Archive for November 2020

Trump’s remarkable Middle East legacy

November 30, 2020

There is no denying the Trump team has done more than any previous administration to bolster Israel and its future.

https://www.jpost.com/american-politics/trumps-remarkable-middle-east-legacy-650345

Showing support for Trump at a pre-election rally in Beit Shemesh (photo credit: YAAKOV LEDERMAN/FLASH90)

Over the next few weeks, US courts will find themselves in the unenviable position of having to adjudicate challenges to the integrity of the presidential election process, a matter fraught with immense political and civic controversy.

Allegations of widespread voter fraud will be put to the test as President Donald J. Trump and former vice president Joseph Biden, as well as the rest of the country, seek some finality to the outcome of the balloting.

Regardless of how it plays out, this would seem to be a fitting time to look back at what the Trump administration has accomplished in the Middle East over the past four years. Simply put, it is nothing short of extraordinary.

Put aside for a moment whatever your feelings might be about Trump personally and place those emotions on hold. For anyone who values the US-Israel relationship, supports the Jewish state and cherishes it, there is no denying that the Trump team has done more than any previous administration ever did to bolster Israel and its future.

The list of achievements is lengthy, ranging from the symbolic to the substantive, and Jews everywhere owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Trump for his historic revamping of the region.

To begin with, the Middle East is a far safer place than it was just four years ago when Barack Obama resided in the White House.

Indeed, Obama bequeathed to Trump a region awash with rising Islamic fundamentalist extremism as the Islamic State controlled a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq equivalent in size to Great Britain.

Just as promised, Trump succeeded in demolishing the would-be caliphate, quashing the evil regime that was responsible for beheading Americans, slaughtering Yazidis and committing unprecedented atrocities.

Then, on October 26, 2019, the president dispatched US special forces into Syria’s Idlib province, where they tracked down the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who died in the raid. The group hasn’t been the same since.

Similarly, when Obama turned over the keys to Trump, Iran was enjoying the windfall of the spurious nuclear deal it had reached with Washington. But Trump had the courage to pull out of the agreement and impose extensive and painful sanctions on the ayatollahs, which have left the tyrants of Tehran reeling.

And on January 3 of this year, Trump ordered an air strike on a convoy of vehicles at Baghdad International Airport which killed Qasem Soleimani, the mastermind of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and one of the most dangerous men in the Middle East.

Soleimani’s hands were drenched in blood and he bore responsibility for a wide array of terrorist activities ranging from the targeting of US troops in Iraq with roadside bombs to supplying Hezbollah with weapons and training. G-d only knows what other horrors he might have been planning.

Now neither he nor Baghdadi can ever again cause any mayhem.

But Trump has done far more than merely combating the bad guys. He has also expanded the circle of peace between Jews and Arabs in ways that once would have been inconceivable.

Over the course of just five weeks, Trump presided over the signing of historic peace deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on September 15 as well as the normalization of relations between the Jewish state and Sudan, which was announced on October 23.

For that alone he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

By tossing out the old narrative according to which Arab-Israeli peace would only be achieved once the Palestinian conflict had been resolved, Trump helped to rewrite the destiny of millions. And by all indications, there are additional Arab states moving closer to recognizing Israel as well.

In changing the paradigm of peace, Trump immeasurably strengthened the Jewish state, further enhancing its legitimacy and rightful place in the region.

Perhaps his most stirring and symbolic move was the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then move the US Embassy to the Holy City in May 2018, steps that none of his predecessors had the fortitude to do and which paved the way for other countries to follow suit.

Then, on March 25, 2019, Trump signed a presidential proclamation conferring official US recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel. This helped to solidify Israel’s northern border with Syria, putting a huge dent in the Assad regime’s expansionist aims.

With regard to Judea and Samaria, the change in policy was no less dramatic. In November 2019, the US shifted its official stance regarding Jewish communities in Israel’s historical heartland and declared that they do not violate international law. And Trump’s plan for Middle East peace would enable Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of Judea and Samaria, including nearly all the settlements.

Indeed, just last month, Washington lifted restrictions on providing American funding for scientific and agriculture projects in Judea and Samaria, thereby ending decades of discrimination. And last week, on a visit to Israel, Mike Pompeo became the first US Secretary of State to visit a Jewish community in Judea and Samaria. He also delivered a blow to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, labeling it “antisemitic” and declaring that the State Department would review its aid programs to ensure that no funds end up in the coffers of BDS supporters.

