Iranian operatives have targeted members of a U.S.-based think tank through surveillance and cyber operations, signaling Tehran’s broad intent to abduct or assassinate Americans on U.S. soil, according to reports.
Several members of the New York-based advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) have been the subject of suspected Iranian surveillance operations carried out on U.S. soil as well as various phasing operations believed to be carried out by a cyber warfare group linked to the Islamic Republic.
Those being targeted include UANI CEO and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the George W. Bush administration Mark Wallace, the group’s original funder Thomas Kaplan, and former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut who currently serves as the chairman for UANI, according to a report by The Dispatch.
Members affiliated with the think tank have been photographed by unknown individuals in at least three instances, the outlet reported. The FBI has sent Mr. Kaplan “duty to warn” notices alerting him that he may be the target of a hostile foreign power.
Mr. Kaplan told the news site that while the threat from Iranian operatives “existed from the very beginning,” he said it has grown “more and more pervasive.”
“I’d been sort of given signals that the Iranians were watching, and that didn’t inhibit me,” he said. “And it still doesn’t inhibit me despite the fact that the threat level is now at an official level. To the contrary, it just reinforces my opposition to this particular regime.”
Operatives, which UANI believes are linked to the Iranian-linked cyber warfare group Charming Kitten, have also targeted its members in phishing operations meant to impersonate UANI leadership and disseminate suspicious RSVP links for fake events.
Mr. Wallace said the threats posed to Americans by Iran are “multiple, pervasive, and systematic.”
“I’m not aware of any time in our history that a hostile foreign government is systematically and pervasively targeting attacks on American soil against Americans,” he said. “This is a state actor pursuing these activities against Americans. That sure looks to me like an act of war.”
The Justice Department also recently revealed that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps plotted to kill former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is also a senior adviser to UANI.
The Justice Department announced charges against an IRGC operative accused of offering to pay contacts inside the U.S. up to $300,000 to kill the former national security adviser.
In January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi marked the second anniversary of the 2020 strike that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Commander Qassim Soleimani by declaring that former President Donald Trump and Mr. Pompeo “will be charged for committing this heinous crime and will face the consequence of their criminal actions.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in April that the threat of an Iranian attack on Mr. Pompeo is “real and ongoing.”
Mr. Bolton is among those staunchly opposed to President Biden’s attempts at restoring the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, which Mr. Trump withdrew from in 2018. He said the plot adds to the body of evidence that Tehran cannot be trusted.
“This entire campaign constitutes an act of war against the United States,” Mr. Bolton said Wednesday of Iran’s plot to kill him. “At the same time, [the Biden administration is] trying to believe that they’re not going to pursue nuclear weapons, which they’ve been doing for over 20 years with a clear military objective.”
Iran also is suspected of involvement in the recent knife attack on author Salaman Rushdie at a speaking engagement in New York.
The India-born British author has lived under threat after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in response to Mr. Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.”
Iran has denied any links to the attack.
Iran’s Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is personally chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared in a front-page editorial published Sunday that “God has taken his revenge on Rushdie” and that “it is now the turn of Trump and Pompeo.”
Mr. Rushdie’s alleged assailant — Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old American born to Lebanese parents — was quickly detained and charged with attempted murder.
Mr. Matar’s mother told The Daily Mail that he became radicalized after visiting Lebanon in 2018.
Iran has attempted to target other citizens in the U.S. who have been deemed as enemies of the regime.
The Justice Department last year charged four Iranian intelligence officials with conspiring to abduct New York-based Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad.
Earlier this month, a man carrying a loaded AK-47 showed up at Ms. Alinejad’s home in Brooklyn in an apparent murder plot.