EU condemns killing of Iranian nuclear scientist as ‘criminal act’

Posted November 28, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


Brussels urges ‘maximum restraint’ after Tehran points finger at Israel in deadly Friday ambush; Iranian leaders promise response

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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 3:20 pm  0This 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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

The European Union has condemned the killing of a top Iranian nuclear scientist on Friday as a “criminal act” and urged calm and restraint as officials in Tehran blamed Israel for the assassination and vowed to respond.

“In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest,” said Peter Sano, lead spokesperson for the external affairs division of the European Union, based in Brussels.

“This is a criminal act and runs counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for. The High Representative expresses his condolences to the family members of the individuals who were killed, while wishing a prompt recovery to any other individuals who may have been injured,” he
added in a press statement.

The announcement came a day after Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, linked to Tehran’s military nuclear program, was killed on Friday in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with gunfire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

It was not yet clear how many people died in the ambush.

US officials and most world leaders remained mum on the slaying as of Saturday mid-day, while the UN called for restraint and the former head of the CIA said the assassination was “highly reckless.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Saturday urging restraint and urged “all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the situation,” Reuters reported.

Earlier Saturday, both Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to respond to the slaying, with Rouhani directly blaming Israel for the assassination.In this cropped photo, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh sits in a meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, January 23, 2019. (Office of the Iranian supreme leader via AP)

Rouhani said that Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop its nuclear program, something Khamenei said as well. Iran’s civilian nuclear program has continued its experiments and now enriches uranium up to 4.5 percent, far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The killing threatens to renew tensions between the US and Iran in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term, just as President-elect Joe Biden has suggested his administration could return to Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers from which Trump earlier withdrew. The Pentagon announced early Saturday that it sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Mideast.

In a statement, Khamenei called Fakhrizadeh “the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.”

He said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.” He did not elaborate.

Rouhani said Iran would “respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time.” He added: “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”

The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.

Those assaults occurred at the height of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran long has insisted its program is peaceful. However, Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003.

IAEA inspectors monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unraveling nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

After Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal, Iran has abandoned all those limits. Experts now believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb. Meanwhile, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility exploded in July in what Tehran now calls a sabotage attack

US, world leaders mum on Fakhrizadeh killing; ex-CIA chief calls hit ‘reckless’

Posted November 28, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


UN calls for restraint after assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist; Pompeo announces sanctions against supporters of Iran’s missile program; US aircraft carrier sails to Gulf

A photo released by Iran's 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, Nov. 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 3:01 am  2A photo released by Iran’s 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, Nov. 27, 2020. (Fars News Agency via AP)

US officials and world leaders remained mum on the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh as of Friday night, while the UN called for restraint and the former head of the CIA said the assassination was “highly reckless.”

There were no immediate comments from the White House, Pentagon, US State Department, CIA or US President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.

The leaders of other countries were similarly silent. Israel has not commented on the killing and no group has claimed responsibility.

The former head of the CIA, John Brennan, called the assassination a crime that risked inflaming conflict in the region.

Brennan said he did not know who was to blame for the killing, as Tehran pointed the finger at Israel.Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

“This was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict,” Brennan said in a series of tweets.

“I do not know whether a foreign government authorized or carried out the murder of Fakhrizadeh,” he said. “Such an act of state-sponsored terrorism would be a flagrant violation of international law & encourage more governments to carry out lethal attacks against foreign officials.”

Brennan noted that Fakhrizadeh was not a designated terrorist or a member of a terror group, which would have made him a legal target.

A strong critic of US President Donald Trump, Brennan urged Tehran to “resist the urge” to retaliate and “wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage,” referring to Biden, who will replace Trump in the White House on January 20.

US officials told CNN they were closely monitoring the aftermath of the assassination, but refrained from commenting publicly due to fears of further stoking the already tense regional situation.

The US military is not planning any action against Iran, and believes Tehran would respond quickly to any attacks with missile strikes, the report said, citing multiple US officials.

One American official told the network the killing “would be a big deal” and that US intelligence was looking for more information on the incident.

The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and other US warships are moving into the Persian Gulf to support American troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, but the move was decided before Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, a US defense official told CNN. The USS Nimitz left the Gulf earlier this month for maritime exercises in the Indian Ocean.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday evening that the US was sanctioning “four entities in China and Russia for their support of Iran’s missile program, which remains a significant proliferation concern.”