To be sure, not every step adopted by the administration has proven effective or even wise. Just ask America’s long-time Kurdish allies in Syria, who were summarily abandoned last year. The Iranians have continued to stockpile and enrich uranium, and an increasingly assertive Turkey has caused mischief throughout the region. And the Trump vision for peace includes the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state, which would create an unstable and hostile entity adjacent to Israel.

Nonetheless, when taken as a whole, the Trump administration has clearly transformed the Middle East, strengthening America’s national security interests while bolstering Israel’s position.

There are of course many other examples of the deep and lasting imprint that Trump has left on the region, from defunding UNRWA, which served to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee issue, to becoming the first sitting US President to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem. And there is still time for him to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, which would be a game-changer.

But regardless of whether his presidential tenure ends in January 2021 or not, Trump has profoundly changed the equation in the Middle East.

Love him or hate him, it is worth judging the man by his record, if only because the job of president is to be commander in chief, not compadre in chief.

And to paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous query from his 1980 presidential debate with Jimmy Carter: are Israel and the region better off than they were four years ago? The answer is clearly and overwhelmingly yes. 

Fakhrizadeh: Hit squads, car bombs and remote-controlled guns – analysis

November 30, 2020

Bit weird that he would get out of the car, regardless of what happened.

https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/fakhrizadeh-hit-squads-car-bombs-and-remote-controlled-guns-analysis-650637

Three theories – and we’ll never really know the truth

Servants of the holy shrine of Imam Reza carry the coffin of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in Mashhad, Iran November 29, 2020.  (photo credit: MASSOUD NOZARI/WANA VIA REUTERS)

Remote-controlled weapons killed Iranian nuclear scientist and key nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, according to Iranian accounts. But, another account has it differently: a handful of assassins did it. Yet a third explanation has it that twelve men came with several vehicles, using one of them to blow up and block the security convoy that was protecting the high value target. 

The competing narratives over the killing of the man who was at the pinnacle of Iran’s nuclear industrial complex are befitting one who was anyway known to be in the spotlight. Since the 2000s, he was known to the US, and sanctioned and then highlighted by a UN nuclear watchdog in 2011, before being named in a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

You don’t get better known in Iran than that. The UN, the US and the Israelis have all mentioned you. You can retire, or travel with security, but you’re on the wanted list.

So Mr. Fakhrizadeh knew that and those around him knew that. They knew that colleagues such as IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani had a deadly meeting with an American missile after travelling to Baghdad in January 2020. On the other hand, Iran also knew that attempted assassinations had been called off in the past for high value targets.

They had something else. Just days before, on November 14, the world had learned that Al-Qaeda’s number two had been killed in Tehran. How many assassin teams can possibly be operating in Tehran? That killing got international attention. It was carried out in August. Foreign reports claimed Israel did it in cooperation with the US.  

Thus the Fars News story of the exact details of how Fakhrizadeh was killed is a bit too much information. He was driving home with his wife. A nice Friday afternoon. His convoy had three cars. They were driving near Absard to a nice house for the weekend. The cars slowed for some reason, maybe a security check. One kept going.

And then Fakhrizadeh’s car struck something. He got out and there was a Nissan truck with a remote-controlled weapon in the back, sort of like the 1997 film The Jackal. Several bullets hit Fakhrizadeh. As he lay wounded and dying the truck exploded, also remotely. Only three minutes had passed. That would have been a lifetime for his guards in the two other cars and his wife. He was dead. 

A SECOND version, posted online under the name Abu Ali, claims to present another version from Iranian sources. In this estimation the hit squad included 12 personnel. They had military training equivalent to special forces outside Iran. More than 50 people supported their operation, maybe manning drones or satellites, or driving logistical support or moving weapons. 

The assault squad used a Hyundai Santa Fe jeep, a Nissan pickup truck (which was trapped – AA) and four motorcycles. The Hyundai Santa Fe can actually be rented in Tehran, with an extra charge of around 28 euros to return it to the Imam Khomeini Airport. An extra driver costs another 10 euros. In the case of an assassination, one definitely needs to get the full coverage, collision and personal protect. Deductible is another 900 euros in this case.  

