The Iranian government has stepped up its efforts to kidnap and kill government officials, activists and journalists around the world, including in the United States. This is what a long and detailed article in the Washington Post reveals, based on government documents and interviews with 15 officials from Washington, Europe and the Middle Eastfrom which it emerges that Tehran’s crosshairs include former senior US government officials, dissidents who fled the country to travel to the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Turkey and Europe, media organizations critical of the regime and Jewish civilians or ties with Israel.
Iran’s intelligence and security services are reportedly relying on ‘affiliates’ to carry out their plans, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to jewel thieves, drug dealers and other criminals in assassination-for-hire schemes. But this unreliable approach has likely caused some operations to fail, as plans were thwarted and, in some cases, hired killers may have been afraid and never followed orders.
However Tehran “persists” in its attempts to kill a high-profile dissident, a journalist or a Western government figure, something it has done in the past, with three dissidents killed between 2015 and 2017 in Europe. Among the figures in the crosshairs would be the French intellectual of Jewish origin Bernard Henri-Levy, to kill an Iranian drug dealer allegedly hired, in recent months there had already been news of a plan to kill the former national security adviser American John Boltonn and one for kidnapping an Iranian-American journalist, Masih Alinejad, in New York.
There are also reports of multiple attempts to kill British nationals and other UK residents, attempts to kill Israeli businessmen in Cyprus, including one allegedly overseen by a Russian citizen of Azerbaijan involving a surveillance team made up of Pakistani nationals , and a plan to use assassins recruited in a Dubai prison to kill Israeli businessmen in Colombia.
According to officials quoted by the American newspaper, the Iranian plot appears to be motivated by a number of factors. Levy has been targeted by a unit of the Quds Force, the special operations branch of the Revolutionary Guards, likely because of his international prominence as an intellectual who has criticized the country’s leadership. Intelligence officials said the Quds Force intercepted an Iranian drug trafficker, who recruited others to participate in the killing, and paid him $150,000. Levy declined to comment.