Iran has vowed revenge after one of its top nuclear scientists was assassinated on a highway near Tehran, continuing the current trend of escalation in the Middle East.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was ambushed in the town of Absard, 44 miles east of Tehran. He sustained heavy injuries from explosives and machine gun fire, and efforts to resuscitate him failed. His bodyguard and family members were also wounded in the attack.
At the time of writing nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif it was likely the work of Israeli operatives, and Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed retaliation. “We will strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr and will make them regret their action,” he tweeted.
The killing was seen inside Iran as being on the same level as the assassination by US forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January.
Israel stands accused that it is using the final weeks of the Trump administration to try to provoke Iran in the hope of killing off any hope of reconciliation between Tehran and the incoming Biden administration.
Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli Defence Force intelligence, said: “With the window of time left for Trump, such a move could lead Iran to a violent response, which would provide a pretext for a US-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.”
Fakhrizadeh’s death was confirmed in a statement by the Iranian ministry of defence. “During the clash between his security team and the terrorists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was seriously injured and taken to hospital,” it said. “Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist, after years of effort and struggle, achieved a high degree of martyrdom.”