The dovish lobby group J Street on Saturday denounced the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, saying it appears aimed at “sabotaging” any effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian scientists a decade ago amid earlier tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing Friday. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush, the likes of which Israel has been accused of conducting before. Fakhrizadeh was named by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project.
The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after tensions spiked when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. It comes just as Biden stands poised to be inaugurated in January and will likely complicate his efforts to return America to the nuclear pact — clinched when he was vice president — aimed at ensuring Iran does not have enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. Biden is widely expected to reenter the deal, a prospect cautiously welcomed by Iran and opposed by Israel.
“The assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist appears to be an attempt to sabotage the ability of the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as well as the chances of further diplomacy, either by limiting the political leeway of Iranian officials who want to restore the deal, or by triggering an escalation leading to military confrontation,” J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement,
“It seems those who oppose the JCPOA will stop at nothing to kill the agreement once and for all,” said Ben-Ami, apparently referring to Israel.
Ben-Ami hit out at critics of the deal and the “disastrous consequences” of US President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to withdraw from the nuclear accord.
“The facts speak for themselves. Iran now has twelve times as much enriched uranium as when Trump took office. Its forces have openly launched missiles at US troops. The Iranian people — suffering cruel sanctions in the midst of a pandemic — blame the United States rather than their own government’s hardliners for their predicament,” he said.
He also urged Congress “to make clear that it supports diplomacy as the primary means to address threats emanating from Iran” and called on Tehran not to respond, with Biden set to take office.
US President Donald Trump was reported earlier this month to have considered targeting Iran’s nuclear program, but was said to have been talked out such a move, though a report earlier this week said the Israeli army has been preparing for the possibility that Trump will order a strike on Iran before leaving office in January.
The assassination Fakhrizadeh was the highpoint of a lengthy Israeli strategic plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, and deprives the Islamic Republic of an irreplaceable source of knowledge, Israeli television reported Saturday. An unnamed Western intelligence source told Channel 12 the killing of the nuclear physicist, described in the past as the “father” of Iran’s project to develop nuclear weapons, was the “pinnacle” of Israel’s long-term plans.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh comes three months after al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was gunned down on a Tehran street, in an attack that the New York Times earlier this month reported was carried out by Israeli agents at the behest of the United States. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who used the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was accused of being one of the chief planners of devastating attacks on two US embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 224 people were killed, and of orchestrating a 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya which killed 13 and injured 80.