Iran intensifying efforts to kidnap, kill officials, activists and journalists - report

The officials added that the rate of attempts of Iranian covert action in the West has drastically increased in the past two years.

Members of a special IRGC force attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022. (photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
Members of a special IRGC force attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2022.
(photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran is intensifying its efforts to kidnap and kill government officials, activists and journalists, with security agencies in the US, Canada and the UK warning residents of threats to their lives by the Iranian regime, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The report is based on government documents and interviews with 15 officials in the US, Europe and the Middle East officials.

The individuals being targeted include former senior US government officials, Iranian dissidents who fled to Western countries, media organizations critical of the regime and Jewish individuals or people linked to Israel.

Similar to earlier reports, The Washington Post was told by officials that Iran is using proxies such as local criminals to carry out its plans. The officials warned that while so far Iran has failed to carry out an attack, it is persistent and likely to succeed in assassinating a dissident, journalist or Western official, which could spark a direct conflict with Tehran.

The officials added that the rate of attempts has drastically increased in the past two years and are more ambitious and far-reaching than past attempts.

 A police officer stands on duty outside the Iranian embassy in Kensington, central London December 2, 2011. (credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS) A police officer stands on duty outside the Iranian embassy in Kensington, central London December 2, 2011. (credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)

UK, Canada warn Iran is planning to attack residents

The Washington Post report comes as British and Canadian officials warned local Iranian dissidents that the Iranian regime was targeting them.

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stated that it is "actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran based on credible intelligence," according to CBC.

"Ultimately, these hostile activities and foreign interference undermine the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as our democratic values and sovereignty."

On Saturday, Iranian dissidents living in Canada told CBC that they had not received help from Canadian police or government officials and did not feel like the threat against them was being taken seriously. The dissidents told CBC that they had received threatening phone calls and messages.

About two weeks ago, the director-general of the MI5 security service, Ken McCallum, revealed that Iran has tried to kidnap or kill at least 10 UK-based individuals since January. "Iran projects threats to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services. At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. We have seen at least ten such potential threats since January alone," said McCallum in an annual threat update.

British media has reported in recent weeks that hundreds of journalists and political activists in the UK have been warned by police that they may be targeted by Iran due to their opposition to the Islamic Republic.

In August, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was charged with attempting to hire hitmen to murder former national security advisor John Bolton in an apparent retaliation attempt for the January 2020 assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, the US Justice Department announced.

Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezayi, a resident of Tehran, Iran, attempted to pay individuals in the US $300,000 to murder Bolton in Washington, DC or Maryland on behalf of the Quds Force, according to court documents.

“The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division at the time. “This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on US soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts.”

A number of assassination and kidnapping attempts orchestrated by Iran have been reported against Israelis across the world as well.

In June, Turkish intelligence revealed that it had thwarted Iranian attempts to kidnap several Israeli tourists and diplomats in Istanbul.

In May, Iran International published video of an IRGC official named Mansour Rasouli admitting to alleged Mossad agents that he had been ordered to establish a cell to assassinate a worker at the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, a US general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France.

Additionally in May, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced it had uncovered operations by Iranian intelligence to lure Israeli businessmen and academics abroad in order to kidnap or harm them and to gather intelligence.

In October of last year, Cypriot news reported that Israeli businessmen were targeted by attempted assassinations in Cyprus, with a Russian national of Azeri descent arrested for plotting the attack.

In August of last year, the El Tiempo newspaper reported that two Israeli businessmen and their families had to quickly leave Bogota after Colombian intelligence discovered that an attack was being planned against the two by an Iranian athlete named Rahmat Asadi who was imprisoned in Dubai for being involved in the kidnapping of a British-Iranian businessman. Asadi reportedly trained two criminals who were subsequently released to carry out the attack.

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.