According to these sources, the story is that the Iranian nuke chief was on his way to a private village. The hit team cut the power to the area and waited for the convoy to arrive. They deployed two snipers and four members of the team with the jeep. As the convoy passed, the first security vehicle continued on. At this moment the Nissan blew up to stop the convoy. Then, the members of the assassination team poured gunfire into Fakhrizadeh’s car and the security vehicle. The nuclear chief was even pulled out and shot, to make sure he was dead. The security details of the trip were known beforehand via some sort of cyber hack.  

Some details of the story seem comparable. In both versions, the Nissan truck appears. In both it explodes. The difference is that in one account a large number of other vehicles and shooters were present. Is it reasonable to conclude that an entire assassination would be done remotely with a rifle mounted in a truck, like in a movie?

Clearly if one wanted to actually succeed, and not have the rifle jam or the truck to be uncovered, that would be risky. Why go to such lengths to find and eliminate such an important person and leave it up to chance that some kind of signal might jam and the rifle malfunction? On the other hand, four motorcycles and two extra vehicles running around parts of Iran might be a bit large of a presence.

What is clear is that like so many well-known assassinations, the full details of this one may never be known. That they are suddenly presented in a blow-by-blow just 48 hours later appears to be a message to Tehran. It’s about showing Iran how easily it was to do. That means the stories and details are messaging, not necessarily connected to reality. It feeds into the regime’s sense of failure – and feeling that its highest members are vulnerable.  

 

Killing of nuke chief was done entirely by remote control — Iranian report

November 30, 2020


Semi-official Fars claims operation to kill Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was conducted in three minutes with no human operatives on the ground

By JUDAH ARI GROSS29 November 2020, 8:23 pm 

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 attack that killed the alleged architect of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on Friday was carried out from afar using a remote-controlled machine gun attached to a car, a leading Iranian news site reported Sunday.

According to the semi-officials Fars news site, the entire operation was conducted with no human agents whatsoever, a significantly different description of the attack than has been presented until now. The account was not attributed to official sources and was not immediately confirmed by Iran.

According to the outlet, the assault took place over the course of three minutes as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — a brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a key figure in the country’s military research-and-development program long regarded by Israel and the US as the head of its rogue nuclear weapons program — traveled with his wife toward the resort town of Absard, east of Tehran.

The operation kicked off when the lead car in Fakhrizadeh’s security detail traveled ahead to inspect his destination, the report said.Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (Agencies)

At that point, a number of bullets were fired at Fakhrizadeh’s armored car, prompting him to exit the vehicle as he was apparently unaware that he was under attack, thinking that the sound was caused by an accident or some problem with the car, according to Fars news.

The outlet did not specify if those shots were fired from the remote-controlled machine gun or from a different source.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)

Once Fakhrizadeh exited the vehicle, the remote-controlled machine gun opened fire from roughly 150 meters (500 feet) away, striking him three times, twice in the side and once in his back, severing his spinal cord. Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguard was also hit by the gunfire. The attacking car, a Nissan, then exploded, the report said.

Fakhrizadeh was evacuated to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His wife also appears to have been killed in the attack, according to Iranian media.

Photos and video shared online showed a sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and back window, blood pooled on the asphalt and debris scattered along a stretch of the road.

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. Parts of image are blurred for potentially disturbing imagery. (Fars News Agency via AP)

Until now, reports from Iran indicated that an explosion occurred first, forcing Fakhrizadeh’s car to stop, at which point armed agents opened fire at him and his security detail, killing them, before fleeing the scene.

According to Fars news, Iranian authorities tracked down the owner of the Nissan, who left the country on October 29. The name of the owner was not included in the report.

A number of defense analysts cast doubts on the Fars report, noting that photographs of the scene showed what appeared to be precise gunfire aimed at Fakhrizadeh’s car, which a remote-controlled automatic weapon would be unlikely to produce and that better fits the initial descriptions of armed, trained operatives conducting the raid.

Other news outlets have also published contradictory accounts of the killing, including claims that dozens of Israeli operatives were involved.

The highly public killing of Fakhrizadeh prompted widespread condemnation from Iran, which 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.

