Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday accused arch-enemy Israel of acting as a “mercenary” for the United States and blamed it for the assassination of prominent nuclear power scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Iran’s office and military leaders have threatened revenge for Friday’s killing of Fakhrizadeh, who Iranian media said died in hospital after assassins shot him in his car near Tehran.
“Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime,” a term for Israel, President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement, according to state television.
“The assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh shows the despair and depth of our enemies in their hatred,” Rouhani added. “His martyrdom will not slow down our achievements.”
Fakhrizadeh focused on traveling near the city of Absard in the eastern Damavand province of Tehran province.
His killing could provoke a confrontation between Iran and its enemies in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s US presidency, while complicating every effort by President-elect Joe Biden to revive Barack Obama’s presidency.
‘Serious indications of an Israeli role’
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that there were “serious signs of an Israeli role” in the assassination.
Terrorists murdered a prominent Iranian researcher today. This cowardice – with serious indications of the Israeli role – shows desperate toughness among the perpetrators
Iran calls on the whole Community – and especially the EU – to end its shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.
– Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 27, 2020
The United States imposed sanctions on Fakhrizadeh in 2008 for “activities and transactions that contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear program,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described him as the father of Iran’s nuclear program.
The New York Times said a US official and two other intelligence officials confirmed that Israel was behind Friday’s attack without giving further details.
Israel itself has not commented on Fakhrizadeh’s death, in line with its practice of neither confirming nor denying killings for which it is blamed.
The assassination, just as Biden is ready to be inaugurated in January, is likely to complicate his efforts to return America to a pact aimed at ensuring that Iran does not have enough high-enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
The deal, which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for lifting economic sanctions, has been completely dissolved after Trump withdrew from the 2018 deal.
Trump himself retweeted a post from Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, an expert on the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, about the murder. Melman’s tweet called the killing a “major psychological and professional blow to Iran.”
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran, according to reports in Iran. He was the head of Iran’s secret military program and for many years wanted Mossad. His death is a major psychological and professional blow to Iran.
– Yossi Melman (@yossi_melman) November 27, 2020
The Amad program
The attack came just days before the 10th anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, whom Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time when the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad program, which Israel and the West have claimed was a military operation looking at the possibility of building a nuclear weapon.
Tehran has long maintained its nuclear program only for civilian purposes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) states that Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured program” until the end of 2003.
It was the Amad program, which included work on the carefully timed high-explosives needed to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Iran “also conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive” before 2005 and between 2005 and 2009, the IAEA said. However, the agency said these calculations were “incomplete and fragmented.”
IAEA inspectors are now monitoring Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-dissolved nuclear deal with world powers. Experts believe that Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to produce at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb.
( Jowharwith AP, AFP and REUTERS)