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The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five men affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on June 1 for their participation in international assassination plots. Three of the men were from the Quds Force — the IRGC’s external operations wing — and two more were with the IRGC’s intelligence unit. The individuals include Quds Force members Mohammad Reza Ansari, Shahram Poursafi, and Hossein Hafez Amini. The Biden administration also sanctioned two high-ranking IRGC Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO) officials, including former counterespionage department chief Rouhallah Bazghandi and foreign intelligence chief Reza Seraj.

Expert Analysis

“Exposure of IRGC plots and sanctions against IRGC-linked persons and assets are necessary but insufficient ways to deter and punish Tehran’s chief terror syndicate. The IRGC retains both the capability and intent to strike at targets around the world through proxies, fronts, cut-outs, and, increasingly, criminal syndicates. Even more worrisome, there is no sign that the IRGC has given up its interest in striking at Iranian dissidents, dual-nationals, or non-Iranian nationals globally and even in America.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Five IRGC Operatives Sanctioned

The Treasury Department sanctioned Ansari and Poursafi for plotting to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton and another former U.S. government official not specified in the statement. Amini, who lives in Turkey and has dual Turkish-Iranian citizenship, is believed to have used his connections with Turkey’s Rey Airlines — also sanctioned by the Treasury Department on June 1 — to coordinate smuggling, airplane charters, and transfers for the IRGC and its affiliated airline, Pouya Air, which Washington sanctioned in March 2012.

The Treasury Department stated that Bazghandi was involved in plots to assassinate journalists and Israelis in Istanbul. Seraj worked in intelligence operations targeting U.S. citizens and previously led a division focused on operations against Israelis.

Iran’s History of Plotting Assassinations

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the IRGC has conducted numerous assassinations and renditions throughout the world, including in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan, Turkey, Cyprus, Iraq, India, Azerbaijan, France, Austria, Germany, Iraq, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Thailand, the Philippines, and Iran itself, among other countries. Their targets included members of anti-regime organizations, journalists, dissidents, and prominent political figures critical of Iran’s regime. According to the State Department, Iran committed as many as 360 targeted assassinations worldwide between 1979 and 2020.

Credible assassination threats have also targeted former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Brian Hook, one of his top Iran aides. American authorities have also thwarted kidnapping and assassination attempts against prominent U.S.-based Iranian dissident journalist Masih Alinejad. In August 2022, an attacker believed to have had contacts with the IRGC attempted to assassinate novelist Salman Rushdie in upstate New York. In June 2022, Israel’s Mossad and local counterparts thwarted three Iranian attacks on Israeli citizens in Istanbul. The Mossad also foiled an attempt to assassinate French-Jewish journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy in Paris, a U.S. general in Germany, and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey.

Related Analysis

DOJ Reveals New Iran-backed Assassination Attempt on Iranian American Journalist,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Targets Salman Rushdie,” FDD Flash Brief

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