• 2020-12-02

    On November 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent nuclear scientist, was assassinated in a roadside attack about 40 miles east of Tehran. He was the fifth nuclear scientist killed since 2010. Iran usually blamed Israel, sometimes invoking the United States and often their local agents. Historically, Israel has not claimed responsibility for assassinations. But both countries have reportedly waged a covert campaign to sabotage Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

  • 2020-12-02

    The assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27 generated significant fallout in the wider Middle East and in the West. It heightened fears of retaliation and kinetic tensions in the region. The United States pulled back its diplomatic presence in Iraq. And the Iranian parliament passed a law requiring an escalation in production of enriched uranium, the fuel for a nuclear weapon and peaceful energy.

  • 2020-12-01

    Secretary Pompeo has been particularly forward leaning in the administration’s efforts to inflict damage on the Iranian government. In a recent trip to the Middle East, Pompeo met with leaders from Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain on ways all three countries could work together on countering the Islamic Republic. The trip followed on the heels of an announcement by the State Department that it had recently approved a massive sale of F-35 jets to the UAE. The deal has been widely viewed as a way to get Dubai to cooperate with Jerusalem on deterring Iran. And on Friday, Pompeo announced additional Iran-related sanctions, this time targeting Chinese and Russian entities for transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program. [...]  “If Iran takes the bait, which is clearly the intention behind [the Farikhzadeh assassination], then it probably makes it impossible to return to the JCPOA and diplomacy,” said Jarrett Blanc, the former coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation in the Obama State Department. “If Iran doesn’t take the bait… I don’t know that it really changes the choices that confront the Biden team or Iran in January.” Any negotiations between a Biden administration and Iran would include conversations about the lifting of some sanctions, two individuals familiar with the Biden team’s thinking on Iran said. But those sanctions would likely only be lifted if and when Tehran complies with a deal. “Iran says it is prepared to come back in compliance and reverse some of the decisions it’s made. And the U.S. says it would lift some of the sanctions. [There’s] no legal bar to reverse them. Many of them were imposed for political reasons,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s likely going to be a two-step approach for Biden—getting back in and then perhaps renegotiating a different, better deal.”

  • 2020-12-01

    The assassination of Fakhrizadeh serves two main purposes. First, it hardens the resolve of Iran when it comes to any potential flexibility it might have been prepared to have with Biden regarding a resolution to the nuclear standoff, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei directing Iranian scientists “[t]o follow up Martyr Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical activities in all fields in which he was active.” The idea that Iran would seek to compromise with the US in the aftermath of Fakhrizadeh’s murder is, to put it bluntly, absurd. But the most important purpose behind the killing of Fakhrizadeh is to create a fait accompli when it comes to policy options being considered by a future Biden administration. Rejoining the JCPOA is likely a non-starter – Iran will never agree to the many preconditions sought by Biden and his advisers.  Likewise, continuing Trump’s program of ‘maximum pressure’ is not a politically viable option, given the advanced state of the Iranian nuclear program and the impact this has on the all-important ‘breakout window’ that underpinned, from the US perspective, the legitimacy of the JCPOA. The same contingencies being confronted by the Trump administration regarding the possibility of US forces attacking Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will be confronted by President Biden on his first day in office. By killing Fakhrizadeh, Israel is doing its best to ensure that, for Biden, that military action is the only viable option available. 

