Iranian official Shahram Poursafi is accused of masterminding plots to assassinate John Bolton and Mike Pompeo
Iran‘s twisted web of alleged murder plots on US soil has come under fresh scrutiny as author Salman Rushdie — who lived for decades under death threat from Iran — fights for his life following a shocking stabbing attack on Friday.
In recent days, US authorities said they foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton, in a scheme that reportedly also targeted former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Both men, as well as Donald Trump, had faced death threats from Tehran following the US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani two years ago.
Meanwhile, on Thursday an alleged Iranian agent was indicted on federal charges after prosecutors said that he armed himself with an AK-47 and stalked the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian expatriate and harsh critic of the regime.
Tehran’s bombastic threats have reached a fever pitch since the US strike on Soleimani, who is viewed as a martyr in Iran, but was accused of financing terror groups throughout the Middle East.
Authorities are still investigating what motivated Rushdie’s attacker Hadi Matar, who stormed onstage as the 75-year-old author was about to give a lecture and stabbed him in the neck and abdomen about 15 times.
However, Matar, who was arrested at the scene, reportedly expressed sympathies for Iran and admiration for Solemani on social media.
Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture Friday, at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York
Rushdie’s attacker Hadi Matar (center) reportedly expressed sympathies for Iran and admiration for Solemani on social media
Rushdie has spent years in hiding after a ‘fatwa’ calling for his murder was issued by the Iranian ayatollah in 1988. The author was airlifted to a hospital for surgery and his condition is not currently clear.
Here are some of the twisted details to emerge in the alleged Iranian-inspired assassination plots in recent days.
Official from Iran’s elite Quds Forces is accused of offering hitman $300,000 to kill John Bolton
On Wednesday the US Justice Department announced it had stifled a plot by a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to kill Bolton.
Prosecutors say that Shahram Poursafi offering unidentified ‘criminal elements’ inside the United States $300,000 to carry out the contract murder.
The alleged plan was likely set in retaliation for the US killing of top Guards commander Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020, the department said.
The plot, which stretched from October 2021 until April this year, never made headway because the ostensible assassin was an informant of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
But court documents show the FBI let the plotting continue to collect information on mastermind Poursafi, a member of the IRGC’s elite Quds force, and on Iran’s broader plans.
On Wednesday the US Justice Department announced it had stifled a plot by a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to kill John Bolton
Prosecutors say that Shahram Poursafi offering unidentified ‘criminal elements’ inside the United States $300,000 to carry out the contract murder of Bolton
Shahram Poursafi allegedly sent the purported hitman these images of money
Poursafi, who is believed to still be in Iran and directed the plot through encrypted messaging apps, was charged by the Justice department with two counts relating to plotting a murder.
In an interview Thursday with CNN, Bolton said the alleged plot reveals Iran’s approach to foreign policy.
‘What’s important to understand is just how detailed the work was to send me off to the great beyond, and really the extent to which the government of Iran had thought this through, was engaged in planning,’ he said.
‘I think it’s very clear that it’s not just former government officials that Iran is after,’ he said.
Iran denies the allegations against Poursafi, calling them a fabrication.
‘The US Justice Department has made allegations without providing valid evidence, creating a new work of fiction,’ Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.
‘This time they have come up with a plot involving individuals like Bolton whose political career has failed,’ Kanani scoffed.
‘The Islamic Republic warns against any action that targets Iranian citizens by resorting to ridiculous accusations.’
Iran does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and Poursafi remains at large. The FBI on Wednesday released a most-wanted poster.
Pompeo was also reportedly a target of the Iranian plot – with a $1M bounty on his head
The DOJ said that Poursafi was also prepared to pay $1 million for a second ‘job,’ but did not identify the other target in the plot.
Trump-era Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the second target, according to Morgan Ortagus, who served as State Department spokesperson during his tenure.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment, but Pompeo has long been the target of Iranian threats.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the second target in the Iranian assassination plot, his former spokesperson said
A June intelligence report (above), which is unclassified but ‘for official use only,’ said that Pompeo was among those that Iran had identified as ‘priority targets’
In June, an intelligence assessment from the National Counter Terrorism Center said that Pompeo was among those that Iran had identified as ‘priority targets’ for their role in overseeing the January 2020 US drone strike that killed Soleimani as he visited Iraq.
