WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Iranian regime has launched dozens of plots to kill its perceived enemies abroad, including Jews, among them the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The Iranian regime dramatically intensified its targeting of overseas figures after the United States assassinated a top general, Qassem Soleimani, in 2020, the report posted Thursday said, citing 15 unnamed officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East as well as documents its reporters have seen.
According to the report, the regime has since 2020 shifted from identifying and tracking targets for possible attack should there be an intensification in tensions between the West and Iran, to launching plots, which one expert said so far number 36. Many of the attacks do not come to fruition, because they are thwarted by authorities in the targeted countries, or because the designated assassins choose not to carry them out.
Last summer, Israeli officials warned Israelis not to travel to Istanbul, saying that Israeli and Turkish authorities had recently thwarted Iranian-backed terrorist attacks.
Among the targets of Iranian assassins, according to the Washington Post report, was Lévy, a philosopher who emphasizes his Jewish outlook and who has been an outspoken critic of repressive regimes in the Middle East, particularly Iran.
Lévy was targeted by the Quds Force, the special operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that Soleimani headed, the Post reported. The Quds Force paid an Iranian drug dealer $150,000 to kill Lévy, it said. The report did not say how the plot was thwarted. Lévy declined to comment to the newspaper.
Other targets included Israeli businessmen in Colombia, the Post said. An Iranian spy serving a prison sentence in Dubai met two Colombian brothers who were in the same prison; they were jewel thieves, according to the report. The spy trained the brothers in assassination techniques, it said, but they never followed through once released.
Also noted was the arrest last year in Cyprus of an Azerbaijani Russian citizen who allegedly was supervising a team of Pakistanis tracking Israeli citizens in the country. That plot had recently shifted into a plan to carry out deadly attacks, the report said.
Other groups targeted in the plots, the report said, included Iranian exiles who are prominent in their criticism of the regime, and journalists living abroad who report on Iran. In addition to France, Cyprus and Colombia, plots have been attempted or carried out in the United States, Canada, Britain, Iraq and Turkey, the report said.
Matthew Levitt, a former FBI official who now tracks terrorism at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, told the newspaper that, of 124 plots he has identified since 1979, 36 have taken place since Soleimani’s killing. Soleimani was responsible for attacks on American forces in the area and for liaising with and arming two of Israel’s enemies, the terrorist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.