Former US national security adviser John Bolton has called on President Joe Biden to be more forceful with Iran over its plots to kidnap or kill Americans.
Speaking to CBS Sunday, Bolton, who served under the Trump administration, told how the IRGC attempted to hire a hitman to kill him "either in the US or abroad.” He and others who had been serving at the time of the Trump-sanctioned assassination of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, were all named as targets following the killing in 2020.
“This was not internet chatter. This was a negotiation to murder an American citizen, a former government official,” he said. “We have lost deterrence. And I think this also goes to an unwillingness on the part of the administration to confront the ayatollahs in a way that they understand," he said.
The plot against Bolton was foiled when the assassin hired turned out to be an FBI informant. According to court documents, an Iranian citizen by the name of Shahram Poursafi tried to arrange the murder of Trump’s National Security Advisor, “likely in retaliation for the January 2020 death of Qods (Quds) Force commander Qasem Soleimani.”
In the CBS interview on Sunday, Bolton told of the ongoing threat, which means he lives with “marked Secret Service cars that say, Police. United States Secret Service, outside my home".
Several other US officials have been under round-the-clock protection because of similar threats to their life from the regime in Iran, including former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to CBS.
“I think the targeting of American citizens by a hostile foreign government is very close to an act of war,” Bolton said in his interview. “The Biden administration needs to be doing more to keep Iran in check.”
The Islamic Republic has a history of abduction and assassination as key parts of its foreign policy, mostly against Iranian dissidents in exile. Jamshid Sharmahd and Masih Alinejad are two recent examples discussed in CBS’ flagship program, 60 Minutes.
Both American citizens, the former was kidnapped in Dubai in 2020 and is now on death row in Tehran. The latter has been under protection since last year when the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap her from the US and take her to Venezuela.
Iran International was also mentioned in the 60 Minutes report as one of the more recent targets of the Islamic Republic’s policy to intimidate, silence or eliminate dissenting voices.
The London-based broadcaster had to relocate to Washington DC earlier this year when threats against its journalists got so severe that the UK police advised it to stop operation.
According to Matt Jukes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing in Britain, they have foiled 15 Iranian kidnapping and assassination attempts since last year. “I have been involved in national security policing for over 20 years. What we've seen in the last 18 months is a real acceleration.”
Iranian officials openly speak of their “reach” when threatening Iranian dissidents abroad. They often mention Rouhollah Zam, an Iranian activist and journalist based in France, who was kidnapped in Iraq, taken to Iran, and executed in December 2020.
More recently, the Biden administration has come under fire from both sides of Congress, with allegations that its response to Iran-backed attacks on US facilities in the Middle East also lacks deterrence.
The Biden softly-softly approach has meant that in the last one month alone, amid the war in Gaza waged by Iran-backed Hamas, over 40 attacks have taken place on the US in Iraq and Syria. There have been just three retaliatory attacks.