctions against roughly 50 Americans in January, days after the second anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. The sanctions were brought against Bolton, former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others, for what Iran said was the “role they played in the terrorist act of the United States against Martyr General Ghasem Soleimani and his companions.”