If Israel did it, it’s an act of self-defense if ever I’ve seen one. The details are sketchy right now but here’s what the Jerusalem Post is reporting:
Head of Iran’s nuclear program Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 59, was assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran, local Iranian news reported on Friday. Iran later confirmed the reports. “The nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated today by terrorists,” the Iranian Defense Ministry wrote in a statement, while not blaming any specific entity for the incident.
Fakhrizadeh was a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer and headed Iran’s nuclear weapons project. He was a professor of physics at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran and was former head of Iran’s Physics Research Center (PHRC).
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In 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “remember that name” after he announced that the Mossad had obtained 100,000 files from Iran’s secret nuclear archives. The files retrieved by Mossad focused on the secret Iranian nuclear program that was developed from 1999 to 2003 called Project Amad, which was led by Fakhrizadeh. When Iran entered the 2015 nuclear deal, it denied that such a program existed.
The Israelis knew about Fakhrizedeh’s role in the nuclear weapons program, and Netanyahu publicly released evidence as early as 2016 that Iran – contrary to what it publicly claimed – had not in any way slowed down its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran has also declared on more than one occasion that it intends to “wipe Israel from the face of the Earth.” That statement has of course led to heated debate on what it actually means. Some take it to mean they want to return all the land to the Palestinians, and that it’s not in any way a reference to an attack.
I would not credit that interpretation one bit, for several reasons. One is that Iran has never done a thing to improve the lot of the Palestinians. Iran is happy to finance terrorist attacks by Hezbollah, but the bleak existence of Palestinians in the West Bank doesn’t improve in the slightest as a result of these attacks, and Iran shows no evidence whatsoever of concern over this.
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Another is that there’s no real reason for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon if not to use it against Israel. Iran has enough military might and economic clout to maintain a dominant position in the Middle East without nukes. Indeed, it’s Iran’s continued pursuit of nukes that is bringing the economic sanctions that have damaged Iran’s economy and regional standing. Why risk all that in the pursuit of nuclear weapons if you don’t have a very big and spectacular intent in using them?
Besides, if Iran had no intention of attacking Israel, there is nothing stopping the mullahs from saying so. They have never done it and won’t. That puts Israel in a position of being more than justified taking whatever steps it thinks are necessary to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
How much damage would the killing of Fakhrizedeh do? It’s hard to say without knowing who else is up to speed with the details of the program. It’s always a blow to any effort when the leader is lost, but surely the mullahs aren’t going to abandon the pursuit of nuclear weapons because of this.
What it does accomplish, though, is to let Iran know it will continue to pay a very high price for what it’s doing. It also lets everyone involved know that they are at risk. If this really was an inside job, with a member of Fakhrizedeh’s security team doing the killing, then someone (Mossad?) has successfully penetrated the inner circle and is not afraid to take the opportunities it has.
I’ve said it many times before: The Israelis don’t play. The rest of the world may be willing to dither while Iran builds nuclear weapons, but it’s Israel that will be the target when such a weapon is complete. They can be forgiven for having no intention of being sitting ducks for a mad regime that’s already said what it intends to do with these weapons.