Archive for November 28, 2020

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.