Iran vows to ‘descend like lightning’ to avenge death of their top nuclear scientist

The widow of the Iranian nuclear scientist who was assassinated on Friday said today that ‘he wanted to get martyred and his wish came true’ as she appeared on state TV following his death.  

The unnamed widow said the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi would spark a thousand others to take up his work, following the ambush in Tehran on Friday which the Iranian regime has blamed on Israel. 

The scientist’s body lay in a flag-draped, open coffin at a mosque today in central Tehran where Iran’s chief justice Ebrahim Raisi prayed over his body in a public spectacle of mourning for the nuclear scientist. 

His death sent tensions in the region skyrocketing as Iran accused Israel of trying to provoke a war by killing Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – who Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’. 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today called Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi ‘the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist.’

Khamenei – who has the final say on all matters of state – said Iran’s first priority after the killing was the ‘definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.’ He did not elaborate. 

And, in an intervention that risks inflaming conflict even further, a former head of the US’s Central Intelligence Agency labelled the assassination a ‘criminal’ act and branded it ‘highly reckless’.

John Brennan – who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017 under the administration of president Barack Obama – said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabad but labeled it a ‘criminal’ act. 

The renewed tensions in the region follow reports yesterday that the US military has deployed aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf alongside other warships in order to provide ‘combat support and air cover’ for soldiers withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision to deploy the Nimitz to the Persian Gulf was made before the killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.

Friday’s attack also came just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel which took place at the height of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program.  

Iran's Supreme Leader has ordered 'definitive punishment' for those behind the assassination of a prominent nuclear scientist dubbed the 'father' of the rogue nation's bomb programme (pictured: Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays respect to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi)

Iran's Supreme Leader has ordered 'definitive punishment' for those behind the assassination of a prominent nuclear scientist dubbed the 'father' of the rogue nation's bomb programme (pictured: Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays respect to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi)

Iran’s Supreme Leader has ordered ‘definitive punishment’ for those behind the assassination of a prominent nuclear scientist dubbed the ‘father’ of the rogue nation’s bomb programme (pictured: Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays respect to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi) 

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi (pictured) was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran yesterday

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi (pictured) was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran yesterday

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) today called Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi 'the country's prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist'

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) today called Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi 'the country's prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist'

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi (left) was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran yesterday. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) today called Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi ‘the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist’

Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a physics professor and former officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – was killed in his car following an explosion and then machine gun fire near to Tehran, state media reports. Pictured: A photo purporting to be from the scene that was widely shared by local media 

Iranian State TV released several images of the scene - including one that shows shards of glass and metal on the road (pictured)

Iranian State TV released several images of the scene - including one that shows shards of glass and metal on the road (pictured)

Iranian State TV released several images of the scene – including one that shows shards of glass and metal on the road (pictured) 

Those wounded in the attack (the aftermath, pictured) were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi

Those wounded in the attack (the aftermath, pictured) were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi

Those wounded in the attack (the aftermath, pictured) were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi

Hossein Dehghan – who is a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election as well as an adviser to its supreme leader Ali Khamenei – echoed the claim that Israel was behind the attack.

‘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,’ Mr Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to US President Donald Trump’s last days in office.

It comes amid fears that the Trump administration could order a strike on Iran in the weeks before the president relinquishes power to President-Elect Joe Biden.

Dehghan added: ‘We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions.’    

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said Israel was to blame for the ambush in a televised speech on Saturday, and said Iran would retaliate for the killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi at ‘the proper time’. 

Rouhani said: ‘Our people are wiser than to fall in the trap of the Zionist regime (Israel) … Iran will surely respond to the martyrdom of our scientist at the proper time.’ 

Rouhani said that Fakhrizadeh’s death would not stop its nuclear program, something Supreme Leader Khamenei said as well.  

Khamenei released a statement Saturday where he did not specifically mention Israel but said Iran’s first priority was the ‘definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it.’    

Tehran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had suggested Israel was behind the attack, in which he said ‘Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist’.

Zarif wrote on Twitter: ‘This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.

‘Iran calls on the international community – and especially the EU – to end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.’

