Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has promised retaliation for the murder of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist in his remark on Saturday and promised a response to “the martyrdom of our scientist at the right time”.
The scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated near Tehran on Friday, authorities said just weeks after an international monitoring agency confirmed that the country had taken new steps in its nuclear development and went beyond the limits of nuclear research, which is now discarded 2015 nuclear deal.
According to the Iranian Ministry of Defense, Fakhrizadeh was shot by gunmen when he traveled to a city about 40 miles from Tehran and died after being transported to hospital.
No country or group has claimed responsibility for Fakhrizadeh’s death, however statement on Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the killing as a “state terrorist act”. In a televised speech on Saturday, Rouhani accused Israel of standing behind the attacks.
Terrorists today murdered an outstanding Iranian scientist. This cowardice – with strong indications of Israel’s role – shows the desperate warming of the perpetrators
Iran calls on the community, and the EU in particular, to end their shameful double standard and to condemn this act of state terror.
– Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 27, 2020
Experts say Rouhani’s accusation is probably not wrong. According to the New York Times, at least one U.S. official, as well as two other intelligence officials, have indicated that Israel is responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s death.
Such an attack appears to be within Israel’s capabilities. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that an Israeli assassin had killed an al-Qaeda leader living in Tehran, the capital of Iran, on behalf of the United States. And in a 2018 speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Fakhrizadeh as an interesting and important factor. However, Israeli officials refused to comment on whether the country played a role in the murder.
Who is responsible for Fakhrizadeh’s death – the latest loss in a long-running US-led campaign for “maximum pressure” on Iran under President Donald Trump – the assassination of Iranian military leaders like Iranian General Mohammed Bagheri is “considered a huge blow to the Iranian defense facility”. writes Axios on Friday.
And that, too, is just the latest in a series of failures of Iran’s nuclear program, including a summer full of mysterious explosions at test and research sites, for which experts believe Israel is likely to be responsible.
Among other targets, Natanz, Iran’s main underground nuclear facility, was shaken by an explosion in early July. A missile facility, Khojir, was also the site of a major June explosion.
New images show the extent of the devastation of the July 2 explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear power plant. There may be additional damage to the underground elements of the facility that is not visible from above.
– Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) July 8, 2020
As Dalia Dassa Kaye, director of RAND Corporation’s Middle East Public Policy Center, told Vox Alex Ward in July, “there is an escalation pattern and correlation to‘ this year’s summer explosions ’that the Israeli side is targeting Iranians.”
Israel has long been concerned about Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, which may have been a cause for concern last Wednesday, when the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN agency tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the 2015 Comprehensive Action Plan, is better known. whereas the Iranian nuclear deal has reported that Iran has taken another step towards the potential production of nuclear weapons.
According to the report, Iran is using a kind of advanced centrifuge banned by the agreement to enrich uranium at Natanz, the same facility that suffered an explosion in July this year.
In 2018, Trump sought to tear apart the nuclear deal and redefine U.S. sanctions against Iran. Subsequently, Iran also withdrew parts of the agreement, arguing that since the US withdrew from the agreement, it was no longer valid. In January, the country indicated that it would enrich uranium at a higher level than before the deal was made.
Fakhrizadeh’s death comes at a delicate moment in U.S.-Iran relations
Despite Iran’s promise of retaliation, it is somewhat unclear what will happen next, as tensions in the region remain high. While Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top leader, “promised the final punishment of perpetrators and perpetrators,” it is not clear in what form this could happen.
Following the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, in Baghdad, Iran retaliated against U.S. military bases by airstrikes last January.
Even before Fakhrizadeh’s death, Iran indicated in September that it planned further retaliation for Solomon’s assassination. But that doesn’t mean Iran is now choosing to take action – especially since it is dealing with the worst coronavirus epidemic in the Middle East – which has caused more than 37,000 officially confirmed deaths last week.
And since Iran has also blamed Fakhrizadeh’s death in the United States, the Times says the incoming U.S. presidential administration should be considered. President-elect Joe Biden, who was Vice President Barack Obama at the negotiation of the Iranian nuclear deal, will take office in January 2021 – and has said he hopes to be able to re-enter the president.
Iran has not ruled out the possibility. In early November, Zarif, the country’s foreign minister, told CBS News, “Obviously, we can find a way to rejoin. But rejoining does not mean renegotiation. That means the United States will return to the negotiating table.
However, whether this withdrawal is still an option is no longer clear, and with nearly two months in office, Trump represents something of a surrogate when it comes to the U.S.-Iran relationship. Earlier this month, he allegedly asked advisers about the possibility of a strike against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facilities, although officials believe such an attack is “not on the table,” the New York Times writes.
Neighboring Iraq is also still a potential focal point. According to the Washington Post, a militia group linked to Iran last week said it fired rockets “landed at the U.S. Embassy complex within Baghdad’s fortified green zone.” No embassy staff were injured in the attack, and – for the time being – the United States is still on track to further strengthen its troops presence in Iraq in the coming months.
In a report by Al Jazeera on Saturday, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned.
“We have taken note of reports that Iran’s nuclear scientists have been killed near Tehran today,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq. “We urge restraint and avoid escalating tensions in the region.”