Iranian operative charged in plot to murder former Trump aide John Bolton

An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a US airstrike that killed the country’s most powerful general, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to “eliminate” him, the Justice Department says.

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

Prosecutors say the scheme started more than a year after Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard 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.

Former national security adviser John Bolton gestures while speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (AP)

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

Poursafi, 45, offered US$250,000 ($350,000) to people in Maryland and the District of Columbia to carry out the killing, including providing a work address, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed in federal court in Washington.

In a statement, Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work in developing 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.

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

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 US soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts”.

The wanted poster for Shahram Poursafi. (AP)

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 it.

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

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

Bolton has been among the most hawkish critics of the deal and efforts by the Biden administration to rejoin it.

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