Donald Trump retweeted the New York Times article where sources said Israel was behind the attack, as well as retweeting Israeli journalist Yossi Melman who called the killing 'a major psychological and professional blow for Iran'

Donald Trump retweeted the New York Times article where sources said Israel was behind the attack, as well as retweeting Israeli journalist Yossi Melman who called the killing 'a major psychological and professional blow for Iran'

Donald Trump retweeted the New York Times article where sources said Israel was behind the attack, as well as retweeting Israeli journalist Yossi Melman who called the killing ‘a major psychological and professional blow for Iran’

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi. 

One American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed to the New York Times that Israel was behind the attack.   

Donald Trump retweeted the same New York Times article after it was published, as well as retweeting Israeli journalist Yossi Melman who called the killing ‘a major psychological and professional blow for Iran’. 

‘Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated in Damavand, east of Tehran according to reports in Iran. He was head of Iran’s secret military program and wanted for many years by Mossad. His death is a major psychological and professional blow for Iran,’ Melman had tweeted.’ 

Brennan also took to Twitter, claiming that while he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, it was ‘a criminal act’. 

‘This was a criminal act and highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation and a new round of regional conflict,’ he tweeted. 

‘I do not know whether a foreign government authorized or carried out the murder of Fakhrizadeh.

‘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 nor a member of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, designated terror groups which would be legal targets.

A strong critic of 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,’ a reference to November 3 election winner Joe Biden, who will replace Trump on January 20.

Brennan was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, under the administration of president Barack Obama and then-vice president Biden. 

Brennan did not take part in Biden’s election campaign and has not appeared to be involved in his preparations for taking office on January 20.  

But early this week Biden named Brennan’s former deputy director at the CIA, Avril Haines, as his director of national intelligence.  

It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was in, reports suggest. Pictured: Part of the aftermath of the attack

It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was in, reports suggest. Pictured: Part of the aftermath of the attack

It said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was in, reports suggest. Pictured: Part of the aftermath of the attack

The United States military is deploying the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (left) to the Persian Gulf in order to provide cover for withdrawing troops who are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, according to CNN. The Nimitz is seen left passing the Strait of Hormuz on September 18, 2020

The United States military is deploying the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (left) to the Persian Gulf in order to provide cover for withdrawing troops who are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, according to CNN. The Nimitz is seen left passing the Strait of Hormuz on September 18, 2020

The United States military is deploying the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (left) to the Persian Gulf in order to provide cover for withdrawing troops who are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, according to CNN. The Nimitz is seen left passing the Strait of Hormuz on September 18, 2020

 

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on the road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran.  

Iranian state TV said explosives hidden in a pickup exploded in front of the car, scattering debris hundreds of yards, before up to six gunmen emerged from another car and opened fire, the Times reported. 

Those wounded in the attack were rushed to a local hospital but medics were unable to revive Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi. 

John Brennan, who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, under the administration of president Barack Obama, said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabad but labeled it a 'criminal' act

John Brennan, who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, under the administration of president Barack Obama, said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabad but labeled it a 'criminal' act

 John Brennan, who was director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, under the administration of president Barack Obama, said he did not know who was to blame for the murder of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabad but labeled it a ‘criminal’ act

Iran’s mission to the UN, meanwhile, described Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s recent work as ‘development of the first indigenous Covid-19 test kit’ and overseeing Tehran’s efforts at making a possible coronavirus vaccine.  

Iran said there are ‘serious indications of Israeli responsibility’ in the assassination, saying it reserves the right to defend itself.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Security Council on Friday, Iranian envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote: ‘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.’ 

The Trump administration has set a January 15 deadline for the US military to draw down its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Israel has reportedly been pushing for the outgoing Trump administration to deal a heavy blow to Iran’s nuclear program by bombing key reactors. 

 

But Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is said to have met in secret with Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last Sunday, is reluctant to go along with the plan, Middle East Eye reported.

Netanyahu made the demand during the trilateral meeting in Neom, a Saudi resort town along the coast of the Red Sea.

Bin Salman reportedly expressed serious reservations about an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, citing two reasons – the recent strikes against Saudi oil targets that are believed to have been carried out by pro-Iranian forces; and what he believes will be the incoming Biden administration’s policies.

If the Trump administration orders its military to strike Iran, it could then lead to an escalation across the region involving Israel, the Saudis, and the Gulf States. 

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, has already said he is committed to returning to the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, which the Trump administration pulled out of.

‘In the meeting Netanyahu was advocating hitting Iran,’ Saudi sources told Middle East Eye.

‘Pompeo did not commit either way.’

Days after Trump lost the November 3 election to Biden, the president asked for options on attacking Iran’s main nuclear site, but ultimately decided against taking the dramatic step, US officials said. 

A photo purporting to be from the scene of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi's assassination that was widely shared by local media

A photo purporting to be from the scene of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi's assassination that was widely shared by local media

A photo purporting to be from the scene of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s assassination that was widely shared by local media

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Meanwhile, a new report on Friday claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) expressed reluctance to support a US-led military assault on Iran which is being advocated by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (right)

Protesters are seen preparing to burn an American and Israeli flag outside a Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran, the nation's capital on Saturday

Protesters are seen preparing to burn an American and Israeli flag outside a Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran, the nation's capital on Saturday

Protesters are seen preparing to burn an American and Israeli flag outside a Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran, the nation’s capital on Saturday

The US flag is seen burning outside the Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran. President-elect Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions

The US flag is seen burning outside the Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran. President-elect Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions

The US flag is seen burning outside the Foreign Ministry building in southern Tehran. President-elect Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions

Former Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan called the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist 'criminal' and 'reckless'

Former Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan called the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist 'criminal' and 'reckless'

Former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan called the assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, a top Iranian nuclear scientist, ‘criminal’ and ‘reckless’

Trump made the request during an Oval Office meeting on November 12 with his top national security aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, new acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the official said. 

Bin Salman is reportedly concerned that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities could send regional tensions spinning out of control, possibly engulfing his own kingdom.

The state has already suffered attacks in recent weeks, which they fear could spiral out of control.

Earlier this week, an explosion damaged a Greek-managed tanker at a Saudi Arabian terminal on the Red Sea just north of the Yemeni border, the ship’s manager said on Wednesday.

The attack was confirmed by Saudi Arabia.

In a statement published by state media, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said a commercial vessel suffered minor damage from shrapnel in what it described as a foiled terrorist attack.

Two weeks ago, a fire near a floating platform belonging to the Jazan oil products terminal was contained with no injuries.

That fire was the result of another attempted Houthi attack, in which the Saudi-led coalition intercepted and destroyed two explosive-laden boats in the southern Red Sea.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility from the Houthis regarding the latest incident. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi in a news conference about Iran's nuclear capabilities (pictured), warning the world to remember that name'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi in a news conference about Iran's nuclear capabilities (pictured), warning the world to remember that name'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi in a news conference about Iran’s nuclear capabilities (pictured), warning the world to remember that name’

The killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi marks the second time Iran has been humiliated this year, after Qassem Soleimani (pictured centre)  - a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - was assassinated in a US drone strike in January

The killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi marks the second time Iran has been humiliated this year, after Qassem Soleimani (pictured centre)  - a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - was assassinated in a US drone strike in January

The killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi marks the second time Iran has been humiliated this year, after Qassem Soleimani (pictured centre)  – a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – was assassinated in a US drone strike in January

This is the moment an American guided missile struck a convoy of cars carrying Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani along with two Islamic Revolutionary Guards generals, a colonel, and a captain, killing all five in January

This is the moment an American guided missile struck a convoy of cars carrying Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani along with two Islamic Revolutionary Guards generals, a colonel, and a captain, killing all five in January

This is the moment an American guided missile struck a convoy of cars carrying Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani along with two Islamic Revolutionary Guards generals, a colonel, and a captain, killing all five in January

The masters of ‘wet work’: Israeli agents are feared for covert assassination ops 

Israel has often favoured covert ‘wet work’ tactics against its enemies – including assassinations.

The country’s national intelligence agency Mossad has been accused carrying out attacks on members of Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas in recent years.

Prominent Iranian figures have also been targets – several of which have been nuclear scientists.

Within the agency is an elite unit known as Kidon – or ‘tip of the spear – which is widely-understood to be responsible for assassinations. 

The group has been dubbed an ‘an elite group of expert assassins’ – but little is known about them or how they operate.

Alleged Mossad attacks tend to be quick and clean, including killings where the assassin is on the back of a motorcycle for an easy getaway. 

Mossad hits are also usually outside of Israel – further reducing the chances that the attacks will be tied to the state. 

Choosing the assassination target is a complicated process involving Mossad itself, the Israeli intelligence community and those in the highest seats of Government.

The military can also play a role in picking a target. 

Below are some alleged – and confirmed – attacks against Iranians by the Israeli state.

February 12, 2013 – Hassan Shateri – who went by the pseudonym Hussam Khoshnevis – was a major general of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria.

January 11, 2012  Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was assassinated in a motorbike bomb attack in Tehran. Mossad are allegedly responsible.

November 12, 2011 – General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed – along with 17 other Revolutionary Guard members – in an explosion at a missile base in Tehran.

Moghaddam was the mind behind Iran’s ballistic missile forces.

Iranian officials themselves have insisted the explosion was an accident and said there was no Israeli involvement – but some reports have accused Mossad of being behind it.

July 23, 2011 – Iranian electrical engineer Darioush Rezaeinejad was allegedly killed by a Mossad operative on a motorcycle in Tehran.

He helped to develop high-voltage switches used in nuclear weaponry.

January 12, 2010  Iranian Physicist Masoud Alimohammadi was killed in a car bomb.

A man later appeared in court claiming Massad hired him to kill Alimohammadi. US officials rubbished the allegations.

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The Saudis believe these attacks are ‘clear proxy messages from Iran.’

 The assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi came after Al Qaeda’s second in command Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah was shot dead alongside his daughter in Tehran in August.

The terror leader was killed 22 years to the day after he masterminded devastating attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured thousands more, but details of his killing only emerged this month. 

Abdullah, who went by the name Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down in Tehran in August 7 by Israeli agents who were working on the behest of U.S. officials, according to the New York Times.

When the story broke two weeks ago, Iran said the Times report was based on ‘made-up information’ and denied the presence of any of the group’s members – claiming the killed man was a history professor. 

The killing of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi marks the second time Iran has been humiliated this year, after Qassem Soleimani – a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – was assassinated in a US drone strike in January.  

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri called Fakhrizdeh’s death ‘a bitter and heavy blow to the country’s defence system’ and warned of ‘severe revenge’, while Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said there were ‘serious indications of an Israeli role’ in the assassination.

As the Middle East braces for retaliation from Iran, chilling pictures of the aftermath of the attack have begun circling on social media. A pool of blood can be seen on a road by a car – with a windscreen peppered with bullet holes. 

The assassination came just days after Israel Defense Forces were told to get ready for the US potentially ordering a military strike against Iran before the end of Trump’s term as President.

Top Israeli officials warned of ‘a very sensitive period’ in the coming weeks as Trump prepares to relinquish power to Biden. 

Biden has promised a return to diplomacy with Iran after four hawkish years under Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing crippling sanctions.

At the time, Trump said the deal did not offer sufficient guarantees to stop Tehran from acquiring an atomic bomb. Iran has always denied it wants such a weapon.

Trump on Friday retweeted reports on Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, without commenting on it himself.

Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

Commander Hossein Dehghan wrote on Twitter: ‘In the last days of the political life of their […] ally (US President Donald Trump), the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war.’

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed there were ‘serious indications of (an) Israeli role’ in the assassination.

He said: ‘Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators.’ 

Israel and the US Pentagon both earlier declined to comment on reports of the attack. 

Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was named in UN sanctions resolutions because of his work as head of Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research group in 2007. 

Who was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and why was he a prominent figure in Israel-Iran tensions?

Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, killed in an attack outside Tehran on Friday, was widely seen outside the country as a leading figure in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Iran denies his involvement.

WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT HIM?

Western officials and experts believe Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi played a pivotal role in suspected Iranian work in the past to develop the means to assemble a nuclear warhead behind the facade of a declared civilian uranium enrichment program.

Iran denies ever having sought to develop a nuclear weapon.

A landmark report by the UN nuclear watchdog in 2011 identified Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as a central figure in suspected Iranian work to develop technology and skills needed for atomic bombs, and suggested he may still have a role in such activity.

Believed to be a senior officer in the elite Revolutionary Guards, Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was the only Iranian the report identified.

WHAT DOES IRAN SAY?

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has long wanted to meet Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as part of a protracted investigation into whether Iran carried out illicit nuclear weapons research.

Showing no sign it would heed the request, Iran acknowledged Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s existence several years ago but said he was an army officer not involved in the nuclear programme, according to a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter.

He was also named in a 2007 UN resolution on Iran as a person involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT HIS BACKGROUND?

An exiled Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in May 2011 issued a report with what it said was a photograph of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, with dark hair and beard stubble. It was not possible to independently verify the picture.

The NCRI said in the report that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was born in 1958 in the holy Muslim city of Qom, was a deputy defence minister and a Revolutionary Guards brigadier-general. He holds a nuclear engineering doctorate and taught at Iran’s University of Imam Hussein.

 

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The US charges that the organization – known by its Farsi acronym SPND – oversees nuclear-relevant research for Iran and is active in the training of new scientists.

Mr Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as boss of the SPND during a news conference in 2018.

In 2007, he was revealed to be the chairman of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advanced Technology (FEDAT) in a leaked Iranian document.

The FEDAT was the cover name for the organization behind Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

The leaked document purported to show the country’s four-year plan to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator. 

A statement by Iran’s armed forces confirmed Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s death.

It stated: ‘Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle.’ 

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 gun fire. The attack targeted a car that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi’s bodyguards, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

State television later published a photograph of security forces blocking off the road. 

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Iranian media all noted the interest that Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.

Hossein Salami, chief commander of the paramilitary Guard, 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!’

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 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 ‘Amad’ program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran’s now-unraveling nuclear deal with world power.

Senior Israeli officials this week predicted ‘a very sensitive period’ in the coming weeks – ahead of President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

In a bid to be cautious, Israel is reportedly preparing for potential retaliation from Iran, Axios reports.

Earlier this month, Trump held an Oval Office meeting where he was ‘talked out of’ launching strikes on Iran after a previous UN report showed a massive increase in nuclear stockpiles in breach of the Obama-era pact which Trump abandoned in 2018. 

Defence sources told The New York Times that Trump asked for options on a bombardment – likely to have targeted Iran’s foremost nuclear facility, Natanz.  

And just last week, a report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed Iran has fired up advanced uranium centrifuges installed at its underground Natanz site.

Tehran was revealed to be pumping nuclear fuel into high-tech IR-2m machines at Natanz, in contravention of an international deal to only use first generation IR-1 machines. 

The assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi has lead many to speculate that he is ‘Iran’s nuclear Qassem Soleimani’. 

Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was assassinated in a US drone strike in January this year. 

A spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization in Iran stressed that no accident had occurred and all scientists were safe and well.

The deputy leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement said on Friday that the response for the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was in Iran’s hands.

‘We condemn this heinous attack and see that the response to this crime is in the hands of those concerned in Iran,’ Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview with Al Manar television.

He said Fakhrizadeh was killed by ‘those sponsored by America and Israel’ and said the assassination was part of a war on Iran and the region. Iran pointed the finger at Israel after Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near the Iranian capital Tehran on Friday. Israel declined to comment.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Iran’s allies in the region should be in a state of high readiness in case of any ‘American or Israeli folly’ during the remainder of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term.

Asked whether Israel could attack Lebanon during that time, Qassem said he did not believe so but that if it did Hezbollah was ‘fully prepared’ for a confrontation.

Israel and Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006.

Qassem said it was unlikely there would be a direct strike on Iran as it would ‘ignite the whole region’.

‘We cannot rule out the possibility of a limited attack and the Iranians are ready for this and more, but I don’t see an all-out war on the horizon,’ he said.  

The alleged assassination came just days after Israel Defense Forces were told to get ready for the US potentially ordering a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump's term as President

The alleged assassination came just days after Israel Defense Forces were told to get ready for the US potentially ordering a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump's term as President

The alleged assassination came just days after Israel Defense Forces were told to get ready for the US potentially ordering a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump’s term as President

Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) once called out in a news conference saying: 'Remember that name'

Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) once called out in a news conference saying: 'Remember that name'

Israel has so far declined to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’

Iran increases its nuclear stockpile making it ’12 times larger than the limit set in the Iran nuclear deal’

Earlier this month international inspectors informed United Nations members that Iran had significantly increased its stockpile of nuclear material in its foremost nuclear facility, Natanz. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a watchdog for the UN, reported in a confidential document last Wednesday that Iran’s uranium stockpile is now 12 times larger than the limit set under the nuclear accord Trump pulled out of in 2018.  

The agency said that as of November 2 Iran had a stockpile of 2,442.9 kilograms (5,385.7 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 2,105.4 kilograms (4,641.6 pounds) reported on August 25.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the US, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).

The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the deal.

