The assassination of physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh exposes the weaknesses of the Persian theocracy and calls into question the continuity of its nuclear program.
Iran’s Ayatollah regime received the third major blow this year against its security. Yesterday he fell in an attack in Tehran, allegedly organized by infiltrated Israeli agents, the main Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom US and Israeli intelligence have pointed to for years as the head of the secret nuclear program to design an atomic warhead.
Three months ago, he had died in another attack of similar characteristics and also in the Iranian capital, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, the number two of the terrorist network Al Qaeda, the matrix of the global jihad.
And just three days into 2020, Major General Qasem Soleimani, the second most powerful person in Iran after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, had been hit by a missile launched by a US army drone.
Tehran’s security system, one of the most effective and closed in the world, almost impenetrable since the years of the consolidation of the Islamic revolution of 1979, was violated for the third time in ten months, doubting its effectiveness and launching a torrent of speculations.
If it is confirmed that the attack against Fakhrizadeh was the work of an infiltrated Israeli command that also acted in the Abdullah case, as mentioned in some Tel Aviv press reports, for the first time in 40 years the pro-Western forces would have succeeded what they both sought: to weaken the Iranian regime and its nuclear weapons program.
In that sense, Fakhrizadeh’s disappearance is a substantial – if not definitive – setback for the aspirations of the ayatollahs.
Physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, 63, was an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a professor of physics at Imam Hussein University in Tehran.
According to a report by the United Nations Security Council, he also held the position of senior scientist in the Ministry of Defense and Logistics of the Armed Forces and had previously been director of the Physical Research Center (PHRC).
It is considered the driving force behind the nuclear weapons program in the last 20 years, and he continued to lead work in the area after most of the effort quietly disbanded in the early 2000s, based on US intelligence assessments and Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israel.
In these reports, it became known that the nuclear program was officially called Project 111.
Another internal Iranian document from 2007 leaked to the Sunday Times from London identified Fakhrizadeh as the president of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technology (FEDAT) organization, the cover name of the organization that runs Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The document, entitled “Prospects for special activities related to neutrons in the next 4 years”, establishes that period of time to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s name first appeared on the radar of journalism on July 8, 2008, when he was added to the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) maintained by the Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). from the United States Treasury. Previously, he was listed in an annexe to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747 of March 24, 2007, as a person involved in Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile activities. A month later, he added to the European Union list of people who had their funds on that continent frozen. But the first public photo of Fakhrizadeh was shown by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 8, 2018, when he rebelled that his government had obtained more than 100,000 original Iranian documents proving that the regime was continuing its nuclear program despite having signed an agreement not to do so with the administration of President Barack Obama.
This is not the first assassination of Iranian scientists involved in the development of nuclear warheads. Between 2010 and 2012, four nuclear physicists died in different attacks (Masoud Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan).
Two of the killings were carried out with magnetic bombs attached to the targets’ cars; another was hit by several shots and the last was killed by the explosion of a motor pump.
The Iranian government accused Israel of complicity in the killings and several Iranian citizens of the Mujahideen group of the People of Iran (MEK) were arrested shortly thereafter. who had allegedly carried out the assassination campaign with the support of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. Western agencies and Washington officials confirmed the connection between that Iranian resistance group and Mossad at the time.
Israel neither confirmed nor denied its participation, but Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon said that “we will act in any way and we are not willing to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.
We prefer that this be done through sanctions, but in the end, Israel should be able to defend itself. ” The assassination campaign ended in 2013 after diplomatic pressure from the United States, which was trying to negotiate at the time an agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear activities.
According to the American private intelligence agency Stratfor, a fifth Iranian scientist was poisoned by Israeli agents and in January 2015, Iranian authorities reported that they had thwarted another Mossad attempt to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist.
In Fakhrizadeh’s case, according to the New York Times, two intelligence officials and an area official confirmed that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist. Although it is not clear how much the United States could know about the operation in advance, the two countries have long shared confidential information about Iran. The White House and the CIA had no comment. The assassination is already a setback for the aspirations of President-elect Joe Biden to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. “Such a coup on the eve of a new administration could poison relations with Tehran to such an extent that negotiating a reinstatement of the deal, or tightening its terms, could be impossible,” said an analyst for the leading daily New Yorker.
Since Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and other senior Pentagon officials last week, Washington’s intelligence community has feared the outgoing president will order open or secret operations against Iran or other adversaries.
Another speculation is that Netanyahu, who was stopped by successive US governments when he was about to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, could have acted by taking advantage of the weakness of the current Administration. and the fact that Trump would be unlikely to sanction him.
Nor should it be ruled out that the issue was discussed at the secret meeting apparently held in the desert outside Riyadh this week by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Pompeo and the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.