The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently announced sanctions against Majid Dastjani Farahani and Mohammad Mahdi Khanpour Ardestani, officers in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These sanctions are a response to their involvement in plots to assassinate U.S. government officials, as a form of retaliation for the death of IRGC-Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani.
Farahani and Ardestani were engaged in recruiting individuals in the United States for various operations, including targeting current and former U.S. Government officials. They also recruited individuals for surveillance of religious sites, businesses, and other facilities in the U.S.
The Treasury Department highlighted Iran’s pattern of aggressive actions against opponents and dissenting voices, both domestically and internationally, through detention, torture, and assassinations. This extends to targeting activists, journalists, and foreign officials.
A segment on CBS News “60 Minutes” underscored the seriousness of these threats, particularly following the U.S. operation that killed Soleimani. Former Trump administration officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton, have been provided round-the-clock security by federal law enforcement due to these threats.
Iran’s method for carrying out these assassination plots often involves hiring individuals from criminal networks, as this makes it harder for them to be tracked by intelligence or security agencies.
In the U.S., an example of Iran’s targeted actions includes the case of Masih Alinejad, a dissident activist. Iranian operatives initially planned to kidnap her, but after the failure of this plot, they paid an individual $30,000 to attempt to murder her at her home in Brooklyn. This incident exemplifies Iran’s efforts to silence its critics globally.
In the U.K., Counter Terrorism Policing has reported a significant increase in Iranian-linked kidnapping and assassination attempts. Matt Jukes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing in Britain, noted that they have foiled 15 such attempts in the last year, indicating a notable escalation in Iran’s international operations targeting dissidents and opposition figures.