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UAE, Jordan condemn assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist

Abu Dhabi calls for restraint ‘to avoid dragging the region to new levels of instability’; Israel reportedly concerned Tehran could retaliate against Israeli tourists in Emirates

This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)
This photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

The United Arab Emirates and Jordan on Sunday both condemned the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, which has been blamed on Israel.

“The Emirates condemns the crime of the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. It calls all sides to practice the greatest possible restraint so as to avoid dragging the region to new levels of instability and threats to peace,” its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Meanwhile, Jordan also condemned the killing and called for collective efforts to avoid an escalation in tensions in the Middle East region, Reuters cited Jordanian state media as saying.

Israel and the UAE recently established diplomatic relations, a deal touted as having been accelerated by the countries’ shared concerns over Iran.

While Abu Dhabi is part of a regional bloc that opposes the spread of Iranian influence, the United Arab Emirates has occasionally taken a softer line on Tehran than its neighbors. In February 2020, Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Saudi TV that the UAE supported de-escalation with Iran with an eye toward a political settlement.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran have close economic ties and maintain embassies in one another’s countries. Saudi Arabia evacuated its own diplomatic mission in 2016, when an Iranian mob attacked the embassy following the Saudi execution of a Shiite cleric.

The condemnation by the UAE came hours after an Israeli television report said Israel is concerned Iran could attack Israeli tourists visiting the United Arab Emirates in retaliation for the assassination.

Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

Fakhrizadeh’s killing drew wide international condemnation.

Iran has explicitly accused Israel of being responsible for the attack and threatened to exact revenge for it.

The United Nations and European Union criticized the operation — without naming Israel — saying it inflamed tensions in the region. Some American Democrats also spoke out against the raid, saying it appeared to be an effort to hobble efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, a move that Jerusalem staunchly opposes along with several Sunni Arab states.

Oman, another country with which Israel seeks to normalize ties, also denounced the killing.

While Israel remained officially mum on the killing of Fakhrizadeh and its alleged role in it, an Israeli minister publicly praised the results of the operation.

“The assassination in Iran, whoever did it, it serves not only Israel, but the whole region and the world,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday.

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 with its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”

Iran has 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 uranium enrichment facility, which is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage.

Aaron Boxerman and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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