Nobody knows exactly how important the nuclear researcher Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in an attack, was for Iran. “Those who really understand its exact everyday role in Iran’s nuclear activities do not speak,” wrote expert Karim Sadjadpour of the US Institute Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Twitter. “And those who talk don’t know.”
Iran apparently knew that the man who Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once described as the father of the Iranian nuclear program was a target. “We knew that he had been threatened with assassination on several occasions and that he was being followed,” said Defense Minister Amir Hatami.
According to official information, the 59-year-old nuclear scientist, who was killed on Friday in a targeted – and apparently technically highly sophisticated – attack near Tehran was head of the research and innovation department of the Iranian Defense Ministry. According to Hatami, the researcher was the most senior official who “directed nuclear defense.” He played “an important role in innovation in the defense sector”.
In Israel, the archenemy of Tehran, and the USA, a slightly different picture is drawn of the scientist with glasses: US media describe him as “the number one target” of the Israeli secret service Mossad and as the “head of the Iranian nuclear program”, whose existence is Tehran vehemently denies. For Iran, Israel, the United States and the opposition movement in exile of the People’s Mujahideen are behind the attack.
Pictures published after Fakhrizadeh’s death show him in 2019 meeting the supreme spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – an indication of his possible position in the Iranian power structure. Carnegie expert Sadjadpour went on to say that it will “probably take months, if not years, to see the full consequences of his death.”
Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suspected Fakhrizadeh of leading “activities in support of a possible military dimension of the nuclear program” since the early 2000s, which, according to the UN organization, had started in the late 1980s. In March 2007, Fakhrizadeh was sanctioned by the UN Security Council along with other “persons involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities” for Iran. In Security Council Resolution 1747, he was named “Senior Scientist” in the Department of Defense and “Former Head of the Physics Research Center”. Iran refused to question the researcher by the IAEA / IAEA.
The sanctions against Fakhrizadeh were lifted as part of the international nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015. However, under US President Trump, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Since then, Washington has imposed numerous new sanctions on Tehran – including Fakhrizadeh. For its part, Iran gradually withdrew from the treaty.
According to Iran’s Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who also heads Iran’s Atomic Organization (AEOI), Fakhrizadeh received his PhD in “Atomic Physics and Technology” and did his PhD with Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, a former AEOI director who himself survived a 2010 assassination attempt. Abbasi-Davani called the killed scientist a “close friend” with whom he shared “34 years of close professional collaboration”. Both fought side by side on the front lines during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988.
Speaking to the state media, Abbasi-Davani said that Fakhrizadeh had “worked in all areas to support the country’s nuclear activities,” particularly uranium enrichment. He described him as “a capable manager and respected scientist who can be raised to the same rank as the martyr Soleimani in the field of science and technology”. The Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone attack in Iraq in January. The killing put both countries on the verge of war. (apa, afp)