Officials have accused Shahram Poursafi of trying to hire a hitman to avenge the death of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general who the U.S. assassinated with a drone strike in 2020.
The United States Department of Justice has charged an Iranian citizen who it says is a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with attempting to hire an assassin to murder John Bolton, an ex-national security adviser in the Trump administration, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.
According to the Justice Department, Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, offered to pay unnamed individuals $300,000 in November 2021 to "eliminate" Bolton in Washington, D.C. or Maryland.
Federal officials said the assassination of Bolton would have been in retaliation for the U.S. military's January 2020 drone strike killing of Qasem Soleimani--a top commander in the IRGC, which is a branch of Iran's military--in Iraq.
"Poursafi is alleged to have said that after Bolton was killed, there would be another job, for which the hitman would be paid $1 million," The Guardianreported. "The person offered the money became an FBI confidential informant, and continued to exchange texts on an encrypted communications app with Poursafi."
The 45-year-old suspect, who the DOJ believes tried to orchestrate the plot from Tehran, remains at large abroad.
"If found and convicted, he would face 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, and 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," the Washington Postreported.
As The Guardian noted:
Bolton was no longer national security adviser when the drone strike against Soleimani was carried out as the Iranian general was visiting Baghdad on January 3, 2020, but he is a longtime advocate of military action against Iran and a staunch opponent of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran. Secret Service cars have been reported to have been parked across the road from Bolton's house in the Washington area at least since early 2022.
In the immediate wake of Soleimani's assassination, Bolton tweeted, "Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran."
Bolton, who admitted on CNN last month that he has "helped plan coups d'etat" in foreign countries, served as a national security adviser to former President Donald Trump for 17 months, resigning in 2019 over reported disagreements about whether to lift some sanctions against Iran as a negotiating tactic.
"Bolton, who did not want the sanctions lifted, was a main architect of the Trump administration's 'maximum pressure' campaign of escalating economic sanctions and threats of retaliation for Iran's alleged support of terrorism," the Post noted. "The idea was to cripple Iran's economy to the point that its leaders felt they must bargain away any nuclear ambitions and missile technology."
News of the FBI's search for Poursafi comes just two days after negotiators in Vienna said they're close to reviving the Iran nuclear accord that the Trump administration, with no small part played by Bolton, unilaterally tanked.
Before his stint in the Trump White House, Bolton, whom critics have called a "bloodthirsty warmonger," was a major cheerleader for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He served in senior arms control roles and eventually became ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.
Between the Bush and Trump presidencies, Bolton spent time working at right-wing think tanks, a private equity firm, and as a Fox News contributor.