“We will continue to use all our sanctions tools to prevent Iran from advancing its missile capabilities,” Pompeo said, without mentioning the killing of Fakhrizadeh.Missiles are fired in an Iranian military exercise by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, July 28, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)

Trump himself retweeted a posting from Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, an expert on the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, about the killing. Melman’s tweet called the killing a “major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”

US Senator Chris Murphy, the leading Democrat on the Senate’s Middle East subcommittee, said, “If the primary purpose of the killing of Mr. Fakhrizadeh was to make it harder to restart the Iran nuclear agreement, then this assassination does not make America, Israel or the world safer.”

“I have not yet been briefed on this incident, but: Every time America or an ally assassinates a foreign leader outside a declaration of war, we normalize the tactic as a tool of statecraft. The risk is that the security benefit can be very short lived,” Murphy said on Twitter.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for restraint following the killing.

“We have noted the reports that an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated near Tehran today. We urge restraint and the need to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region,” his spokesman Farhan Haq said, according to Reuters.

Later on Friday, Iran sent a letter to Guterres and the UN Security Council alleging “serious indications of Israeli responsibility,” Reuters reported.

“Warning against any adventuristic measures by the United States and Israel against my country, particularly during the remaining period of the current administration of the United States in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its rights to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests,” said Iran’s UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi.

The Hamas terror group said, “This assassination comes against the background of persistent American and Zionist threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”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, Nov. 27, 2020. Parts of image are blurred for potentially disturbing imagery. (Fars News Agency via AP)

Fakhrizadeh was killed Friday in an ambush in Absard, a village just east of the capital Tehran, Iran’s defense ministry said. The shadowy scientist was alleged to be the mastermind of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program.

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.

The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after Iran and the US stood on the brink of war after an American drone strike killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

It comes just as Biden stands poised to be inaugurated in January, and will likely complicate his efforts to return America to a pact aimed at ensuring Iran does not have enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

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. Israeli TV coverage noted that Friday’s attack was far more complex than any of those previous incidents. Israel has never acknowledged assassinating people involved in the Iranian nuclear program.

‘Iran lied’: Netanyahu drops a Mossad bombshell on the Iranian nuclear deal

Posted November 28, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Israel always claimed Iran duped the world, and the 2015 deal paved its path to a nuclear arsenal. Armed with Iran’s own archive, PM now looks to Trump to do ‘the right thing’

David Horovitz

By DAVID HOROVITZ30 April 2018, 10:05 pm  28Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech on files obtained by Israel’s Mossad that he says prove Iran lied about its nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday dropped a Mossad intelligence bombshell on Iran, and on the Obama administration-led international community that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. He showcased a vast archive of Iran’s own documentation demonstrating that Tehran worked to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal, lied to the international community about it, and has taken the steps necessary to ensure it can proceed to the bomb within the framework of the 2015 deal.

In a brief, devastating presentation at the Tel Aviv Defense Ministry headquarters, Netanyahu unveiled what he described as one of Israeli intelligence’s greatest ever achievements — getting its hands on Iran’s own archived nuclear weapons program paperwork: 55,000 pages, and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs, he said. That archive faithfully records the progress of Iran’s comprehensive program to build nuclear weapons, named Project Amad, he noted — speaking in English, for maximal international resonance. And by obtaining that material, he declared, Israel could now incontrovertibly demonstrate that Iran’s leaders have “brazenly” lied to the world, and that the 2015 accord is founded on Iranian “deception.”

“100,000 files right here prove that they lied,” he declared, detailing the finds in a slideshow while standing in front of displays of files and CDs.

Watching the prime minister’s presentation in a TV studio, the former head of Military Intelligence in the Israeli army, Amos Yadlin, called the material “conclusive proof” of Tehran’s duplicity — vindication of Israel’s consistent claim that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, continued to work on it in recent years, and duped the world about it. The captured archive material contains “no smoking gun since 2015,” Yadlin observed, because that most recent material presumably hasn’t been archived yet. However, since Iran now demonstrably lied to the world until 2015, Yadlin added dryly, “it has presumably continued to lie since then as well.”

Netanyahu said he had already shared the material with the United States, and that the US could vouch for its authenticity. He said he would also share it with other countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The prime minister has always opposed the 2015 deal, negotiated by the P5+1 powers led by President Barack Obama. His presentation on Monday was plainly designed, among other factors, to advance his “fix it or nix it” demand — a stance, crucially, shared by US President Donald Trump, who has to decide in less than two weeks whether to withdraw from the accord.

