Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist, was assassinated outside of Tehran today.
The Iranians are blaming the Israelis, but the timing of this action would imply that this may be the part of a coordinated attempt between Israel (whose Mossad, unlike the CIA, doesn’t routinely screw up such operations) and the US, specifically the Trump administration, to foment an actual shooting war with Iran before Biden takes office.
Or, it could be just some random group of dudes with an amazing intelligence network and operational experience:
Iran has vowed retaliation after the architect of its nuclear programme was assassinated on a highway near Tehran, in a major escalation of tensions that risks placing the Middle East on a new war footing.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was ambushed with explosives and machine gun fire in the town of Absard, 70km (44 miles) east of Tehran. Efforts to resuscitate him in hospital failed. His bodyguard and family members were also wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Israel was probably to blame, and an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed retaliation. “We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action,” tweeted Hossein Dehghan.
There will be no claim of responsibility. Whoever did this was a pro, and pros don’t make claims of responsibility.
The killing was seen inside Iran as being as grave as the assassination by US forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January.
Israel will face accusations that it is using the final weeks of the Trump administration to try to provoke Iran in the hope of closing off any chance of reconciliation between Tehran and the incoming US administration led by Joe Biden.
Which is why reports of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s secret meeting with both Netanyahu, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is significant.
You had three people who are all forceful backers of open warfare between the United States and Iran allegedly in a room together, with the knowledge that a less confrontational approach to the Islamic Republic was in the works with the new administration in a room together.
It does not strain credulity that they all agreed that an immediate escalation of tensions would be beneficial for them agendas.
Fakhrizadeh had been described by western and Israeli intelligence services for years as the leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003. He was a central figure in a presentation by the Israeli prime minister, Benajmin Netanyahu, in 2018 accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons. “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu said during the presentation.
I don’t think that the Iranians have any hard evidence, but I do believe that their conclusions are a reasonable conjecture by the Iranian state security apparatus.