The intelligence report, which is marked as unclassified but as ‘for official use only,’ was widely distributed inside the government and to law enforcement agencies nationwide, and was publicly reported by Yahoo News.
‘Since January 2021, Tehran has publicly expressed a willingness to conduct lethal operations inside the United States and has consistently identified former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and former CENTCOM Commander General Kenneth McKenzie as among its priority targets for retribution,’ the report says.
‘Iran would probably view the killing or prosecution of a US official it considers equivalent in rank and stature to Soleimani or responsible for his death as successful retaliatory actions,’ the assessment adds.
The report warns that Iran is ‘waging a multipronged campaign’ to avenge Soleimani’s death, including ‘threats of lethal action, international legal maneuvering, and the issuance of Iranian arrest warrants and sanctions.’
Iran has long openly made bombastic threats to take revenge for the strike that killed Soleimani (above), who was commander of the Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guard
Trump ordered the drone strike that obliterated Soleimani’s convoy as he made a secret visit to Baghdad
The assessment was based on statements and actions taken by the Iranian government, and describes foiled plots to assassinate US officials as well as legal maneuvers and threats against specific officials.
Iran has made no secret of its thirst for vengeance against Trump and other officials, publicly vowing ‘hard revenge’ and making other blustering threats.
In January, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei shared an animated video that appeared to show a robot calling in a drone strike on Trump while he played golf at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
The footage, titled ‘Revenge is Inevitable’, was part of a contest to mark the two-year anniversary of the Soleimani’s death.
‘Iranian agent’ is indicted over threats against Iranian-American journalist and rights activist
An alleged Iranian agent was indicted on federal charges this week after prosecutors said he armed himself with a loaded AK-47 and stalked the Brooklyn home of an Iranian-American journalist and rights activist.
The defendant, Khalid Mehdiyev, spent two days in late July outside the Brooklyn home of journalist Masih Alinejad, and once tried opening the door, an FBI agent wrote in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
A lawyer for 23-year-old Mehdiyev declined to comment.
Alinejad has been a critic of Iran’s headcovering laws and has promoted videos of women violating the laws to her millions of social media followers.
Last year she was the target of what U.S. prosecutors called a Tehran-backed kidnapping plot.
Mehdiyev was outside Alinejad’s house for days before he was arrested. Police found an AK-47 rifle in his car, seen above in an evidence photo
Mehdiyev was indicted on Thursday for possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Prosecutors are also seeking to have Mehdiyev forfeit the gun and the ammunition.
Last year, prosecutors charged four Iranians they alleged to have been intelligence operatives with plotting to kidnap Alinejad.
Four suspects – Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani, Mahmoud Khazein, Omid Noori, and Kiya Sadeghiwere – were identified in the kidnapping scheme as the FBI attempted to arrest them as they fled back to Iran.
A fifth suspect, Niloufar Bahadorifar, accused of supporting the plot financially but not participating in the kidnapping conspiracy, was later arrested in California.
Iranian officials denied the kidnapping allegations, and dismissed allegations of government involvement as ‘baseless.’
Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad appeared on CNN to discuss the man arrested outside of her Brooklyn home who was found on Thursday with the the assault riffle, a high-capacity magazine, and more than $1,000 in cash stashed away in his car
According to a criminal complaint, after being arrested for running a stop sign, Mehdiyev told investigators that the AK-47 was his and that he was in Brooklyn ‘looking for someone.’
Mehdiyev then asked for a lawyer and stopped answering questions, the complaint said.
Alinejad, 45, told CNN the Iranian regime has been targeting her family for constantly voicing her thoughts on freedom and women’s rights in Iran, especially as some women seek to lose the traditional hijab.
‘First, they put my brother in jail to punish me,’ Alinejad said. ‘Second, they brought my sister on TV to disown me publicly. Third, interrogated my mothers for hours and hours and asked her to take me to Turkey.’
‘She added, ‘Then they arrested all these women, and brought them all on TV to disown me publicly.’