Politics

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


National Security Advisor John Bolton answers questions from reporters as he announces that the U.S. will withdraw from a treaty with Iran during a news conference in 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 arrange the killing of Bolton in retaliation for the January 2020 U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, according to 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 United States 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 main 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 meeting with President Donald Trump and President of Chile, Sebastian Piñera in 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 working on behalf of the group, attempted to pay individuals in the United States in October 2021 a reward of $300,000 to carry out the plot in either Washington, D.C., or Maryland.

Poursafi told one person in contact about the job that it did not matter how the murder was carried out but that he would need video confirmation of Bolton’s death. He asked the person multiple times when the murder would be carried out and informed the person that it needed to be done quickly.

Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, was charged with the 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.

If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire. Additionally, he faces up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot.

Poursafi remains at large abroad.

In a statement following the indictment, Bolton thanked the Justice Department, FBI and the Secret Service.

“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States,” Bolton said in a statement. “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 a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“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 wrote in the statement.

“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,” he said.

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