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U.S. charges Iranian military operative in plot to assassinate John Bolton

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National Security Advisor John Bolton answers questions from reporters as he pronounces that the U.S. will withdraw from a treaty with Iran during a news conference within the White House briefing room in Washington, October 3, 2018. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate former President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton.

Shahram Poursafi, 45, of Tehran, Iran, tried to rearrange the killing of Bolton in retaliation for the January 2020 U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in keeping with court documents.

Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, had been a key figure in Iranian and Middle East politics and his death exacerbated already-high tensions between Iran and the US and triggered concerns of retaliation from Iranian forces.

Bolton, who served as Trump’s third national security advisor for 17 months before resigning, was the major architect of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Bolton favored escalating economic sanctions and threats of retaliation for Iran’s malign behavior.

National security advisor, John Bolton, right, attends a gathering with President Donald Trump and President of Chile, Sebastian Piñera within the Oval Office of the White House on September 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Oliver Contreras | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Poursafi, a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and dealing on behalf of the group, attempted to pay individuals in the US in October 2021 a reward of $300,000 to perform the plot in either Washington, D.C., or Maryland.

Poursafi told one person involved concerning the job that it didn’t matter how the murder was carried out but that he would wish video confirmation of Bolton’s death. He asked the person multiple times when the murder could be carried out and informed the person who it needed to be done quickly.

Poursafi, also often known as Mehdi Rezayi, was charged with using interstate commerce facilities within the commission of murder for hire and with providing and attempting to offer material support to a transnational murder plot.

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If convicted, Poursafi faces as much as 10 years imprisonment and a high quality of as much as $250,000 for using interstate commerce facilities within the commission of murder for hire. Moreover, he faces as much as 15 years imprisonment and a high quality of as much as $250,000 for providing and attempting to offer material support to a transnational murder plot.

Poursafi stays at large abroad.

In an announcement following the indictment, Bolton thanked the Justice Department, FBI and the Secret Service.

“While much can’t be said publicly straight away, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the US,” Bolton said in an announcement. “Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged; their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing,” he added.

President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, slammed the assassination plot in an announcement Wednesday afternoon.

“We now have said this before and we’ll say it again: the Biden Administration won’t waiver in protecting and defending all Americans against threats of violence and terrorism,” Sullivan wrote within the statement.

“Should Iran attack any of our residents, to incorporate those that proceed to serve the US or those that formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences,” he said.

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