US charges Iranian over plot to assassinate ex-security adviser John Bolton

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks to media at the Palace of Independence in Minsk, Belarus, 29 August 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / TATYANA ZENKOVICH)

Former national security adviser John Bolton was the target of an Iranian murder-for-hire plot, according to charges filed by the US against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

The alleged scheme by Shahram Poursafi was likely meant to avenge the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s elite Quds force, according to a statement on Wednesday by the Justice Department. The US claims Shahram, who it says is abroad, tried to pay $300,000 (R4.8-million) to have Bolton murdered.

The charges come as Washington and Tehran remain deadlocked over the 2015 nuclear deal the Trump administration abandoned four years ago. That move triggered a crisis in relations that contributed to the US decision to kill Qassem, the country’s most powerful military figure, in a January 2020 drone strike in Iraq. Like former president Donald Trump, Bolton is an adamant foe of the deal.

In a statement, he thanked the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service for their efforts.

“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. “Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged, their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Bolton said he had been aware of the threat to his life since 2020, warned by the FBI, and that he has learnt that it was “very, very, very specific”. But he said that he didn’t know many of the details until Wednesday’s Justice Department announcement and that the department hadn’t alerted him ahead of its statement.

Bolton said he has been attended by the Secret Service since December 1. Trump cut off his Secret Service coverage the day he resigned in 2019 after they fell out.

The plot allegedly started in October when Shahram asked a US resident, who was serving as a confidential source for the US, to take pictures of Bolton, claiming they were for a book he was writing. A month later, he offered to pay the source $250,000 – which was raised to $300,000 as they bargained – to “eliminate” Bolton, according to the US. That same month, Shahram allegedly told the source his “group” would require video confirmation of Bolton’s death.

In January, Shahram mentioned to the source that he reported to only one person, although there was a chain of command, the Justice Department alleges. He expressed regret that the planned murder wouldn’t come in time for the anniversary of Qassem’s death, according to the US. The government says Shahram later mentioned he had a second hit job lined up.

If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

The case is US v Shahram Poursafi, 22-mj-176, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

[%% img-description %%]

The Spy Bill: An autocratic roadmap to State Capture 2.0

Join Heidi Swart in conversation with Anton Harber and Marianne Merten as they discuss a concerning push to pass a controversial “Spy Bill” into law by May 2024. Tues 5 Dec at 12pm, live, online and free of charge.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options