Iran has increased efforts to target critics of the regime living abroad, as well as planning attacks on Israelis and US citizens, often subcontracting the attacks to hired local proxies, according to a Thursday report.
Members of the Jewish community and individuals with links to Israel were among those targeted, as well as dissidents and media outlets critical of Tehran, The Washington Post reported.
The newspaper based its reporting on government documents and interviews with 15 officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East.
The newspaper revealed further details on a thwarted plan last year to kill Israelis in Colombia, saying the assassins were recruited in a Dubai prison.
The report said Rahmat Asadi, an operative for the intelligence arm of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was initially jailed in the United Arab Emirates for the kidnapping and death of an Iranian British businessman.
While in prison, he is alleged to have met two Colombian brothers who were involved in international jewelry theft.
Officials told The Washington Post that Asadi trained the brothers to carry out “lethal operations” and assigned them to kill Americans and Israelis in Colombia after they were released in 2021.
The report said the brothers “never followed through with the operations” but that their recruitment showed that Iran had built a global network to carry out attacks. Colombian reports at the time said the plot was uncovered by the Mossad.
The report also noted a plan to kill French Jewish journalist Bernard-Henri Levy in Paris using an Iranian drug dealer. Levy was targeted by IRGC’s Quds Force, which hired the drug dealer for $150,000.
That man in turn recruited others to help carry out the ultimately doomed attack, the report said.
The report said the French national was targeted for speaking out against the Iranian regime.
The Washington Post also noted attempts to kill Israeli businessmen living in Cyprus — an Azerbaijani national and three Pakistani citizens have been charged in connection with that plot.
There were also operations in the US to try and kill former national security adviser John Bolton and kidnap Iranian-American journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad.
Shahram Poursafi was named in the report as the IRGC member behind the attempt on Bolton, and he was also said to be responsible for the plan to kill Itzik Moshe, a prominent Georgian-Israeli living in Tbilisi.
The report said many of the attempted killings had been subcontracted by Iran to thieves, drug dealers and other criminals in return for payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Officials said the attempted use of hitmen meant that many of the plans failed or were thwarted.
However, the report said officials believe that the continued multiple attempts to carry out the killings mean they will eventually succeed, potentially sparking a wider and more direct conflict with Tehran.
Hebrew-language reporting has suggested that many of these plots were thwarted due to Israeli intelligence.
Britain’s domestic spy agency MI5 said last month that Iran wants to kidnap or kill UK-based individuals it deems “enemies of the regime,” with at least 10 such plots uncovered so far this year.
Threats were said to have escalated against UK-based Iranian journalists reporting on the ongoing protests against Tehran’s regime, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for allegedly violating the dress code.
A report Wednesday said German authorities also believe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is behind a string of recent attacks on synagogues.
Officials told The Washington Post that the orders to carry out killings and kidnappings came from the top levels of the Iranian government.
The report said many of the plots were planned to avenge the January 2020 killing of Iranian al-Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani.