Tehran (AP) – Iranian President Hassan Ruhani has accused the US and Israel of being behind the murder of nuclear physicist Mohsen Fachrisadeh.
“Once again imperialism and its Zionist mercenaries caused bloodshed and the death of an Iranian scientist,” Ruhani said on state television on Saturday. The “terrorist attack” only shows the fear of Tehran’s enemies for the technological advancements of the Islamic Republic. However, the assassination will not stop the country from following Fachrisadeh’s path even more consistently, the president said.
Fachrisadeh was gunned down in his car on Friday in Ab-Sard, an eastern suburb of the capital, Tehran, and was so badly injured that he died in hospital shortly afterwards. The Ministry of Defense in Tehran spoke of a “martyr’s death”. The nuclear physicist was a member of the Revolutionary Guards and an expert in the manufacture of missiles. Most recently, he headed the Research Department of the Ministry of Defense.
The New York Times reported that a US representative and two intelligence officials stated that Israel was behind the attack. It is unclear whether the U.S. government was informed in advance, but both states are close allies. There were reports in the US media that a US naval unit had moved to the Persian Gulf, which was justified with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged moderation after the attack. “We call for restraint and see it necessary to avoid measures that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region,” a UN spokesman for the German news agency said in New York on Friday (local time).
Iranian UN Ambassador Majid Tacht reminded Guterres in a letter that several Iranian scientists have been killed in attacks in recent years. The assassination of Fachrisadeh is another attempt to throw the region into chaos and disrupt Iran’s scientific development. Over the summer, a series of fires and explosions damaged infrastructure and nuclear facilities in Iran. Also at the time, there was speculation about Israel as an author, especially as Israel repeatedly attacks Iranian military facilities in Syria.
Secret Service and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are investigating the attack. It is clear to Iranian leaders that Israel is behind the attack, as Fakhrisadeh has been blacklisted by Israel for years. In addition, only the arch-enemy Israel benefits from the death of the nuclear physicist.
Observers from Tehran also saw the attack as an attempt by Israel and the administration of US President Donald Trump to torpedo a fresh start in Tehran-Washington relations. “It was an attack not only on the professor, but also on the diplomatic efforts that would be made in both countries after Joe Biden took office,” tweeted Tehran political scientist Mohsen Milani. The prominent Iranian journalist Sahra Asghari sees it the same way. “The attack was the price Iran had to pay for Trump’s electoral defeat.” The US government, Biden’s team and Israel did not initially comment on the murder.
Iranian nuclear chief Ali-Akbar Salehi assured Saturday that the assassination of Fachrisadeh would not stop or hinder the progress of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. The path of Fachrisadeh will only be pursued more intensively. Israel accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons in addition to the civil nuclear program, which threatens its survival.
Trump had ended an international agreement that should prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb in 2018 and has since tried to seriously harm Iran economically with harsh sanctions against key industries. For a year in which Tehran unsuccessfully urged European contracting parties to stick to the nuclear deal, Iran has also gradually abandoned the agreement. So far Iran has hoped that the US will return to the agreement under Biden. However, the Sunni Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf are urging Biden to coordinate with them before taking such a move and also to include Iranian conventional armaments in an agreement.