  • 2020-12-01

    On November 27th, the treacherous murder that was committed in the suburbs of Tehran on a Friday, a holy day for all Muslims, of the leading Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh elicited strong reaction not only from the Iranian public, but from Israel, the United States, and the entire world. [...] Fakhrizadeh was the fifth nuclear physicist killed in Iran over the past 10 years, and along with that the telltale signs of Israeli involvement could be observed with all the assassination attempts. The murder of Fakhrizadeh was the most high-profile one, since he was the highest-ranking official in his industry. In the past, Israel has used specially trained opponents of the Islamic regime to do its dirty work in Iran against Iranian nuclear facilities, and nuclear physicists. However, given the professionalism and complexity involved in the attack on Fakhrizade, it can be assumed that it was carried out by the Israelis themselves. [...]  However, some emphasize that Iranian leaders have proven that they can be patient, and prudent, in their responses, and that may largely depend on the extent to which the international community, and especially Iran’s partners in the nuclear deal, denounce those who initiated the killing. Therefore, if Iran sticks by its initial hot-headed reaction to exact revenge for this murder, and Israel by its relentless intention to destroy its enemies as per the Begin doctrine, then we can expect the situation in the region to worsen, even right up to military conflict. And in this case, calls for the parties to exercise restraint – which have already been sounded by the UN, Russia, China and a number of other countries – are quite fitting to help prevent a situation from developing dangerously any further that will not bring security to Israel, the United States, the region, or the world as a whole.

  • 2020-12-01

    The prevailing assumption in the Israeli and international media, and among governments around the world, is that the assassination of the head of Iran’s military nuclear project, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was carried out by Israel. If so, the costs and benefits of the assassination from Israel’s vantage point should be examined and weighed. To this end, certain questions must be answered: What was the strategic purpose of this action, and what is the likelihood of its ultimate success? In light of this goal, was the timing of the action correct? And finally, are the potential costs greater or smaller than the expected benefit? This article concludes that in the case of the killing of Fakhrizadeh, it is doubtful that the benefits outweigh the costs, and unclear that the assassination will substantially serve the goal of damaging and delaying the Iranian nuclear program.

  • 2020-12-01

    In the weeks remaining before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Donald Trump is taking actions — including aiding and abetting murder — to prevent his successor from pursuing diplomacy with Iran.

  • 2020-12-01

    Many major powers around the world and in the Middle East denounced the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian nuclear scientist on November 27. Five of the six world powers that brokered the 2015 nuclear deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – rebuked the murder and urged an immediate de-escalation of tensions to avoid a regional conflict. The United States, the sixth and most important negotiator, had no comment; Trump pulled out of the deal in 2015. On December 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Israel is a key partner, and not a problem” when it comes to countering Iran. But he did not elaborate. A senior U.S. administration official told CNN that Israel was behind the assassination. 

  • 2020-12-01

    We now read that the Fakhrizadeh murder may have fatally sabotaged President-elect Biden’s plans to restore the U.S. to the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs, which President Donald Trump abandoned a year into his term. How does that work?  If Biden and his new advisers — Antony Blinken at State, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser — are serious about diplomacy with Tehran, now is the time to go full-tilt for it, wouldn’t you say? Gentlemen, mount those white horses. In the same piece presenting the weird argument about the damage just inflicted on Biden’s diplomatic aspirations, Sullivan is quoted as saying the U.S. will return to the accord “if Iran returns to compliance, for its obligations that it has been violating, and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements.” The “follow-on agreements” seem to be those Trump and Pompeo have insisted upon — no missile-defense systems, no efforts to secure its neighborhood, the latter mischaracterized as “acts of terror.” Let me get this straight: We’re here to correct the Trump regime’s mistakes, and we propose to do so by embracing them?  These people are simply not serious. My tentative conclusion: Biden, Blinken and Sullivan cannot see their way to recommitting to the 2015 agreement because Biden is inexcusably close to Israel and Israel has stated its opposition to this in the clearest of terms. For the time being, it looks as if they will take cover in the Fakhrizadeh murder as they slither out the side door on Iran: Golly, we wanted to talk to Tehran but events have foiled us. Shall we mark this down as Foreign Policy Failure No. 1 for our “responsible American leadership?” We will have to keep track as the numbers rise.

  • 2020-12-01

    The Iranian media expressed outraged at the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading nuclear scientist. Newspapers from across the political spectrum – reformist, centrist, conservative and hardline – published front-page photos of his bullet-riddled car and funeral casket.    

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