The prime minister was notably non-specific regarding what action he thinks the US and the other P5+1 countries should take. As in, should they fix it, or should they nix it? He simply said that he was certain Trump would do “the right thing — the right thing for the United States, the right thing for Israel, and the right thing for the peace of the world.”Volume 0%

For the first time anyone could recall, Netanyahu had skipped his scheduled speech at Monday’s opening of the new Knesset session in order to marshall his material and prepare his speech. That cancellation, which came just hours after a reported major raid on an Iranian base in Syria, sparked a mini-panic among some Israelis. Awaiting Netanyahu’s address, the news anchor at Israel’s Hadashot TV news assessed, with only a small degree of exaggeration, that “every household in Israel” was now bracing for the prime minister’s address and wondering whether war with Iran was “inevitable.”

“No,” came the succinct answer from military analyst Roni Daniel.

Elaborating, a widely respected former Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, said in the studio: “Let’s reassure the public: There is no danger of war. And Iran is not attacking us.”

Gilad, however, then rather undermined his attempts at defusing panic by adding: “Iran is determined to get rid of Israel. They take the historical view… They are developing missiles. They say the agreement with Obama allows them in eight years time to develop nuclear weapons if they want to…”

It is that patient Iranian approach, that relentless Iranian threat, that Netanyahu was determined to highlight in his presentation. To that end, his speech had several complementary goals:

First, showing the Iranians the potency of Israel’s security and intelligence apparatuses — capable of removing Iran’s own closely guarded material from right under its nose (and consequently capable of identifying the key personnel, like Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, leading the nuclear weapons program).

Second, detailing, stage by stage, the progress of the Iranian nuclear weapons program as gleaned from Iran’s own documents, map, photos and videos — in five stages that he showcased slide by slide: from designing nuclear weapons, to developing nuclear cores, to building nuclear implosion systems, to preparing nuclear tests and, finally, to integrating nuclear weapons on missiles.

Third, giving the international community extraordinary evidence on which to formulate a more appropriate response to Tehran’s terrifying duplicity.US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2018, in Washington, DC. Trump said the current Iranian nuclear deal was ‘unacceptable.’ (AFP/Saul Loeb)

And, fourth, providing Trump with the intelligence information he needs to take the firmest stance against the maintenance of the 2015 deal in its current form — no matter how derisive or threatening the Iranian response.

Will it work? Will the P5+1 countries suddenly discover a new iron will when it comes to confronting the malevolent ayatollahs? Netanyahu, for one, evidently puts little faith in that. But, as he detailed, he has been coordinating with the Trump administration. And the president, within minutes of Netanyahu’s presentation in Tel Aviv, was declaring on the White House lawn that Netanyahu had sent the right message, and that an Iranian path to the bomb in seven years is “not acceptable.”

Netanyahu argued Monday, as he has argued consistently all along, that the 2015 accord is “a terrible deal” that “should never have been concluded.” Now, he said, he had the proof.Then US president Barack Obama, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on November 9, 2015. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The Obama administration claimed that no deal would have satisfied Israel, but that was always untrue. Israel wanted to see a deal that would dismantle Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program; the 2015 deal simply didn’t do that. Again, Netanyahu now had the proof.

Even Monday, armed with that Iranian archive of danger and duplicity, Netanyahu did not demand that the deal be scrapped. He stressed, rather, that the accord, as it stands, gives Iran a clear path to a nuclear arsenal, and asserted that the material he was presenting shows without a shadow of doubt that the Iranians fully intend to follow that path — to enrich mountains of uranium, to develop their ballistic missiles, to weaponize.

His message to the world on Iran’s rapacious leaders and their nuclear goals: They’re dangerous. They’re duplicitous. They have to be stopped. And… it’s not too late.

Top Iranian officials blame Israel for nuclear mastermind’s killing, vow revenge

Posted November 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Parts of image blurred for potentially disturbing imagery (Fars News Agency via AP)


Zarif blasts ‘terrorist cowardice’ in Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing; army chief, senior adviser to Khamenei promise retaliation: ‘We will make them regret their actions!’

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 6:59 pm  1This 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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Parts of image blurred for potentially disturbing imagery (Fars News Agency via AP)

Top Iranian officials on Friday pointed to Israel as the likely culprit in the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, with some vowing revenge for the death of the man Jerusalem has pointed to as the head of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed there were “serious indications of [an] Israeli role” in the assassination.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

He also called on the international community to “end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.”

Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, issued a warning on Twitter.

“In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,” Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to US President Donald Trump. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”

Iran’s military chief Mohammad Bagheri accused “the malicious Zionist entity of committing a brutal act.” He said Fakhrizadeh’s death was “a “major blow to the Iranian defense system.”Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo (Courtesy)

But Bagheri promised that “the path started by the likes of Fakhrizadeh will not stop” and said that “terrorist groups, commanders and elements involved in this cowardly act [should know] a difficult retaliation awaits them.”

Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards, tweeted: “Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science.”

Yadollah Javani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, said that “the Zionists are behind many of these assassinations.”

Claiming Iran was “one of the main victims of terrorism” in the world, Javani lamented that “the United States and European countries also support the Zionist regime… Countries that ostensibly claim to fight terrorists but in practice support terrorists.”

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.” Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, right, listens to Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri during the army parade commemorating National Army Day in front of the shrine of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran on April 18, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

State TV said Fakhrizadeh was attacked by “armed terrorist elements.” He died at a local hospital after doctors and parademics couldn’t revive him.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, said the attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran. It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gunfire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh was in, the agency said.

Others wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, also were taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

The killing comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, which Tehran also blamed on Israel. Those targeted killings came alongside the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, that destroyed Iranian centrifuges.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, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 (Fars News Agency via AP)

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured program” through the end of 2003. That was the Amad program, which included work on the carefully timed high explosives needed to detonate a nuclear bomb.

Iran also “conducted computer modeling of a nuclear explosive device” before 2005 and between 2005 and 2009, the IAEA has said. The agency said, however, that those calculations were “incomplete and fragmented.”

Netanyahu asserted in 2018 that Fakhrizadeh continued to lead Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, despite the 2015 nuclear deal meant to prevent Tehran from constructing such weapons.

Gen. Hossein Dehghan, a military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran, November 18, 2020. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Fakhrizadeh’s assassination comes less than two months before Joe Biden is to take office as US president.

Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under incumbent US President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

Trump said at the time that the deal did not offer sufficient guarantees to stop Tehran from acquiring an atomic bomb.

Father of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs assassinated near Tehran – DEBKAfile

Posted November 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


 
assassinationBinyamin NetanyahuIran nuclearMohsen Fakhrizadeh

The reclusive Dr. Mohsen Fakriazadeh, reputed father of Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, was assassinated near Tehran on Friday, Nov. 27. He was attacked by unknown killers in Damavand, Tehran Province, during an armed conflict with his bodyguards. This was confirmed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of which the scientist was also a brigadier general.

Shariar Heydari, Dep Chairman of Iran’s parliamentary National Security Commission told reporters that the Iranian scientist was martyred when “a car exploded in front of his vehicle followed by gunfire by the terrorists” killing the scientist and one of his bodyguards.

The physicist who operated in the shadows was first prominently named by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in April 2018, during his televised revelation that the Mossad had removed Iran’s vast nuclear archive from a secret warehouse in Tehran. He presented a photograph, saying “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”

After Iran’s physics Research Center (PHRC) was exposed as a military organization, the center changed its name to the Institute of Applied Physics under the codename of AMAD.  Fakhriazadeh took over as head of research and continued the secret nuclear weapons program after Iran signed its 2015 nuclear accord with six world nations. This too was disclosed in the Netanyahu presentation.
In an effort to protect this key director of nuclear weapons development against assassination, photographs of the nuclear scientist were rare and he was surrounded by a protective shield of security. the Iranian authorities also denied numerous requests from the Atomic Energy Agency to interview him. He is the last in a succession of Iranian nuclear scientists who were assassinated over the years.

DEBKAfile adds: No party has claimed responsibility for the removal of the keystone of Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb, and this assassination may never be officially acknowledged, any more than its precedents.

Incumbent US President Donald Trump has pledged that Iran will never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, as has Israel. The timing of the operation between American presidents is, however, highly suggestive. Joe Biden is believed to be planning to restore the US to the nuclear accord after Trump’s withdrawal and possibly treat the Islamic Republic with greater lenience.
Another question is if and how Iran will react to this body blow to its nuclear aspirations, which may be compared in gravity to the killing of the Islamic Republic’s master military strategist, Qassem Soleimani in Jan. 2019 by an American drone.

Alleged head of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is assassinated near Tehran

Posted November 27, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo (Courtesy)


Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s car bombed and shot at; blaming ‘Zionists,’ adviser to Khamenei vows to ‘descend like lightning on killers’; scientist has been called ‘father of Iranian bomb’

By TOI STAFF and AGENCIESToday, 4:00 pm  7Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo (Courtesy)

The alleged head of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was assassinated Friday near the capital Tehran, Iran’s defense ministry said.

The ministry confirmed the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a professor of physics and an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, after it was widely reported in Iranian media.

“This Friday afternoon, armed terrorist elements attacked a car carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Ministry of Defense’s Research and Innovation Organization,” it said. “During the clash between his security team and the terrorists, Mr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was seriously injured and taken to hospital.

“Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist, after years of effort and struggle, achieved a high degree of martyrdom.

There was no comment on whether the attackers had escaped.

The attack happened in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran. Iran’s Fars and the Tasnim news agencies, both close to security sources, said it involved “terrorists bombing a car before shooting at Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car.”

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, Fars said.

State television on its website later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through the windshield and blood pooled on the road.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1332334392673333248&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fhead-of-irans-nuclear-weapons-program-said-assassinated-near-tehran%2F&siteScreenName=timesofisrael&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards, appeared to acknowledge the attack on Fakhrizadeh.

“Assassinating nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation to prevent us from reaching modern science,” Salami tweeted.

Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, issued a warning on Twitter.

“In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,” Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to US President Donald Trump. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”Gen. Hossein Dehghan, a military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran, November 18, 2020. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

The area around Absard is filled with vacation villas for the Iranian elite with a view of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the country. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.

Fakhrizadeh was named by Israeli 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.”

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 made no comment on the matter Friday.

In a video uploaded to Twitter Friday shortly after news of the alleged killing emerged, Netanyahu, counting off various achievements of the week, noted that this was “a partial list, as I can’t tell you everything.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh.

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called “Amad,” or “Hope” program. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that the “Amad” program ended in the early 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.

But Netanyahu said in his 2018 comments that Fakhrizadeh was continuing to lead such efforts secretly under SPND, “an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry.”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a picture of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who he named as the head of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, April 30, 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

An Israeli TV report in May 2018 claimed Israel may have decided not to assassinate Fakhrizadeh in the past because it preferred to keep him alive and watch what he was up to.

“If Iran ever chose to weaponize [enrichment], Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” a Western diplomat told the Reuters news agency four years ago. He has often been compared with Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the American nuclear development program in the 1940s.

A report on Axios Wednesday claimed that the Israeli army has been preparing for the possibility that US President Donald Trump will order a strike on Iran before leaving office in January.

Citing senior Israeli officials, Axios said there was no specific information that such an attack is imminent, but Israeli leaders believe the US president’s final weeks in the job will be “a very sensitive period.”

The officials said Washington would likely update Israel before carrying out military action against the Islamic Republic.

In January the US assassinated Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s Quds Force, in an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport, nearly sparking a larger conflict between the countries.In this Sept. 18, 2016 file photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Intelligence expert Ronen Bergman told Israel’s Channel 10 news in 2019 that given that many of Fakhrizadeh’s close aides had been killed over the years in assassinations linked to the Mossad, it was “reasonable to assume” that he would also have been “picked out” for assassination by the Mossad over the years.

Since Fakhhrizadeh is still alive, said Bergman at the time, “one can say apparently there was an assassination plan.” And apparently it was rejected during the years when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, Bergman added, choosing his words carefully given the limitations of military censorship when it comes to matters of national security.

“Apparently, there were those who came to Olmert… and said, listen, there is a danger that the operation will fail; there is a danger that the forces on the ground will be discovered.”

Olmert evidently chose to heed those concerns and not approve such an operation, said Bergman, a well-connected journalist on Israeli intelligence and security who recently published a landmark book, “Rise and Kill First,” on “the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations.”

Olmert was prime minister until 2009, when Netanyahu succeeded him.

Israel has never acknowledged assassinating people involved in the Iranian nuclear program.

Thailand to release 3 Iranians suspected of trying to target Israeli diplomats

Posted November 26, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


Thai officials refrain from calling move a prisoner swap despite fact men were cut loose after Australian woman held in Iran was freed

In this frame grab from Iranian state television video aired Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, is seen in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian State Television via AP)

By TASSANEE VEJPONGSA and NICK PERRYToday, 10:57 amUpdated at 12:17 pm  1In this frame grab from Iranian state television video aired Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, is seen in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian State Television via AP)

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai officials said Thursday they approved the transfer back to Tehran of three Iranians who were allegedly involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot against Israeli diplomats, as Iran released a 33-year-old Australian academic who was imprisoned for more than two years on spying charges.

Thai officials did not go so far as to call it a prisoner swap or say what involvement Australia might have had in the arrangement. Iranian state TV said Tehran released British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert in exchange for three Iranians held abroad.

Chatchom Akapin, Thailand’s deputy attorney general, told The Associated Press that Thai authorities had approved the transfer of the prisoners under an agreement with Iran.

“These types of transfers aren’t unusual,” he said. “We transfer prisoners to other countries and at the same time receive Thais back under this type of agreement all the time.”In this frame grab from Iranian state television video aired Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is seen in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian State Television via AP)

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “thrilled and relieved” that Moore-Gilbert had been released but added it would take time for her to process her “horrible” ordeal.

