By Guido Lanfranchi.
In a strongly worded statement, the Iranian Embassy in the Netherlands firmly condemned the assassination of Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Organization of Innovation and Research at the country’s Ministry of Defense. On November 27th, 2020, the Iranian scientist was victim of an attack in Absard, a suburb east of Tehran; he later died in hospital from the wounds.
Echoing previous statements by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Embassy’s communiqué pointed the finger at Israel, claiming that there is “ample evidence” that the Israeli government was behind the attack. Back in 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had singled out Dr. Fakhrizadeh as the mastermind of Iran’s nuclear program. This last attack adds itself to a longer list of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists over the last years – attacks for which the Iranian government has often put the blame on Israel. In line with their long-standing communication policy, Israeli authorities declined to comment on the attack, although the country is widely believed to have been behind the assassination campaign.
The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists is part of a much broader contestation around Iran’s nuclear program. Israel says that the program is geared towards developing a nuclear bomb – a prospect that the Israeli government vowed to prevent. Iranian authorities deny the claim, maintaining that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessed that Iran did undertake steps towards the construction of nuclear weapons before 2003 and possibly – albeit in a less organized fashion – up to 2009. However, the Agency found no evidence of any such activity since 2009.
In 2015, the “Iranian nuclear issue” seemed to have come to an end when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – a deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group – was signed. The United States’ withdrawal in May 2018 under the Trump administration called this solution into question, prompting Iran to gradually break its side of the deal in response to the US violations. The incoming Biden administration, however, is expected to adopt a less hawkish stance towards Tehran, and it might rejoin the deal that Mr. Biden – President Obama’s deputy at the time – helped to negotiate in 2015.
In the meantime, however, the tensions between Iran, Israel, and the United States remain worryingly high.
Picture credits Wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
About the author:
Guido Lanfranchi is an international affairs professional based in Den Haag, Netherlands. He studied at the Leiden University and Sciences Po Paris, and got with the Council of the European Union in Brussels. His research focuses on the EU, the Middle East and Africa.