Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist Provokes New Conflict

by Flora Xia ’23

Source: NPR

Published Dec. 22nd, 2020

On November 27, Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was shot and killed in a roadside ambush outside Tehran.

The 59-year-old scientist was believed to be the mastermind behind Iran’s controversial nuclear program- he was accused by both Israeli and American intelligence for leading an initiative that sought to develop a nuclear bomb. 

According to reports, the attack was carried out remotely by an “advanced electronic tool” with “satellite guidance” and facial recognition. Fakhrizadeh was rushed to the hospital, but paramedics were unable to revive him.

When no group immediately claimed responsibility, Iran accused Israel, a long-time ally of the United States, of orchestrating the attack. Over the past decade, Israel has been suspected of killing at least five Iranian scientists, but so far, the government has refused to comment, neither denying nor claiming responsibility for Fakhrizadeh’s death. 

One American official later backed Iran’s claim of Israeli involvement, but it is unclear whether the Trump administration was aware of the attack before it was carried out or offered support.

Either way, Fakhrizadeh’s assassination could have severe complications for President-elect Joe Biden and his efforts to return America to the Iran nuclear deal. The failure to convict Fakhrizadeh’s killers has resulted in a scandal over Iran’s failure to prevent the assassination itself. Now, the possibility of an Iranian counterattack against the West threatens to hamper Biden’s attempt at diplomacy with the now angered nation.

Coupled with the Soleimani strike that took place in early January, this recent killing definitely sparked tensions: protests erupted outside government buildings in Tehran. Several other top-level Iranian officials have condemned the killing and threatened to retaliate. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the assasination an act of “terrorism” and vowed revenge. “This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” he later wrote on Twitter.

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