Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a well-known scientist in Iran, has been killed in a targeted assault in Iran.
Fakhrizadeh was suspected of being involved in the country's alleged nuclear program, which has been a point of contention with western forces for several years. In the attack, assassins used machine guns and explosives to carry out the killing.
Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already suggested that the reputation of the target gives “serious indications” that Israel could be involved, according to the Associated Press.
“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote.
Breaking News: Iran’s top nuclear scientist was fatally shot in northern Iran, state media reported. He was seen as the force behind its nuclear weapons program. https://t.co/5sG7mqJA0i
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 27, 2020
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been suspected of ordering assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists for years.
The attack reportedly happened in a small city called Absard, which is just east of Tehran, the country's capital.
Witnesses nearby heard the sound of an explosion along with machine gunfire. The assassins were targeting the car that Fakhrizadeh was in. Others in the vehicle, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, also were taken to a local hospital and treated for injuries.
Mohsen Fakhri Zade has been assassinated. He’s referred to as “The father” of the Iranian nuclear program. He was a brigadier general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, aka the IRGC. Iran vows to avenge his killing. pic.twitter.com/t5X00l3Tf0
— ASB News / MILITARY〽️ (@ASBMilitary) November 27, 2020
The attackers had a clear shot on the vehicle because roads throughout the country have been empty due to the pandemic.
While no one has taken credit for the attack, state TV in Iran has pointed to Netanyahu's interest in Fakhrizadeh.
Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Guard, said that foreign enemies were attempting to undermine the country's scientific progress.
“Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science,” Salami tweeted.
Coincidentally, or perhaps suspiciously, the assassination comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, which Tehran also blamed on Israel.
Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, issued a warning on Twitter.
BREAKING: Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been “assassinated” near Tehran, the country's defence ministry confirmed.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) November 27, 2020
In a tweet referencing US President Donald Trump, Dehghan wrote, “In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war. We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”
There is also suspicion in Iran that the US government could be involved, considering that US President Donald Trump has been asking his advisers about options on striking Iran before he leaves office.
According to a New York Times report published earlier this month, President Donald Trump asked his advisors about the possibility of attacking a nuclear site in Iran before he leaves office.
The question was asked during a meeting in the Oval Office on November 12, in a discussion about a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which indicated that Iran’s stockpiles of uranium had reached 12 times the 300-kilogram limit set in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Obama struck with the country in 2015.
Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, which gave the country permission to resume gathering uranium, although that was not the intended impact.
Trump withdrew from the deal to signal tougher diplomacy, but the plan appears to have backfired. After Trump pulled out of the deal and increased economic sanctions on Iran, the country’s government promised to increase uranium enrichment beyond the purity threshold it previously agreed to.
BREAKING: A top scientist seen as the architect of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was assassinated near Tehran Friday, Iran’s Defense Ministry announced.@aliarouzi reports the latest. pic.twitter.com/OLpt0Z1V2c
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 27, 2020