US won’t let Iran’s attempt to assassinate a US official derail nuclear talks: Report

Micaela Burrow, DCNF

Charges against a member of Iran’s paramilitary force for attempting to assassinate a former top U.S. national security official should not affect the outcome of ongoing U.S. efforts to renegotiate a nuclear control agreement with Iran, a U.S. official told Reuters Wednesday.

The Department of Justice indicted a member of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Wednesday for plotting to kill former National Security Advisor John Bolton in revenge for the assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani in 2020. As discussions to revive the 2015 nuclear deal providing sanctions relief in exchange for a cap on Iran’s nuclear program were ongoing, the U.S. offered additional lifting of sanctions if Iran would pledge to cease all efforts to avenge Soleimani, Reuters reported.

According to the official, the Department of Justice’s charges against Shahram Poursafi, a member of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, were pursued independently of U.S. diplomatic efforts to renegotiate the 2015-era nuclear deal. “In our view, it shouldn’t” affect the talks, the official told Reuters.

“Under any return to the JCPOA, the United States would retain and aggressively use our powerful tools to address Iran’s destabilizing activities and its support for terrorism and terrorist proxies, and especially to counter the IRGC,” a State Department spokesperson told Reuters in April, referring to the nuclear deal.

Poursafi’s plotting began in October 2021 and continued through at least April 28, according to the Department of Justice. On April 21, an Iranian official told Reuters that Iran would not give up its campaign to avenge Soleimani despite “regular offers” from the U.S. for sanctions relief and other concessions, although it was unclear whether the offers were tied to stalled nuclear deal negotiations.

Former President Donald Trump authorized Soleimani’s assassination in 2020, and Iranian leaders called for Trump, Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be held accountable. Poursafi also issued a $1 million bounty for Pompeo’s assassination, Axios reported.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan threatened Iran in January with “severe consequences” for “terror operations” against “those serving the U.S. now and those who formerly served.”

EU-mediated negotiations resumed in July after Iran’s insistence that the U.S. delist the IRGC as a condition of the deal stymied talks in March.

EU negotiators placed a final offer before the two quarreling parties on Monday, CNN reported. All that remains is for President Joe Biden and Iran’s government to accede. Experts previously warned the Daily Caller News Foundation that even the pared-down nuclear agreement on the table would unlock Iranian terrorist funding, including for the IRGC.

Trump added the IRGC to the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list in 2019.

The U.S. reaction to the alleged plot against Bolton differs sharply from its response to Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, when the regime brutally murdered U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and broke off major cooperation until July 2022.

The Department of State and Iranian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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