Flight data obtained by the AP showed the plane filmed on the tarmac at the Tehran airport had this week twice flown from Bangkok to Tehran, and then on to Doha, Qatar.

The plane’s tail number links it to an Australian private air carrier called Skytraders, which describes itself as a “principal provider of air services to government.” An employee at the company declined to comment when reached by the AP.

The bomb plot of the three Iranians was exposed in 2012 when an accidental explosion blew apart the Bangkok villa where they were staying. Israeli and Thai officials have said the plot was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok — though Iran denied the allegations and the men were never charged with terrorism.

Two of the men, Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Kharzei, were convicted in Thailand in 2013. Moradi was sentenced to life for attempting to murder a police officer, while Kharzei was sentenced to 15 years for possessing explosives.

Moradi, a factory technician from Tehran and a former soldier, lost parts of both legs as he tried to flee the villa on a crowded Bangkok street. He was carrying explosives from the house and dropped them in the street as police tried to stop him.In this Dec. 21, 2012 photo, Saeid Moradi, an Iranian suspect bomber, on a wheelchair is helped by a Thai prisoner to arrive for his trial hearing at criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

The third suspect, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was detained in Malaysia. In 2017, a federal court there ordered his extradition to Thailand.

Israeli officials on Thursday had no immediate comment on the release of the Iranians.

Iran’s report of the prisoner swap was scant on detail, saying only that the Iranians had been imprisoned for trying to bypass sanctions on Iran.

Morrison said he had spoken with Moore-Gilbert on Thursday.

“The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through,” Morrison told Australia’s Network Nine.

Asked about the swap, Morrison said he “wouldn’t go into those details, confirm them one way or the other” but said he could assure Australians there had been nothing done to prejudice their safety and no prisoners were released in Australia.

In a statement, Moore-Gilbert thanked Australia’s government and diplomats for securing her release, as well as supporters who campaigned for her freedom.

Despite her ordeal, Moore-Gilbert said she had “nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people.”

Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was picked up at the Tehran airport as she tried to leave the country after attending an academic conference in 2018. She was sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years. She had vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.

She was one of several Westerners held in Iran on widely criticized espionage charges that activists and UN investigators believe is a systematic effort to leverage their imprisonment for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies it. Moore-Gilbert wrote in letters to Morrison that she had been imprisoned “to extort” the Australian government.

Her detention had strained relations between Iran and the West at a time of already escalating tensions, which reached a fever pitch earlier this year following the American killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad and retaliatory Iranian strikes on a US military base.

Iran state TV aired footage showing her clad in a gray hijab sitting at what appeared to be a greeting room at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran. She was later seen getting on an Australian-flagged white aircraft, shown to her seat by a man in a suit.

In this Feb. 20, 2012 photo, an Iranian bomb suspect Mohammad Kharzei, right, listens to a Thai police officer as he is taken to verify the house where he and other Iranian compatriots rented in Bangkok, Thailand.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

The TV report did not elaborate on the Iranians it described as “economic activists” freed in exchange for Moore-Gilbert. They wore Iranian flags draped over their shoulders, black baseball caps pulled down over their eyes and surgical masks, outfits apparently designed to conceal their identities. Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, welcomed the three Iranians at the airport.

International pressure has been building on Iran to release Moore-Gilbert. She has gone on repeated hunger strikes and her health has deteriorated during long stretches in solitary confinement. Over the summer, she was transferred to the remote Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran, as fears escalated over the spread of the coronavirus in the country’s notoriously crowded prisons.

Moore-Gilbert had appealed to the Australian government to work harder for her release. In her letters to the prime minister, she wrote that she had been subjected to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture.

F-35A stealth fighter drops mock nuclear bomb in flight test

Posted November 26, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

https://newatlas.gystaudio.com/embedded/newatlas.com/military/f-35a-mock-nuclear-bomb-flight-test/

An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bomb

An F-35A Lightning II fighter dropping a B61-12 mock nuclear bombSandia National LaboratoriesVIEW 1 IMAGES

Two major US defense initiatives recently came together as a US Air Force F-35A Lightning II dropped a mock refurbished B61-12 nuclear bomb for the first time. The test, which took place over Sandia National Laboratories’ Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on August 25, saw the 5th-generation fighter release the bomb from an internal bay while flying at supersonic speed.

The F-35 has been garnering a lot of attention as it moves to full deployment after almost two decades of development. Its well-known qualities of stealth, advanced sensors, supersonic speed, and network-ability make it as much a command center as a fighter plane, but it is still first and foremost a weapon system designed to deliver ordnance on target.

