The murder of Mohsen Fajrizadeh sparked a wave of protests in which the most radical sectors of Iran called for the definitive withdrawal of the country from the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 and the expulsion of researchers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for “spies.” The anger in the streets came accompanied by the first intervention of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who ordered that the murderers “be punished”. The president, Hasan Rohani, again pointed to Israel, accused it of wanting to “wreak havoc” and announced that revenge will come “at the appropriate time”. The Jewish State ordered that security measures be increased at all embassies in light of the risk of possible retaliation.
Khamenei and Rohani combined the words about the response to the assassination of the former head of the Department of Research and Innovation of the Ministry of Defense with the importance of moving forward with “the scientific and technical effort of this martyr in all the fields in which he was working Khamenei declared. The president was calm in a televised speech in which he noted that “The Iranian nation is too smart to fall into the trap of the Zionist conspiracy”. The moderate cleric, whose term expires in 2021, promised that the death of this expert “does not disturb” scientific advances.
Tehran’s answer is the big question and analysts like Abbas Aslani, speaking to Reuters, considered that “retaliation is inevitable because if it does nothing, the other party receives the message that it has a clear path for new assassinations, but at the same time Iran must be careful so that this does not turn into an uncontrolled escalation “, which in this case could affect the entire region.
Nuclear pact, in the air
“Whether Iran decides to take revenge or not, this assassination complicates Joe Biden’s plans to return to the nuclear pact”the former head of Israeli intelligence and director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) center for strategic studies, Amos Yadlin, wrote on social media. As happened after the assassination of General Suleimani in Iraq earlier this year, the Iranians respond to these actions to maintain their persuasiveness. On that occasion they attacked Iraqi bases with missiles where there was a presence of US troops, but it was a measured attack in which they did not cause any casualties to the enemy. Defense Minister Amir Hatami told state television that the murder of the scientist is “Clearly linked” to Suleimani’s, which was shot down by a drone.
Now all eyes are on the Jewish state and the biggest threat picked up by the Israeli media are possible actions by groups like Hamas, from Gaza, or Hezbollah, from Lebanon, both allies of Tehran. In the streets of Tehran, the first posters with Fajrizadeh were seen together with Suleimani and Abu Mahdi Muhandis, head of the Shiite militias in Iraq, the three figures who have been assassinated in 2020. Their presence on these posters symbolizes the importance they had within of the organization chart of the atomic program.
The Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, asked the European Union to condemn the murder and obtained a message from the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, who described what happened as a “criminal act that goes against the principle of respect for human rights ”.
Fajrizadeh, whom Israel and the United States considered “father of the nuclear program”, was a person far from the spotlight with little information. He was the only scientist named in the IAEA’s “final assessment” in 2015 in which he was described as a supervisor of activities “in support of a possible military dimension of the nuclear program.” Benjamin Netanyahu brought his name to light in 2018 at an appearance and asked the audience to write down his first and last name. Fajrizadeh is the fifth scientist to be assassinated in the Islamic republic since 2010.