Shahram Poursafi was plotting to murder Bolton in retaliation for killing of Iran's Qasem Soleimani, alleges US, a claim Tehran rejects as "baseless".

Bolton thanks US Justice Department for taking action.
Bolton thanks US Justice Department for taking action. (Reuters)

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

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

Iran rejected the "baseless" charges. 

"Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the pretext of these ridiculous and baseless accusations," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, according to Iranian media. 

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.

According to the criminal complaint, Poursafi asked a US resident identified only as "Individual A" to take photographs of 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.

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

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

He later directed the informant to open a cryptocurrency account to facilitate the payment. 

In subsequent communications, he allegedly told the informant it did not matter how the killing was carried out, but that his "group" would require a video as proof that the deed was done.

READ MORE: Iran pledges revenge on US for Soleimani's death

Impact on nuclear deal talks?

In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Bolton thanked the Justice Department for taking action.

"While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable," he said. "Iran's rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States."

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the decision to charge Poursafi was in any way linked to US diplomacy seeking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Indirect talks between the United States and Iran wrapped up in Vienna on Monday with European Union officials saying they had put forward a final text to resuscitate the agreement.

Under the agreement, Tehran has curbed its nuclear programme in return for relief from US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and restored harsh US sanctions, prompting Tehran to start violating the agreement's nuclear limits about a year later, reviving fears Iran might be seeking to develop nuclear weapons – an ambition it denies.

READ MORE: Iran nuclear talks restart in Vienna as officials look to remove hurdles

Source: TRTWorld and agencies