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Iran Operative Charged in Bolton Plot  08/11 06:06

   An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former U.S. 
national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a U.S. 
airstrike that killed the country's most powerful general, offering $300,000 to 
"eliminate" the Trump administration official, the Justice Department said 
Wednesday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder 
former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a 
U.S. airstrike that killed the country's most powerful general, offering 
$300,000 to "eliminate" the Trump administration official, the Justice 
Department said Wednesday.

   Shahram Poursafi, identified by U.S. officials as a member of Iran's 
paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges 
related to the murder-for-hire plot.

   Prosecutors say the scheme unfolded more than 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 as 
he traveled from Baghdad's international airport in January 2020. 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."

   The FBI believes that Poursafi was acting on behalf of the Revolutionary 
Guard when he sought to have Bolton killed, according to an affidavit unsealed 
Wednesday. Law enforcement officials located photographs of Poursafi in 
fatigues and with posters of Iran and Soleimani in the background to back up 
their allegation that he is a uniformed Revolutionary Guard member.

   The Justice Department traces the plot to the fall of 2021, when Poursafi, 
45, an Iranian citizen who officials say has never visited the United States, 
asked an unidentified person he met through social media and who was living in 
the U.S. to take photographs of Bolton for a book he said he was writing.

   The person introduced Poursafi to an associate that could take the requested 
photos and videos. After the two connected, Poursafi encouraged that person, 
who was actually a confidential source working with the FBI, to hire someone to 
kill Bolton and offered to pay $300,000 for the job. Poursafi told the person 
that he wanted "the guy" to be purged or eliminated.

   Poursafi provided the person with Bolton's office address, including the 
name and contact information for someone who worked in the office, the FBI 
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. "And this is not the first time we've uncovered 
brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals in the U.S."

   In 2011, for instance, the FBI and Justice Department revealed an Iranian 
government plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. while the 
ambassador was in the U.S.

   A spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called the latest 
accusations baseless and politically motivated, state-run media reported.

   He said Iran "reserves the right to take any action within the framework of 
international law to defend the rights of the government and citizens of the 
Islamic Republic of Iran."

   In his own statement, 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.

   The unsealing of the complaint comes 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 U.S. withdrew from the agreement under 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.

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

   The Justice Department described Poursafi as at-large abroad but did not 
elaborate on where he might be located. It is not clear when or if he will be 
taken into custody. He faces charges of using interstate commerce facilities in 
the commission of murder-for-hire and attempting to provide transnational 
support to a murder plot.

   The Revolutionary Guard is a paramilitary organization formed in the wake of 
Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution to defend its clerically overseen government. 
The Quds Force is the Guard's expeditionary unit, responsible for operations 
abroad.

   Soleimani was the head of that force, and the Defense Department said at the 
time of the January 2020 strike that it killed him because he "was actively 
developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and 
throughout the region."

 
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