Iran has accused Israel of attempting to provoke war by assassinating prominent nuclear scientists who Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has named the father of the rogue nation's nuclear program.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a physics professor and former officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – was killed in his car after an explosion and subsequent machine gun fire near Tehran.
His death comes two years after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned the world to remember the name in a press conference about Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Those Those wounded in the attack were taken to a local hospital, but the doctors were unable to resuscitate Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Pictures of the aftermath of the attack show blood collected from a car on the street with a windshield full of bullet holes.
A military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of orchestrating the attack in order to "increase pressure on Iran and wage a full-blown war".
The assassination came just days after the Israel Defense Forces were ordered to prepare for the US, which may have ordered a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump's tenure as president.
Senior Israeli officials warned of a "very delicate time" in the coming weeks as Trump prepares to hand over power to President-elect Joe Biden.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a nuclear scientist known as the "father of the Iranian bomb" – was murdered in state media reports
Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – a physics professor and former officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – was killed in his car near Tehran after an explosion and subsequent machine gun fire. Pictured: a photo allegedly from the scene that was widely spread by local media
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi in a press conference about Iran's nuclear capabilities (picture) and warned the world to remember the name. & # 39;
Photos and videos shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through the windshield and blood on the road
Iranian state television released several pictures of the scene – including one showing shards of glass and metal on the street (picture)
The masters of "wet work": Israeli agents are feared for covert attacks
Israel has often favored covert "wet labor" tactics against its enemies – including assassinations.
The country's national secret service Mossad has been charged with carrying out attacks on members of the Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas in recent years.
Prominent Iranian figures were also targets – some of them were nuclear scientists.
The agency tends to favor quick and neat tactics – including murders where the assassin is on the back of a motorcycle for easy escape.
Mossad hits usually take place outside of Israel as well, further reducing the likelihood that the attacks are state-related.
Choosing the target of the murder is a complicated process involving the Mossad itself, the Israeli intelligence community, and those in the highest seats of government.
The military can also play a role in choosing a target.
Below are some suspected – and confirmed – attacks by the Israeli state on Iranians.
February 12, 2013 – Hassan Shateri – who became known under the pseudonym Hussam Khoshnevis – was a major general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
He was killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria.
January 11, 2012 – The Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was murdered in a motorcycle bomb attack in Tehran. Mossad are supposedly responsible.
November 12, 2011 – General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam was killed – along with 17 other members of the Revolutionary Guard – in an explosion at a missile base in Tehran.
Moghaddam was the ghost behind Iran's ballistic missile forces.
Iranian officials themselves have insisted that the explosion was an accident and said there was no Israeli involvement – but some reports have accused the Mossad of being behind it.
July 23, 2011 – Iranian electrical engineer Darioush Rezaeinejad was allegedly killed by a Mossad agent on a motorcycle in Tehran.
He helped develop high voltage switches for nuclear weapons.
Israel has so far refused to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted murders 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) are trying to increase pressure on Iran and wage a full-blown war. & # 39;
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed that there are "serious indications of (an) Israeli role" in the attack.
He said, “Terrorists today murdered a prominent Iranian scientist. This cowardice – with serious references to the role of Israel – shows the desperate warmongering of the perpetrators. & # 39;
Israel and the US Pentagon previously declined to comment on reports of the attack.
It was announced earlier this morning that Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman refused to give in to Netanyahu's demands for an air strike on Iran.
During a meeting last Sunday that was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, bin Salman refused to agree to the Israeli Prime Minister's demands, fears that President-elect Joe Biden would favor de-escalation rather than a permanent US presence risking golf in the US, Middle East Eye reports.
bin Salman also interpreted attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil assets as a threat that Iran would take serious action in response to a possible attack.
He also called on the international community to "end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror".
Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was named in UN sanctions resolutions for his work as the head of the Iranian Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research in 2007.
The US accuses the organization, known by the acronym SPND in Farsi, of overseeing nuclear research for Iran and training new scientists.
During a press conference in 2018, Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as head of the SPND.
IIn 2007, he was exposed in a leaked Iranian document as chairman of the Division for Expanding the Use of Advanced Technologies (FEDAT).
FEDAT was the code name for the organization behind the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The leaked document aims to highlight the country's four-year plan to develop a uranium-deuteride-neutron initiator.
A statement by the Iranian armed forces confirmed the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
It reads: "Unfortunately, the medical team failed to resuscitate him, and a few minutes ago this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle."
