A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday vowed the Islamic Republic would retaliate over the killing of its top nuclear scientist, allegedly by Israel.
“Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” said Kamal Kharrazi, head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, according to the Reuters news agency.
Iran claimed Sunday that an initial investigation has indicated the assassination of the country’s alleged nuclear weapons mastermind Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bears similarities to an attack on one of its uranium enrichment facilities earlier this year, and that Israel appears to be behind both.
“In the Natanz incident, it can be said that their elements are the same as the recent incident, and it seems that the Zionist regime is involved in these cases,” Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Sunday, according to The Tehran Times, referring to the June incident at the central Iranian uranium plant.
Fakhrizadeh, the scientist said by Israel and the US to head Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, was assassinated Friday in an ambush near the capital Tehran, Iran’s defense ministry said. The ministry confirmed the death of Fakhrizadeh, a professor of physics and an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, after it was widely reported in Iranian media.
Several top Iranian officials indicated they believed Israel was behind the killing in the hours after the attack, with one adviser to the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader vowing revenge. Israel had no comment on the attack, and Israeli TV reports late Friday said the army had not been placed on a heightened alert in its wake.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.” Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate.
Iran has already suffered several devastating attacks this year, including the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January, and a mysterious explosion and fire that crippled an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at the Natanz facility, which is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage.
“The elements and reasons behind the act of sabotage at the Natanz facility have been identified, but it’s not possible to give out further information since the issue is under investigation,” Kamalvandi said in his reported Sunday comments.
He added that the response to the attack must be twofold: increasing nuclear production and retaliation against the perpetrators.
“In the industrial sector, we must double our work, and in the security sectors, we must give a decisive response to these measures,” he said.
In response to the assassination, the Iranian parliament on Sunday passed a number of emergency motions including a bill requiring the Atomic Energy Organization to increase the monthly output of enriched uranium for “various peaceful purposes,” the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported.
The bill demands that the atomic agency stockpile at least 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent at the Fordo nuclear facility, and increase enrichment at Natanz as well.
The move, which must still be ratified, would be the latest violation of enrichment curbs set out by the 2015 nuclear deal.
Lawmakers, who kicked off the session with chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” also issued a statement demanding that Iran restrict access to UN inspectors at nuclear sites, according to Iranian media.
Speaking after the session, parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf said that Iran’s enemies must be made to regret killing Fakhrizadeh.
“The criminal enemy does not regret it except with a strong reaction,” he said in a broadcast on Iranian state radio.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Esmaeil Qaani, the new head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reportedly lashed out at the “global arrogance, Zionism, and the states creating and fostering terrorism” for killing the Iranian scientist “with American bullets.”
An opinion piece published by a hardline Iranian newspaper on Sunday suggested Iran should attack the northern Israeli port city of Haifa if Israel were indeed responsible for the killing of Fakhrizadeh.
Though the Kayhan newspaper has long argued for aggressive retaliation for operations targeting Iran, Sunday’s opinion piece went further, suggesting any assault be carried out in a way that destroys facilities and “also causes heavy human casualties.”
Analysts have said Fakhrizadeh was on par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led America’s Manhattan Project in World War II that created the atom bomb.
Fakhrizadeh was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project. When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago, in a bid to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. It has made no official comment on the matter. Israeli TV coverage noted that Friday’s attack was far more complex than any of those previous incidents.
Agencies contributed to this report.