Iranian nuclear weapons program founder and head Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed Nov. 27 in Absard, Iran north of the capital of Tehran.
The assassination marks a dramatic new chapter in the Middle East, coming just two months ahead of President Donald Trump’s departure from the White House.
Working for years under the cover of an academic at Imam Hossein University in Tehran, Fakhrizadeh was noted for years by Western intelligence agencies to actually be working on covert Iranian nuclear weapons programs through Project 110 and Project 111.
He was reportedly ambushed in his car in Absard in Iran’s Damavand county by six gunmen and later died of his injuries at hospital.
Who Was Behind the Hit on Fakhrizadeh?
Several US intelligence sources have confirmed that Israeli Mossad intelligence operatives were behind the assassination.
Fakhrizadeh has long been on Israel’s list of top targets, since Israel is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons which can strike its territory.
In 2018 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh to be Israel’s number one public enemy based on documents obtained in a raid by Mossad. Netanyahu said Fakhrizadeh had transitioned from Project 110 and 111 and an endeavor called the Amad Project into heading Iran’s quest for a deliverable atomic warhead system through the Organization of of Defensive Innovation and Research (Sazman-e Pazhouheshhaye Novin-e Defa’i or SPND).
Trump reportedly considered a strike on Nov. 12 on Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, but was talked out of it by senior staff including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who feared the breakout of a broader regional conflict if the assault went forward.
It is also worth noting that five days prior to the killing of Fakhrizadeh on Nov. 22, Netanyahu reportedly met with Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Neom. The meeting was also reportedly attended by senior Israeli intelligence staff including the head of Mossad Yossi Coen.
Israel has repeatedly broken through Iranian security measures, killing an Iranian nuclear scientist in 2010 and assassinating a number of other individuals reportedly involved in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in later years.
Israel and the United States are also believed to have been behind launching the devastating Stuxnet virus that caused major interruptions and delays to nuclear centrifuge operations at the Natanz nuclear site – which also suffered major damage after being hit by an explosion this past July.
Iran Vows Revenge
American allies including Germany are urging restraint following the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. Incoming President-elect Joe Biden is widely believed to have intended to try to renegotiate American entry to the Iran nuclear deal, but Fakhrizadeh’s murder will make it much harder – if not impossible – for the US to restart diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.
Iran, meanwhile, is vowing revenge and its armed forces and senior government officials are promising that severe retaliation will hit US and Israeli forces in the near future.
The killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleimani in a fatal drone strike at the Baghdad airport in January of this year left the regime in Tehran enraged and the brazen hit on Fakhrizadeh may push them into active retaliation.
Iranian army chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri has promised Iran will “track down and take revenge” on all who were involved in “the assassination of martyr Fakhrizadeh.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif sounded off on Twitter, saying that Fakhrizadeh’s killing was done by “terrorists” and had “serious indications” of an “Israeli role.” Zarif also said the assassination was a sign of “cowardice” and “desperate warmongering.”
Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators
Iran calls on int'l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 27, 2020
Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, meanwhile said those who ordered Fakhrizadeh’s killing and those who did it will be found and punished, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel and said that payback will come “in due time.”