Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, long accused of U.S. and Israeli intelligence, stood behind secret programs to design the nuclear airship, was shot and killed on Friday while traveling by car in northern Iran, Iranian state media reported.
The scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who is believed to be 59 years old, has been the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program for two decades and continued his work in the early 2000s after a quiet dissolution of much of the effort, according to a U.S. intelligence survey. .
According to official Iranian media and state television, Fakhrizadeh was shot dead as his car passed through the rural town of Absard in the Damavand region.
State media reports said Mr Fakhrizadeh was seriously wounded in the attack and that doctors tried to rescue him in the hospital but could not.
The murdered scientist has long been a target of Israeli Mossad.
A shady figure, Mr Fakhrizadeh, has long been the number one target of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, which is believed to be behind a series of assassinations more than eight years ago, which included some of Mr Fakhrizadeh’s deputies.
Iran has never agreed with a demand from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for inspectors to ask Mr. Fakhrizadeh, saying he was an academician who gave lectures at Hussein Imam University in downtown Tehran.
Mr. Fakhrizadeh was an academic, but a series of classified reports, notably a lengthy evaluation by the CIA for the George W. Bush administration in 2007, said the academic role was a cover story. In 2008, his name was added to the list of Iranian officials whose property was ordered by the United States.
In the same year, the IAEA Inspector General revealed his activities in an unclassified briefing. It later became clear that he was leading a project called projects 110 and 111 by the Iranians – trying to solve the most difficult problems bombers face when trying to make a warhead small enough to fit on top of a rocket and survive re-engagement. into the atmosphere.
Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons and stressed that the production of its nuclear material is for peaceful purposes only.
The killing provoked a sharp reaction in Iran.
Killing Fakhrizadeh, whoever was responsible, could have far-reaching consequences for the incoming Biden administration. It needs to launch a sharp reaction in Iran, as well as the U.S. attack on January 3 that killed Iranian Major General Qassim Suleimani, who led the Quds elite team in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh could hamper the efforts of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, as he promised if the Iranians pledged to return to the limits detailed in the deal.
Israel has long opposed the agreement, and if its agents are responsible for killing a man considered a national hero – they are almost certainly accused of being behind it in Iran – there may be political pressure in Iran to continue its current efforts to gradually rebuild nuclear fuel stocks abandoned in 2015. .
U.S. officials did not comment on the assassination Friday morning, saying they were looking for information.