Iran’s Foreign Ministry is dismissing U.S. charges that an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer plotted to kill former National Security Adviser John Bolton, in Tehran’s first official response to the sensational charges laid out Wednesday by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors alleged Wednesday that Shahram Poursafi, a member of the Iranian paramilitary group, had offered to pay up to $300,000 to target Mr. Bolton, a longtime critic of the theocratic regime in Tehran.
U.S. officials said the strike was planned to avenge the death of top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, killed in early 2020 in a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump.
Some news reports said former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may also be an intended target in the plot.
But the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, briefing reporters in Tehran after the indictment was made public Wednesday, vehemently denied the charges and accused the Biden administration of using the suit as a way to divert from America’s failings in the region.
“The spinning of these threadbare and baseless myths is becoming a recurring custom in the American judicial and propaganda system,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, adding that the Justice Department had “raised accusations without providing valid evidence and necessary documentation.”
“This time, the process has been advanced by creating scenarios involving politically bankrupt and worthless individuals like Bolton,” he said, according to an account by the state-controlled Tasnim news agency.
Mr. Poursafi remains at large and is believed to be in Iran. Mr. Kanaani offered no information on the suspect.
U.S. officials said the plot was real and the Iranian had worked to find out information on Mr. Bolton’s whereabouts and how to hire someone to carry out the assassination.
“This was not an idle threat,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said Wednesday in a statement. “And this is not the first time we’ve uncovered brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals in the U.S.”
The charge comes even as U.S. and Iranian diplomats pore over what negotiators say is a final, make-or-break text for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, repudiated by Mr. Trump in 2018.
President Biden vowed to restore the agreement, which lifts economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its suspect nuclear program, as a candidate in 2020, but indirect talks on reviving the deal have been protracted and difficult since he took office.