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. Tehran officially denies plans to develop atomic weapons, maintaining its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, though a trove of Iranian documents stolen from Tehran by the Mossad, which where revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, showed plans by Iran to attach a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile.Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays his respect to the body of slain scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh among his family, in Tehran, Iran, November 28, 2020. (Mizan News Agency via AP)

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 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.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on an archive brought out of Iran by the Mossad that documents Iran’s nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2018. (AFP/Jack Guez)

In a video uploaded to Twitter on 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… It’s all for you, citizens of Israel, for our country. It’s a week of achievements, and there’ll be more.” According to Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, Netanyahu was referring to his widely reported — though not officially confirmed — visit to Saudi Arabia.

Israel was bracing for possible Iranian retaliation, putting embassies on high alert. The Israel Defense Forces, however, remained in its normal routine in apparent indication that it did not anticipate an Iranian retaliation in the form of an immediate military strike. At the same time, the IDF said in a statement that it was “aware of the possible developments in the region” and would “maintain full preparedness against any expression of violence against us.”

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.

Iran’s atomic program has continued its experiments and now enriches a growing uranium stockpile up to the level of 4.5 percent purity, following the US’s 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal. That is still far below weapons-grade levels of 90 percent, though experts warn Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium for at least two atomic bombs if it chose to pursue them.

Amid threats from Tehran, IDF chief says army will keep fighting Iran in Syria

November 30, 2020


After killing of Iranian nuke scientist, Kohavi says military is ‘aware of possible developments,’ but operating as usual; praises troops for thwarting attack on Golan border

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with the head of the 210th 'Bashan' Division overlooking the Syrian border on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

By JUDAH ARI GROSS29 November 2020, 6:02 pm  0IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with the head of the 210th ‘Bashan’ Division overlooking the Syrian border on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Army chief Aviv Kohavi on Sunday said the military planned to continue fighting Iran’s presence in Syria amid heightened tensions in the region following the killing of Iran’s top military nuclear scientist two days prior.

“Our message is clear: We will continue to operate forcefully as needed against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and we will continue to maintain full preparedness against any expression of violence against us,” Kohavi said during a tour of the Northern Command.

In the aftermath of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s death on Friday in a combined bombing and shooting attack, Iranian military officials and politicians threatened swift revenge against the Jewish state, which it accused of carrying out the operation.

Though Israeli embassies abroad and Jewish communities around the world raised their level of alertness following the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Israel Defense Forces did not follow suit, an apparent indication that it did not anticipate an Iranian retaliation in the form of an immediate military strike.

During his visit to the Syrian border, Kohavi noted that despite the heightened tensions in the north, the military was in “full routine,” though it was “aware of the possible developments in the region,” the IDF said in a statement.IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, sits with head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, left, during a visit to northern Israel on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

During the visit, the army chief met with IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Amir Baram and the head of the 210th Bashan Division, Brig. Gen. Roman Gofman, who is responsible for defending the Golan border.

For the most part, the threat from Iranian proxies — namely Hezbollah and other militias in Syria and Lebanon — is primarily against Israel’s northern borders. Tehran, however, also backs the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and, to a lesser extent, Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Kohavi toured the border with Syria, where earlier this month Israeli troops uncovered three anti-personnel mines that the military said were planted by Syrian operatives operating under the orders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force.

In response to the thwarted bombing attack, which the IDF believed was meant to target the soldiers who patrol the border, the military launched a series of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, killing at least four Syrian soldiers who were operating air defense batteries that were targeted by Israeli fighter jets.

Three anti-personnel mines that Israel says were planted inside Israeli-controlled territory along the border with Syria, which were uncovered on November 17, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kohavi praised the troops who took part in both the uncovering of the mines and in the retaliatory strikes the following day.

“I came here to discuss the security situation with a focus on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and in order to thank all those who were involved in the precise and successful effort to expose the mines 10 days ago near the border and in the attack that was carried out afterward in Syria against Iranian and Syrian targets,” he said.

Israel views a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria as an unacceptable threat, which it will take military action to prevent.

The IDF has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 against moves by Iran to establish a permanent military presence in the country and efforts to transport advanced, game-changing weapons to terrorist groups in the region, principally Hezbollah.

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

November 28, 2020


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’

November 28, 2020


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

November 28, 2020

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

November 27, 2020
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

November 27, 2020


 
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

November 27, 2020
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.