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Iranian operative charged in plot to murder Trump security adviser John Bolton

Former US national security adviser John Bolton (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Former US national security adviser John Bolton (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

An Iranian operative has been charged in connection with an alleged plot to murder former US national security adviser John Bolton.

The plan was in presumed retaliation for a US airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general, and offered 300,000 dollars (£245,000) to “eliminate” the Trump administration official, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Shahram Poursafi, identified by US officials as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, is wanted by the FBI on charges related to the alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Prosecutors say the scheme unfolded over a year after Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and an architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East, was killed in a targeted airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020.

After the strike, Mr Bolton, who by then had left his White House post, tweeted: “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

In the autumn of 2021, Poursafi, an Iranian citizen who officials say has never visited the United States, offered cash to someone in the US if they would hire someone to “eliminate” Mr Bolton, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed on Wednesday.

Poursafi told the person, an FBI informant, he wanted “the guy” to be purged or eliminated.

He gave them Mr Bolton’s office address, as well as the name and contact information for someone who worked in the office, and took screenshots of surveillance photographs of Mr Bolton’s office, the affidavit says.

“This was not an idle threat,” assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said in a statement released by the department.

The wanted poster for Shahram Poursafi
The wanted poster for Shahram Poursafi (FBI/AP)

“And this is not the first time we’ve uncovered brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals in the US.”

In his statement, Mr Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work in developing the case and the Secret Service for providing protection.

“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.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The unsealing of the complaint came two days after negotiators seeking to revive the Iran nuclear accord in Vienna closed on a “final text” of an agreement, with parties now consulting in their capitals on whether to agree to it.

The 2015 deal granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for tight curbs on its atomic programme.

Since the US withdrew from the agreement under former president Donald Trump, Iran has sped up its nuclear enrichment programme.

Mr Bolton has been among the most hawkish critics of the deal and efforts by current President Joe Biden’s administration to rejoin it.

In his statement, he said “Iran’s nuclear-weapons and terrorist activities are two sides of the same coin” and that America re-entering the failed 2015 Iran nuclear deal “would be an unparalleled self-inflicted wound, to ourselves and our closest Middle East allies.”