US sanctions IRGC member over alleged plot to kill ex-Trump aide Bolton

Washington also targets other Iranians for suspected conspiracies to murder perceived threats against Tehran, which is seeking to avenge 2020 killing of top general

File: Former US national security advisor John Bolton tals to journalists at the Global Taiwan National Affair Symposium XII in Taipei, Taiwan, April 29, 2023. (AP Photo/ Chiang Ying-ying)
File: Former US national security adviser John Bolton gestures while speakings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The US imposed sanctions Thursday on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard official and others it says took part in wide-ranging plots to kill former national security adviser John Bolton and others around the world, including at least one additional US government official.

The alleged 2021 plot against Bolton, one of the best-documented of the alleged assassination efforts, is part of what US prosecutors and former government officials describe as ongoing efforts by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to kill Trump-era officials behind a 2020 US airstrike that killed the head of the Iranian guard’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.

In all, Thursday’s sanctions accuse three people based in Iran and Turkey, a company affiliated with Iran’s Quds Force, and two senior officials of Iran’s Intelligence Organization of global plots to kill former US officials, journalists, and Iranian dissidents abroad, according to the US Treasury Department.

Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement the US is focused on disrupting plots by the Iranian military, which has “engaged in numerous assassination attempts and other acts of violence and intimidation against those they deem enemies of the Iranian regime.”

Those sanctioned include Revolutionary Guard official Shahram Poursafi. US prosecutors charged Poursafi last year with seeking to carry out a murder-for-hire, saying he worked to find a US-based person willing to kill Bolton somewhere in the Washington area for $300,000.

Federal prosecutors say Poursafi also spoke of an “additional job” for which he was offering $1 million. Axios reported last year that the second target was former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing sources close to Pompeo. US officials have reported “serious and credible” threats against the lives of Pompeo and his top Iran aide.

The wanted poster for Shahram Poursafi released by the FBI, August 10, 2022. (FBI via AP)

Poursafi remains wanted by the FBI in the alleged plots.

Prosecutors say the scheme against Bolton unfolded more than a year after Soleimani, feared around the Middle East as an architect of Tehran’s proxy wars and assassinations, was killed by a US 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.”

Pompeo and former top Iran envoy Brian Hook both played a role in the Trump administration’s decision to kill Suleimani and led the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2014 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.

The State Department has been paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security for Pompeo and Hook since they left office, and most recently extended that protection in early May, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

On May 3, Deputy Secretary of State for Management Richard Verma notified Congress that he had determined that the threats against Pompeo and Hook “persist.” Those threats, he said in identical notices for both men, remain “serious and credible from a foreign power or agent of a foreign power arising from duties (they) performed … while employed by the Department of State.”

The sanctions block all access to the targeted people’s US money and property and prohibit Americans and American firms from working with them.

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