Archive for February 10, 2021

Iran: Military member was involved in murder of nuke scientist blamed on Israel

February 10, 2021


Iranian intelligence minister says ‘first preparations’ in killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh were carried out by member of armed services

By AGENCIES9 February 2021, 12:57 pm  3

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); insert: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo (Courtesy)

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); insert: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo (Courtesy)

A member of the armed forces is suspected of involvement in last November’s assassination near Tehran of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the country’s intelligence minister said Monday.

“The person who carried out the first preparations for the assassination was a member of the armed forces,” Mahmoud Alavi said in an interview with state television, without elaborating.

He said it was not possible for the intelligence ministry “to keep watch over the armed forces.”

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was traveling on a highway outside the capital accompanied by a security detail on November 27 when he came under machinegun fire

.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassinated top nuclear scientist during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Israel and the US say Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program. According to Iranian authorities, Fakhrizadeh was a deputy defense minister and carried out work on “nuclear defense.”

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said a satellite-controlled gun with “artificial intelligence” was used in the attack, which Tehran blamed on Israel.

State TV’s English-language Press TV reported a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” There were no images published of the alleged weapon in the report, which was attributed to “informed sources.”

Israel did not react to the accusation. Unveiling a trove of material brought out of Iran by the Mossad on the regime’s nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2018 that Fakhrizadeh was overseeing Iran’s bid for the bomb.

The killing came after months of mysterious explosions in Iran including a blast 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 allegedly carried out by Israel.

This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

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.

After the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, Iranian lawmakers approved a bill requiring Iran to resume uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, as it had been doing before the nuclear deal, and to stock 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of uranium each year. The legislation had already been in the pipeline, but it was advanced after Fakhrizadeh was killed.

Last month, Tehran announced it was beginning to enrich uranium up to 20 percent — far beyond the 3.5% permitted under the nuclear deal, and a relatively small technical step away from the 90% needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran also said it was beginning research into uranium metal, a material that technically has civilian uses, but is seen as another likely step toward a nuclear bomb.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations nuclear inspectors found traces of radioactive material at Iranian nuclear sites that could indicate work on nuclear weapons.

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, a technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

US President Joe Biden said Sunday that his administration will not agree to lift sanctions on Iran before it halts its uranium enrichment program, adding that the Islamic Republic will have to first resume compliance with the nuclear deal.

Biden’s comments drew a line in the sand in the US’s standoff with Iran, whose Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Washington must lift all sanctions before Tehran reverses any nuclear production steps.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that Iran was currently months away from being able to produce enough material to build a nuclear weapon. And, he said, that timeframe could be reduced to “a matter of weeks” if Tehran further violates restrictions it agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Iran may pursue nuclear weapons, its intelligence minister warns

February 10, 2021


In rare comments admitting Tehran is considering developing nukes, official claims it would be the West’s fault for making moves to ‘corner’ his country

In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, a technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

By AGENCIES and TOI STAFF9 February 2021, 1:35 pm  7In this Feb. 3, 2007 file photo, a technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Iran’s intelligence minister has warned the West that his country could push for nuclear weapons if crippling international sanctions on Tehran remain in place, state television reported Tuesday.

The remarks by Mahmoud Alavi mark a rare occasion that a government official said Iran could move toward nuclear weapons. Tehran has long insisted that the program is for peaceful purposes only.

“Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it,” Alavi was quoted as saying.

A 1990s fatwa, or religious edict, by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that nuclear weapons are forbidden.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi answers questions from lawmakers in an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 25, 2016 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not,” Alavi said. He added that Iran has no plans to move toward a nuclear weapon under current circumstances.

Last month, a former Iranian diplomat said that if Israel or the US take “dangerous” steps, Khamenei may reverse the religious opinion that forbids the acquisition, development or use of nuclear weapons.

The 81-year-old supreme leader, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran, on Sunday urged the United States to lift all sanctions if it wants Iran to live up to commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. However, President Joe Biden has said the US won’t be making the first move.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that Iran was currently months away from being able to produce enough material to build a nuclear weapon. And, he said, that timeframe could be reduced to “a matter of weeks” if Tehran further violates restrictions it agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Following the killing last December of an Iranian scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by Israel as spearheading the country’s rogue nuclear weapons program, Iran’s parliament has approved a law to block international nuclear inspectors later this month — a serious violation of the accord.

Alavi, the intelligence minister, was also quoted as saying that a member of the Iranian armed forces “facilitated” the killing of the scientist, which Iran has blamed on Israel.

The minister did not expand on what he meant — and it was not clear if the soldier had carried out the explosion that killed Fakhrizadeh. Israel, which has been suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade as well as allegedly carrying out attacks on a number of facilities, has repeatedly declined to comment on the attack.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassinated top nuclear scientist during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

This was the first time that Iran acknowledged a member of its armed forces may have acted as an accomplice in the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who headed Iran’s so-called AMAD program, which Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon.

Unveiling a trove of material brought out of Iran by the Mossad on the regime’s nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2018 that Fakhrizadeh was overseeing Iran’s bid for the bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency — the UN’s nuclear watchdog — says that “structured program” ended in 2003. US intelligence agencies concurred with that assessment in a 2007 report.

However, Israel insists Iran is still working to develop nuclear weapons, pointing to its enrichment work, its ballistic missile program and its research into other technologies.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that United Nations nuclear inspectors found traces of radioactive material at Iranian nuclear sites that could indicate work on nuclear weapons.

Lawmakers in Tehran recently approved a bill requiring Iran to resume uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, as it had been doing before the nuclear deal, and to stock 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of uranium each year. The legislation had already been in the pipeline, but it was advanced after Fakhrizadeh was killed.

Last month, Tehran announced it was beginning to enrich uranium up to 20 percent — far beyond the 3.5% permitted under the nuclear deal, and a relatively small technical step away from the 90% needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran also said it was beginning research into uranium metal, a material that technically has civilian uses, but is seen as another likely step toward a nuclear bomb.