US charges Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander with plot to kill Trump's Bolton

US charges Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander with plot to kill Trump's Bolton

WASHINGTON: The United States charged a member of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps on Wednesday with plotting to murder John Bolton, a national security adviser to former President Donald Trump.

The Justice Department said that Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, 45, of Tehran, was likely motivated to kill Bolton in a retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed in a US drone strike in January 2020.

Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. Iran does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and Poursafi remains at large. The FBI released a most wanted poster on Wednesday.

Washington does not believe the charges will affect the talks with Tehran on the reviving of the 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief, a US official said on condition of anonymity.

It was not clear how the IRGC, a powerful political faction in Iran that controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, might react to the accusations.

Indirect talks between the United States and Iran took place in Vienna on Monday with European Union officials saying they had put forward a final text to resuscitate the nuclear deal that Trump abandoned in 2018.

According to the criminal complaint, Poursafi asked a US resident identified as only Individual A to photograph Bolton, under the guise that the photos were needed for a forthcoming book. The US resident then introduced Poursafi to a covert government informant who could take the photographs for a price.

The following month, investigators said that Poursafi contacted the informant on an encrypted messaging application and offered the person US $250,000 to hire someone to eliminate Bolton - an amount that would later be negotiated up to US $300,000.

When the informant asked Poursafi to be more specific in his request, he said he wanted the guy purged and Bolton's first and last name, according to a sworn statement in support of the complaint.

He directed the informant to open a criptocurrency account to facilitate the payment. In subsequent communications he said that the informant did not matter how the killing was carried out, but that his group would require a video as proof that the deed was done.

Bolton thanked the Justice Department for taking action in a statement on Wednesday.

He said that while much can't be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable. The rulers of Iran are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States.