Middle East

Iran scientist buried as ‘new leads’ point to Israel

Political, military officials say Mohsen Fakrizadeh's assassination will not go unanswered

Syed Zafar Mehdi   | 30.11.2020
Iran scientist buried as ‘new leads’ point to Israel

TEHRAN 

The slain Iranian nuclear scientist was laid to rest in Tehran on Monday in a funeral attended by senior political and military officials.

New leads in the case, according to Iran’s state media, clearly point to the involvement of Israel’s spy agency.

Mohsen Fakrizadeh, who headed the research and innovation wing at Iran’s Defense Ministry, is said to be on Mossad's radar for years and even survived a few assassination bids.

In 2018, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu singled him out during a presentation on Iran’s nuclear program, pictures of which have been widely shared online.

Fakrizadeh, who was killed on the outskirts of Tehran on Nov. 27, is the fifth prominent Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed since 2010. Iran has always accused Israel of orchestrating the attacks.

Iran’s Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, speaking at the funeral ceremony in the ministry complex, said the scientist’s killing “will not go unanswered."

“We are responsible for pursuing this matter and will follow up,” Hatami, who worked closely with Fakhrizadeh in the Defense Ministry, told the gathering. “Perpetrators and planners of the crime will be punished."

The slain scientist was accorded a state funeral before being taken to a religious site in northern Tehran for burial.


New leads

Iran's state TV said the remote-controlled weapon recovered from the site of Fakrizadeh’s murder in Damavand county points to the involvement of Iran’s arch-enemy Israel.

The Ministry of Intelligence also claimed to have obtained “key leads” that would be “published very soon."

Ministry officials said they have made “good progress” in the preliminary investigation, and have found “strong clues” that establish Israel’s link with the murder.

Over the past three days, top Iranian political and military officials have accused Israel of orchestrating the attack, and vowed “retaliation."

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Sunday that the assassination of Fakrizadeh bears the hallmark of Israel’s role, echoing what President Hassan Rouhani said earlier.

However, the government appears to have adopted "strategic patience," asserting that the response will “not be on the field defined by the enemy."

On the contrary, top military officials such as chief of army staff Gen. Mohammad Baqeri, IRGC chief Gen. Hossein Salami and Supreme Leader’s top military adviser Gen. Hossein Dehghan have unequivocally spoken of “hard revenge."

Parliament speaker Mohamamad Baqer Qalibaf and judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeesi, the two political rivals of President Rouhani, have urged the government to recalibrate its policies.

On the sidelines of a closed-door session of parliament yesterday, Qalibaf said the government must not “send weak signals."

The house, in response to the killing, adopted a double-urgency bill under which the "voluntary implementation" of the Additional Protocol of Non Proliferation Treaty would be reconsidered, and the terms of cooperation with the UN nuclear agency would also change.

Adopting the same stance, Raeesi on Monday said “assassinations and sanctions” are “two sides of the same coin,” asserting those who call for restraint are “giving green light to the terrorists."

He added that it was “wrong to expect sanctions to be lifted through negotiations,” aiming at the government that has kept the option of negotiations to lift sanctions open.

Calls for revenge

While differences continue to prevail over the nature of response to the scientist’s killing, calls for revenge are growing louder.

Gen. Salami, who attended Fakrizadeh’s funeral, said Iran will “determine the time, place and type of response."

Ali Shamkhani, who heads the country’s powerful National Security Council, said the “enemies” had been trying to target the slain scientist for 20 years.

The head of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission Mojtaba Zonnour also joined the chorus, saying “the assassination will not go unanswered."

Earlier, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for serious investigations into the case, and action against the perpetrators. His message was also played during the funeral.

Meanwhile, an unnamed Israeli official quoted by the New York Times on Sunday said the world should thank Israel for Fakrizadeh's killing.

Due to high threat perception, the scientist had been under the protective shield of Iran’s security agencies for years. His pictures were also not published in the media.

In 2011, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog identified him as a “key figure” in Iran’s nuclear program. He was the only Iranian official mentioned in the report.

The agency even sought Tehran's permission to meet the scientist, which was turned down.

Some officials in Iran have alleged that the UN nuclear agency’s inspections could have led to the scientist’s killing.

The government, however, has denied it.

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