Bolton’s plot should be a warning about Iran nuclear talks

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The Iranian regime has a long and disreputable history of assassination plots against dissidents and critics abroad, but ordering a hit against a former US national security adviser raises the bar when it comes to assassination. ‘effrontery. The revelation that a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps attempted to have John Bolton assassinated — on American soil, at that — should serve as a reminder to President Joe Biden of Tehran’s depravity as he considers concluding a deal that will enrich and embolden those behind the plot.

The US Justice Department said Shahram Poursafi, an IRGC member based in Tehran, offered $300,000 “to individuals in the United States”. [to] commit the murder in Washington, DC or Maryland. The hit was likely intended in revenge for the 2020 US drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a senior IRGC commander designated by the US as a terrorist and also personally sanctioned by the European Union and the United Nations.

Poursafi began casting a casting call for an assassin last fall, even as Biden reiterated his promise to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Iran signed with the powers in the summer of 2015. President Donald Trump pulled the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, arguing that it had not done enough to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and imposed economic sanctions on the ‘Iran.

Biden has made returning to the deal one of his foreign policy priorities. After several rounds of talks in Vienna, the United States and Iran are now considering what is being touted by European mediators as the “final text” of an agreement to revive the nuclear deal. If they agree, the sanctions will be lifted, giving Tehran access to hundreds of billions of dollars in frozen assets and oil export revenues.

Like President Barack Obama, who championed the original deal, Biden seems to believe that if Iran’s leaders are allowed to make money, they will lessen aggression against their Arab neighbors as well as the United States: More trade , less terrorism.

The opposite is more likely. During the years the JCPOA was in effect, Iran has increased its financial and material support for a network of militias and terrorist groups that it uses to threaten the Middle East and international trade. Biden’s repeated assurances of his sincerity in reviving the deal — and his administration’s lax enforcement of Trump sanctions — have been met only with bad faith from Iran.

While pocketing billions from oil exports made in violation of sanctions, the regime has become more aggressive in its behavior. It has accelerated its uranium enrichment well beyond the stage of any non-military application. Tehran has also stepped up its hostage-taking program, specifically targeting people with Western passports.

And, as the plot against Bolton shows, Iran has become more ambitious in its international assassination campaign. Much of it is aimed at Israeli tourists and diplomats, apparently in retaliation for Israel’s killing of senior IRGC officials linked to the nuclear program. In June, Turkey arrested eight men in an Iranian operation to kill Israeli tourists in Istanbul.

Two months earlier, Israeli intelligence services foiled an IRGC plot to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, a US general in Germany and a French journalist.

Iran has also become more brazen in planning attacks on the United States. In late July, a man carrying a loaded AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, a prominent critic of the regime. It was almost exactly one year after four Iranian agents were charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to kidnap Alinejad.

By targeting Bolton, the regime is signaling that its recklessness knows no bounds. And the former national security adviser may not even have been the IRGC’s primary target: According to the Justice Ministry, Poursafi said he would pay $1 million for another hit, presumably against someone even more prominent. The State Department recently told Congress it was paying to protect former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his top Iran aide, Brian Hook, who both face “serious and credible” threats. from Tehran.

It is particularly ironic that one of the Iranian demands that has stalled negotiations to revive the nuclear deal is that Biden remove the IRGC from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups. The president wisely refused to make this concession.

But Biden should now be wondering if such a reckless regime can be trusted with any deal.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

Biden Should Show Iran What ‘Plan B’ Would Look Like: Editorial

Biden’s new Gang of Four targets Iran and China: James Stavridis

Iran can’t afford to avenge Soleimani’s death: Bobby Ghosh

(Corrects former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s title in title and 11th paragraph.)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Bobby Ghosh is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering foreign affairs. Previously, he was Editor-in-Chief of the Hindustan Times, Editor-in-Chief of Noticias and International Editor of Time.

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