A member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is facing charges in what the Justice Department is calling a “murder for hire” plot that targeted former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Iranian national Shahram Poursafi, 45, who also goes by Mehdi Rezayi, allegedly plotted the murder-for-hire in response to the United States’ January 2020 assassination of Qassim Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force. Poursafi offered to pay $300,000 to anyone who would carry out the assassination of Bolton in or around Washington, according to a DoJ release.
Soleimani, an architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East, was killed in a targeted airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport.
“This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil, and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a release. “The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them.”
Poursafi, who remains at large abroad, allegedly instigated the plot in October 2021 when he contacted a U.S. resident he’d previously connected with online, the report said. The following month, the IRGC member used an encrypted messaging platform to offer the individual $300,000 to hire someone to murder Bolton, providing the contact with screenshots of Bolton’s work address and asserting that he would require video documentation of the murder.
By January 2022, Poursafi was growing restless, reportedly bemoaning to his U.S. contact that the murder had not been completed by the two-year anniversary of Soleimani’s death.
Poursafi then provided his contact with details about Bolton’s schedule that “do not appear to have been publicly available,” according to court documents. He told the U.S.-based individual they would be able to “finish the job” since he believed Bolton’s home did not have a security presence.
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, through the defendant, tried to hatch a brazen plot: assassinate a former U.S. official on U.S. soil in retaliation for U.S. actions,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “Iran and other hostile governments should understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to thwart their violent plots and bring those responsible to justice.”
In addition to the plot to murder Bolton, Poursafi reportedly told his informant about a second “job” — worth $1 million — that had already had surveillance completed by someone “working on behalf of the IRGC-QF,” the report said.
Charges levied against Poursafi include using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot. The charges carry maximum sentences of 10 and 15 years, respectively, as well as fines.
“An attempted assassination of a former U.S. Government official on U.S. soil is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the FBI’s Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said in a release.
“The FBI will continue to identify and disrupt any efforts by Iran or any hostile government seeking to bring harm or death to U.S. persons at home or abroad. This should serve as a warning to any others attempting to do the same.”