The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the country's Revolutionary Guard, said the attack took place in Absard, a small town east of the capital, Tehran.
It was said that witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack was aimed at a car in which Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was, the agency said.
The wounded, including the bodyguards of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, were later taken to a local hospital, the agency said.
State television later published a photo of security forces blocking the street.
No group immediately took responsibility for the attack. However, all of the Iranian media noted the interest Netanyahu had previously shown in Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi.
Hossein Salami, commander in chief of the paramilitary guard, appeared to recognize the attack on Fakhrizadeh.
Those wounded in the attack (the consequences as pictured) were taken to a local hospital, but the doctors were unable to resuscitate Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi
A photo allegedly taken from the scene of the Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi assassination and widely circulated by the local media
It was said that witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack was aimed at a car carrying Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi. Pictured: part of the aftermath of the attack
Netanyahu (pictured during a press conference) appointed Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as head of the Iranian organization for defensive innovation and research in 2018 – known by the acronym SPND in Farsi
Who is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and why is he a prominent figure in the tensions between Israel and Iran?
Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who was killed in an attack outside Tehran on Friday, has been widely recognized abroad as one of the leading figures in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Iran denies its involvement.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT HIM?
Western officials and experts believe that Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi has played a pivotal role in the alleged 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 attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.
In a seminal 2011 report by the UN nuclear watchdog, Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was identified as a central figure in the alleged Iranian work to develop technologies and capabilities necessary for atomic bombs, and it has been suggested that he may still have a role in such activities plays.
Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was considered a senior officer in the elite Revolutionary Guard and was the only Iranian the report identified.
WHAT DOES IRAN SAY?
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has long wanted to meet Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi as part of a lengthy investigation into whether Iran has been conducting illegal nuclear weapons research.
Iran showed no sign that it would comply, and acknowledged Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi's existence a few years ago, but said he was an army officer not involved in the nuclear program, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter said .
In a 2007 UN resolution on Iran, he was also named 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), published a report in May 2011 with a photo of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi with dark hair and a 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 deputy defense minister and brigadier general of the Revolutionary Guard. He has a PhD in nuclear engineering and has taught at the Iranian University of Imam Hussein.
"The murder of nuclear scientists is the most violent confrontation preventing us from reaching modern science," Salami tweeted.
Hossein Dehghan, adviser to the Iranian Supreme Leader and presidential candidate in the Iranian elections in 2021, warned on Twitter.
"In the last days of their ally's political life, the Zionists are trying to step up and up the pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war," Dehghan wrote, seeming to be referring to US President Donald Trump.
"We will descend like lightning on the murderers of this oppressed martyr and make them repent of their actions!"
The Absard area is full of vacation villas for the Iranian elite with views of Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the country.
The streets on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, offering its attackers the opportunity to strike with fewer people nearby.
Fakhrizadeh headed the so-called "Amad" or "Hope" program of Iran.
Israel and the West have claimed it was a military operation examining the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran has kept its nuclear program peaceful for a long time.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says the Amad program ended in the early 2000s. The IAEA inspectors are now monitoring the Iranian nuclear sites within the framework of the now unraveled Iranian nuclear agreement with the world power.
Senior Israeli officials this week predicted "a very delicate time" for the weeks ahead – before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
To be cautious, Israel is reportedly preparing for possible retaliation against Iran, reports Axios.
Earlier this month, Trump held an Oval Office meeting where he was prevented from launching strikes against Iran after a previous UN report showed a massive surge in nuclear inventories in violation of the Obama Pact approved by Trump in 2018 had given up.
Defense sources told the New York Times that Trump had asked about options for a bombing – likely against Natanz, Iran's main nuclear facility.
And just last week, a report from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed that Iran fired advanced uranium centrifuges installed at its underground location at Natanz.
It became known that Tehran is pumping nuclear fuel into high-tech IR-2m machines at Natanz, which is in conflict with an international agreement to use only first-generation IR-1 machines.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi has led many to speculate that he is "Iran's nuclear Qassem Soleimani".
Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was murdered in a US drone attack in January this year.
A spokesman for the nuclear energy organization in Iran emphasized that no accident had happened and that all scientists were safe and healthy.
The alleged assassination came just days after the Israeli Defense Forces were urged to prepare for the US, which may have ordered a military strike against Iran before the end of Donald Trump's tenure as president
Israel has so far refused to comment on the death of Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) once shouted at a press conference with the words: "Remember this name."
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