The recent flight test mated the F-35 with a lesser known US weapons program, the B61-12 air-launched gravity nuclear bomb. Weighing in at 825 lb (374 kg) and with an explosive yield of between 0.3 and 50 kilotons, it’s the latest variant of the B61 family of bombs that was fielded in 1968. Since then, it has flown on the B-2A bomber, F-15 and F-16 fighters, and the Panavia Tornado.

However, the US stockpile of these nuclear bombs is aging and Sandia has been tasked with helping to extend their service life by 20 years while making them more secure and more reliable. Sandia provides non-nuclear component development and acts as technical integrator for the complete weapon to make sure it works on the intended platforms.

The life extension program includes 400 of the B61-12 bombs and involves refurbishment of parts, replacing fuses and batteries that are suffering from old age, adapting the bomb to new aircraft, and general technical upgrades.

Sandia says mock refurbished B61-12s have already flown on an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet in March and a B-2 Spirit bomber in July. What made the F-35A test different is that not only was the aircraft equipped with a nuclear weapon system, but it is the first time that such a bomb was carried in an internal bay on a fighter jet. Normally, the bomb is carried on the outside mounted on a hard point, but the F-35 can carry the bomb or other weapons on the inside to maintain stealth, as well as drop them while flying supersonic.

The flight demonstration was conducted in partnership with the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the US Air Force.

“This was the first test to exercise all systems, including mechanical, electrical, communication and release between the B61-12 and the F-35A,” says Steven Samuels, a manager with Sandia’s B61-12 Systems Team. “The latest test is a critical piece in the F-35A and B61-12 program Aboard the newest fighter, the B61-12 provides a strong piece of the overall nuclear deterrence strategy for our country and our allies.”

The video below shows the B-61-12/F35A flight test.

Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran – Axios

Posted November 25, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized

Barak Ravid, author of from Tel Aviv

Featured image

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

  • The IDF’s preparedness measures relate to possible Iranian retaliation against Israel directly or through Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, the Israeli officials said.

Flashback: Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump raised the possibility of attacking Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz in a meeting with senior members of his national security team.

  • Trump raised the idea after being briefed on an International Atomic Energy Agency report about Iran’s growing stockpiles of enriched uranium, but top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — warned about the risks of regional escalation, per the Times.
  • Trump seemed convinced that it would be too risky to strike Iran directly, but has considered other options, the Times reports.

What’s happening: Israeli minister of defense Benny Gantz spoke twice in the last two weeks with Christopher Miller, Trump’s acting defense secretary. They discussed Iran as well as Syria and defense cooperation.

  • Last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. One of the main issues discussed was Iran, Israeli officials say.
  • Pompeo visited Israel and several Gulf countries last week to discuss Iran. State Department officials traveling with Pompeo told reporters “all options are on the table.”
  • While Pompeo was in the Gulf, U.S. Central Command announced that B-52 strategic bombers conducted a “short-notice, long-range mission into the Middle East to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies.” That was seen as another signal to Iran.
  • Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s leader and a possible candidate in Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, told AP last week that a U.S. military strike against Iran could set off a “full-fledged war” in the Middle East.

What’s next: Senior Israeli officials tell me they expect Israel will get prior notice ahead of any U.S. strike against Iran. But they’re concerned that won’t be sufficient to fully prepare. Thus the order to the IDF to start taking preparatory steps under the assumption that such a scenario is possible.

Netanyahu, Mossad chief fly to Saudi, hold first known meet with crown prince

Posted November 25, 2020 by Joseph Wouk
Categories: Uncategorized


Groundbreaking meeting said held in presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is seeking to persuade Riyadh to normalize ties with Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mossad head Yossi Cohen during a toast for the Jewish New Year on October 2, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

By TOI STAFF23 November 2020, 9:42 amUpdated at 2:11 pm  3Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Mossad head Yossi Cohen during a toast for the Jewish New Year on October 2, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO)

In the first visit of its kind, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli and Saudi officials said Monday.

Netanyahu was on the ground in Neom, a Red Sea city, for more than three hours for the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and Saudi leader. He was accompanied by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen, Hebrew media reports said.

News of the meeting was confirmed early Monday afternoon by Education Minister Yoav Gallant. “I congratulate the prime minister on this amazing achievement,” Gallant said on Army Radio. “The fact that the meeting took place and was made public — even if it was in only a semiofficial way — is something of great importance.” He said it indicated the growing “warm acceptance of Israel by the Sunni world,” and that this was “something our ancestors dreamed about.”

Two Saudi advisers also confirmed the talks.

