‘Mastermind’ Scientist of Iran’s Nuclear Program Assassinated outside Tehran
The leading scientist for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, has been assassinated in an assault outside of the Iranian capital Tehran.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has reportedly been described as the “father of the Iranian bomb” by diplomats, while Western intelligence agencies have viewed him as the mastermind of what is described as Iran’s secret nuclear program, BBC News reports.
The most senior Iranian nuclear program scientist died in hospital on Friday afternoon, November 27, 2020, after earlier in the day assailants attacked his car with a bomb and then shot at him, according to Iranian news agencies.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was an officer at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a professor of physics at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran. He was also the Head of Research and Innovation Organization of the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
He has been the target of US sanctions. He has been the subject of a UN Security Council asset freeze over Iran’s refusal to make him available for an interview by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has thus become the fifth scientist working on Iran’s nuclear program to have been killed in the past decade.
A total of four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012, and Iran has blamed the assassinations on Israel.
Israel has been the Middle Eastern country which has been voicing the greatest concern over the Iranian nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is for peaceful purposes only.
The name of the newly assassinated leading Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear programme in May 2018, the BBC reminds.
Fakhrizadeh’s murder comes at a time of growing international tensions and Western concerns about the increased amount of enriched uranium that Iran is producing.
Last week, there were reports in US media that outgoing US President Donald Trump, who has only about two months left to serve as US President after losing the 2020 presidential election, was ultimately dissuaded from attacking the main site of the Iranian nuclear program in Natanz
Trump was dissuaded with arguments that any moves to that end would likely trigger a major interstate war in the Middle East. Iran has reacted by vowing a “crushing response” to any US attack.
During its four years, the Trump Administration has been hawkish on US relations with Iran and in particular with respect to the Iranian nuclear program.
The enmity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran goes back to the Islamic Revolution in Iran back in 1979.
After 2000, it has been exacerbated by the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, which the US and other Western countries have been construing as geared towards the development of nuclear weapons, accusations staunchly denied by Tehran.
The Iranian nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a compromise arrangement signed in July 2015 by Iran and six foreign powers: US, China, Russia, UK, France, and Germany, with the involvement of the European Union.
It is supposed to ensure that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and not for the development of nuclear weapons.
The JCPOA agreement was championed by former US President Barack Obama and the Obama Administration as one of its landmark foreign policy achievements.
The Iranian nuclear deal has been mostly opposed by the Republican Party, and by Israel’s long-standing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Even though at first, back in 2017, it acknowledged that Iran had been keeping its end of the deal, the Trump Administration had been adamantly opposed to it in principle.
In May 2018, President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA despite attempts by America’s Western European allies to dissuade him from doing so.
After the withdrawal, the Trump Administration first re-imposed the US sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, and subsequently strengthened them.
The American sanctions have deprived the Iranian government from crucial revenues from the exports of oil and have led to the isolation of Iranian banks, a major recession, and a slump in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial.
In Iran’s domestic politics, America’s withdrawal from the 2015 JCPOA deal and its ensuing slapping of sanctions is believed to have empowered the hardliners and conservative forces.
In January 2020, Trump ordered a US drone strike which killed top-ranking Iranian General Qassem Soleimani from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at Baghdad’s airport.
For the most part, however, Trump has been abstaining from proactive large-scale US military involvement in the Middle East.
Iran’s presently has a 2.4-tonne stock of low-enriched uranium, which is far beyond the limit of 202.8 kilograms set in the 2015 deal.
In the last quarter, it produced a total of 337.5 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which is a reduction compared with the 500 kilograms in the previous two quarters, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was cautious about the prospects for a thaw in US – Iranian relations under the future Biden Administration, saying Tehran had been bracing for a second Trump term.