Iran’s supreme leader has threatened “definitive punishment” for the killers of one of the country’s top nuclear scientists, who was identified by Israel of heading Tehran’s disbanded and controversial nuclear program. The Islamic Republic has accused Israel of slaying the scientist.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated near Tehran on Friday, an act that has led to the drastic escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
Iran has accused Israel, its arch-enemy, of orchestrating the assassination. ”Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime”, the supreme leader said in a statement, blaming Israel for the incident.
Israel has put its global embassies on high alert on Saturday, anticipating a response from Tehran.
The supreme leader eulogized Fakhrizadeh as “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist” and vowed that Iran’s first priority is “definitive punishment” of the killers and “those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate on his comments.
Addressing his government’s coronavirus task force earlier on Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani also accused Israel of the assassination. “We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time”, the President said.
“The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos”, he added.
Rouhani said, reiterating Khomeini’s words, that the scientist’s death would not stop Iran’s nuclear strategy, which it claims is non-military and focused solely on energy.
Hassan Dehghan, an adviser to the supreme leader, said in a separate statement that Tehran would “strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action.”
Fakhrizadeh has been described by the western and the US intelligence agencies as the mastermind of Iran’s covert nuclear program. Israeli leader Netanyahu accused Iran of continuing with its nuclear program in a presentation in 2018. “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh”, he said in the presentation.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military that it would not “comment on the reports in the foreign media.” The country’s prime minister has also remained silent on the issue.
Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israeli Defense Force intelligence, said in a statement that Fakhrizadeh’s assassination could spearhead a belligerent response from Iran, “which would provide a pretext for a US-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.” Yadlin did not suggest who carried out the Friday’s attack.
“Iran calls on international community – and especially EU – to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a statement. The European Union has not responded to the requests of comment on the incident.
Israel has faced accusations of exploiting the Trump administration’s last days in the White House for strategic gains. Tel Aviv sees the incumbent US president as more permissive of Israel’s ambitions than the President-elect Joe Biden.
As the Trump presidency proceeds to its twilight and the US plans the transition of the new president, Israeli has been making peace with the Gulf Arab states that share its hostility for Iran. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu travelled to Saudi Arabia this month and met with its crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman, according to Israeli officials. US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo was also in attendance. This was the first reported visit by an Israeli leader to Saudi Arabia.
Biden aims to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran which was abandoned by Donald Trump and lift some of the crushing economic sanctions if Tehran comes into compliance with the agreement. Experts claim that Israel and Saudi Arabi, both regional arch-rivals of Iran, want the US to remain out of the nuclear deal and continue with Trump’s strategy of crippling economic sanctions against Iran.
According to reports, Iran’s nominal civilian nuclear program has continued its experiments and now enriches Uranium at 4.5%, far below the weapons-grade level of 90%. According to reports, Iran has accumulated enough fissile material to suffice for two nuclear bombs. During the past decade, Tehran has accused Israel of killing five of its nuclear scientists, but Fakhrizadeh was at the core of Iran’s nuclear program and was considered one of the most senior scientists in the country. Analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on a par with Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear scientist who led the US’ Manhattan Project that built and tested the first atomic bomb in 1945.
‘Trump-led war on Iran’
Iran’s threat of retaliation in the wake of the Friday’s killing have rung the bells that Donald Trump, in liaison with hardline Saudi and Israeli anti-Iran allies, is attempting to lure Iran into an all-out confrontation. Trump’s four-year-long bellicose relationship with Iran is coming to an end – and he wants to inflict lasting damage to the US-Iran relations before leaving the Oval Office, making it practically an insurmountable task for Joe Biden to bridge the gap, some have claimed.
The aforesaid meeting between Israeli, Saudi and US officials in Neom has raised the speculations that Trump might soon initiate or support some kind of attack on Iran. In the absence of an official statement detailing the proceedings of the meeting, some have surmised that the attendees might have suggested intensifying joint efforts of weakening the Tehran regime. Any kind of retaliation from Iran might offer the pretext to the US of attacking its nuclear facilities.
Iran now faces a dilemma: if it chooses to retaliate, it could offer the pretext to the anti-Iran front – US, Saudi Arabia and Israel – to launch a full-fledged attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities and lay to rest the prospects of a much tolerable agreement promoted by the President-elect Joe Biden. Even if the Islamic Republic restrains its revenge, the Tehran-backed Shia militias in Syria and Iraq might not be so tractable and could offer the excuse that Tehran’s adversaries so dearly desire.
Neither Trump nor Biden commented on the incident, but the incumbent President retweeted the Israeli writer Yossi Melman who had said that that scientist’s death was a major “psychological and professional blow for Iran.” For undisclosed reasons, Trump also stationed several nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bomber planes 7000 miles to the Middle East last weekend and ordered the placement of an Aircraft carrier just hours after the Friday’s assassination.