Pompeo earlier on Monday said he had held a “constructive” meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince the night before, as he wrapped up a seven-nation tour that included stops in Israel and Gulf nations. He made no mention of the presence of the Israeli leader.

“Pleasure to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Our security and economic partnership is strong and we’ll continue to harness it to advance efforts to counter malign Iranian influence in the Gulf, economic goals under the Vision 2030 plan, and human rights reform,” tweeted the top American diplomat, describing the meeting as “constructive.”US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid, left, and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, second from left, greet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan as they arrive at Neom Bay Airport in Neom, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

There was no formal announcement by the participants about the meeting. However, in a hint at the trip, an aide to Netanyahu tweeted a report about Defense Minister Benny Gantz launching a probe into a naval acquisitions scandal, writing that “Gantz is playing politics while the prime minister is making peace.”

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri demanded an explanation from Saudi Arabia, calling the alleged visit “an insult to the nation and an invitation to attack Palestinian rights.”

The Kan public broadcaster reported that the talks focused on Iran and the incoming Biden administration.

Netanyahu and Cohen traveled to Saudi Arabia on the private plane of businessman Ehud Angel — the same jet that the prime minister used for a covert visit to Oman last year, according to Kan.

First reports of Netanyahu’s trip came after Twitter users noticed that a private jet had made a rare trip between Tel Aviv and Neom on Sunday evening, sparking speculation of a high-level meeting.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1330738145667772416&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fnetanyahu-mossad-chief-said-to-travel-to-saudi-arabia-meet-with-crown-prince%2F&siteScreenName=timesofisrael&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

ABSOLUTELY rare Israeli flight direct to new Saudi mega-city Neom on Red Sea shore

It was Bibi’s ex-fav bizjet t7-cpx. Back to Tel Aviv after 5 hours on ground pic.twitter.com/Ty9aedYbsK

— avi scharf (@avischarf) November 23, 2020

Netanyahu had originally been slated to hold a meeting of his coronavirus cabinet meeting on Sunday night but pushed it off by a day, saying groundwork still needed to be completed.

Gantz, who was kept in the dark about efforts to establish ties with the UAE and Bahrain, had complained earlier on Sunday that he was not informed about the coronavirus cabinet meeting being moved.

An Israeli official told Hebrew media that neither Gantz nor Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, also of the Blue and White party, were given advance notice of Netanyahu’s trip to Saudi Arabia.

The  trip by the Israeli leader to Saudi Arabia marked a watershed moment in shifting Gulf ties with Israel, which have been bolstered in recent months at the urging of the Trump administration.

Netanyahu in May 2019 made a secret visit to Oman, another Gulf country with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties.

Covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia are believed to have been growing in recent years. The shift in policy has reportedly been led by the crown prince, who sees Israel as a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region.

The Trump administration has hoped Saudi Arabia would join the UAE and Bahrain in recognizing Israel and forging diplomatic ties, a move seen as increasingly distant in the wake of Joe Biden’s election as US president. But Saudi leaders have hitherto indicated that Israeli-Palestinian peace will have to come first.

“We have supported normalization with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Sunday.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1330480027239149569&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fnetanyahu-mossad-chief-said-to-travel-to-saudi-arabia-meet-with-crown-prince%2F&siteScreenName=timesofisrael&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

#SaudiArabia: ‘We have supported normalization with #Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians,’ says Prince @FaisalbinFarhan, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs: pic.twitter.com/nKVDJfnxUX

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) November 22, 2020

In late October, when President Donald Trump announced that Israel and Sudan would be making peace, he predicted that Saudi Arabia would soon follow. During a call with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sudan Sovereign Council president General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Trump brought reporters into the Oval Office, announced that “The State of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace,” and told reporters there were another five countries “that want to come in.”

“We expect Saudi Arabia will be one of those countries,” Trump added, as he praised the country’s “highly respected” rulers King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.In this May 20, 2017, file photo, US President Donald Trump (right) shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

When the White House announced in August that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had agreed to establish full diplomatic ties — a move matched by Bahrain weeks later — Saudi Arabia refrained from criticizing the deal or hosting summits condemning the decision, despite Palestinian requests to do so. The Palestinians have slammed the agreements as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause,” but government-controlled Saudi media hailed them as historic and good for regional peace.

The kingdom also approved the use of Saudi airspace for Israeli flights to the UAE, a decision announced the day after Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met with the crown prince in Riyadh. Kushner has been pushing Arab states to normalize ties with Israel and has said that the Jewish state could eventually enjoy fully normalized relations with Saudi Arabia.

The outgoing US administration and Israel are also seeking to step up pressure on Iran in the final days of the Trump White House.

Trump has yet to concede to Biden.