International inspectors informed UN members this month that Iran had significantly increased its stockpile of nuclear material at its Natanz facility (pictured)

International inspectors informed UN members this month that Iran had significantly increased its stockpile of nuclear material at its Natanz facility (pictured)

International inspectors informed UN members this month that Iran had significantly increased its stockpile of nuclear material at its Natanz facility (pictured) 

Natanz, also called the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, is located about 200 miles south of Tehran. Most of the complex is underground and it is subject to monitoring by IAEA under the nuclear accord.  

It is one of Iran’s central nuclear enrichment facilities and became subject to monitoring by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed in 2015.  

As well as stockpiling at the site, the IAEA report also acknowledged that Iran was building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant after its last one exploded in an apparent sabotage attack last summer. 

Images released the same day as the report showed that construction had begun at Natanz.  

Since August, Iran has built a new or regraded road to the south of Natanz toward what analysts believe is a former firing range for security forces at the enrichment facility, images from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. show.

One of the images taken on November 9 shows the site cleared away with what appears to be construction equipment there, while an October 21 image from Maxar Technologies shows trucks, cars, backhoes and other vehicles at the cleared site.

Natanz, also called the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, is located about 200 miles south of Tehran

Natanz, also called the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, is located about 200 miles south of Tehran

Natanz, also called the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, is located about 200 miles south of Tehran

Analysts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies say they believe the site is undergoing excavation.   

In its latest report the IAEA also said that Iran had barred its inspectors from accessing another site where there was evidence of past nuclear activity. 

Days after the report, Donald Trump spoke to his senior advisers about taking action against the nuclear site but was ‘talked down’. 

Iran has openly announced all violations of the nuclear deal in advance, which have followed the decision by the US to pull out unilaterally in 2018.

Since the US withdrawal and imposition of new sanctions, Tehran has been putting pressure on the remaining parties with the violations to come up with new ways to offset the economy-crippling actions by Washington. 

The Natanz complex is mostly underground and is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers

The Natanz complex is mostly underground and is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers

The Natanz complex is mostly underground and is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers

The United States and Israel had been pressing the IAEA for some time to look into the Turquzabad facility, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described to the UN in 2018 as a ‘secret atomic warehouse’.

In the current report, the IAEA said the ‘compositions of these isotopically altered particles’ found there were ‘similar to particles found in Iran in the past, originating from imported centrifuge components’. It said it found Iran’s response to questions last month ‘unsatisfactory’.

‘Following an assessment of this new information, the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible,’ the IAEA wrote last week. ‘A full and prompt explanation from Iran…is needed.’

IAEA Executive Director Rafael Grossi told the UN General Assembly last Wednesday that ‘evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran continue’.

He said in his first speech to the 193-member world body, which was virtual because of the pandemic, that he welcomed the agreement he reached with Iranian officials in Tehran in August ‘on implementation of some safeguards implementation issues’, including access to two sites.

Inspections have taken place and samples from the sites are being analyzed, he said.

Iran’s UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told the assembly that ‘Iran and the agency have agreed to work in good faith to resolve these safeguards-related questions’.

Ravanchi also said it is ‘of utmost importance’ for the IAEA to consider available information on the nuclear activities of Saudi Arabia, its regional rival.

‘If Saudi Arabia is seeking a peaceful nuclear program, it should act in a very transparent manner and allow the agency’s inspectors to verify its activities,’ he said.

He said the IAEA also needs to take ‘an unbiased and professional approach’ toward Israel, which is not a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.   

Satellite images released last week showed construction underway at Natanz. The IAEA report also acknowledged that Iran was building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant after its last one exploded in an apparent sabotage attack last summer

Satellite images released last week showed construction underway at Natanz. The IAEA report also acknowledged that Iran was building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant after its last one exploded in an apparent sabotage attack last summer

Satellite images released last week showed construction underway at Natanz. The IAEA report also acknowledged that Iran was building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant after its last one exploded in an apparent sabotage attack last summer

A fire destroyed a building at the Iranian nuclear complex in July. Analysts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies say they believe the site is undergoing excavation

A fire destroyed a building at the Iranian nuclear complex in July. Analysts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies say they believe the site is undergoing excavation

A fire destroyed a building at the Iranian nuclear complex in July. Analysts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies say they believe the site is undergoing excavation

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