While Iran rejected US accusations of a plot to kill former National Security Adviser John Bolton, the threat to US citizens can have an impact on nuclear talks.
Bolton told Iran International that there are several American public figures who face direct threats. Axios reported Wednesday that US law enforcement have also told former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he is a possible target of an Iran plot.
In its denial issued immediately after an indictment was unsealed by the Department of Justice against a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Tehran accused Washington of “weaving a tale” to exert pressure in the nuclear talks.
But as the news of a serious and real threat against former and possibly current US officials sinks in, critics of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran are bound to ask the Biden administration not to continue negotiations with Tehran.
Bolton himself warned in a statement on Wednesday, “Iran’s nuclear-weapons and terrorist activities are two sides of the same coin. No responsible US government should think otherwise. America re-entering the failed 2015 Iran nuclear deal would be an unparalleled self-inflicted wound…I remain committed to making sure it does not happen.”
At the same time, current national security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement from the White House saying, “Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences. We will continue to bring to bear the full resources of the U.S. Government to protect Americans.”
An FBI poster showing the man accused of plotting Bolton's assassination
But the DOJ clearly says Iran tried to kill Bolton and many would say this is enough reason for “severe consequences”. However, Reuters quoted an unnamed US official as saying that Washington does not believe the assassination plots should affect talks the JCPOA talks with Tehran.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, "Why is Biden still negotiating with Iran on a new “deal” when he knows they are actively trying to assassinate former government officials on U.S. soil?"
Norman Roule, a long-time senior Central Intelligence Agency official and an expert on the Middle East tweeted that the plot against Bolton “was almost certainly approved by the senior-most leadership of Iran & undertaken only after a determination that its exposure would not invite a significant response.” He added that “Iran will likely continue these operations absent swift and meaningful international actions. The failure to demonstrate deterrence risks Iran undertaking an operation that, if successful, could ignite a regional conflict.”
Kylie Moore-Gilbert an Australian-British academic who was a hostage in Iran tweeted, “Not sure how the US can claim its negotiating with Iran in good faith over a seemingly-mythical JCPOA at quite literally the same time that Iran is funding multiple terror plots that aim to assassinate US citizens on US soil.”
After 16 months of negotiations to revive the JCPOA, Iran is still considering a draft submitted by the European Union that coordinates the talks. US has said it is ready to lift the crucial economic sanctions if Iran agrees to return to the limitations set by the 2015 agreement, but Tehran wants more sanctions to be lifted.
One group of sanctions are those imposed on the IRGC and its affiliated entities for involvement in terrorism, which now seem impossible for the administration to agree to, given the DoJ indictments of an IRGC member.
A former State Department official, Gabriel Noronha, who opposes the JCPOA tweeted, “So again today, we saw Jake Sullivan with another stern warning to Iran, that only threatens consequences ONCE Iran attacks a US citizen. There would be no measures taken beforehand, just afterwards when Bolton/Pompeo are dead. This is Russia/Ukraine all over again.”