In a major development in the Iranian nuclear file, the chief Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated near the capital Tehran, according to the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
Fakhri Zadeh passed away in hospital after being attacked in Damavand district. According to Iranian media reports, attackers shot his car.
Fakhrizadeh is considered by Western intelligence agencies to be responsible for a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran. It is reported that diplomats described him as “the father of the Iranian nuclear bomb.”
Iran vowed severe revenge for the assassination of the chief Iranian atomic scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and accused Israel.
It is believed that the assassination may have gained American support, as it is known that President Trump had considered attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities earlier this month.
Who is Mohsen Fakhryzadeh?
Fakhri Zadeh was born in 1958 in the Iranian city of Qom, and joined the Revolutionary Guard after the overthrow of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, and it is said that he maintained a high rank in the Revolutionary Guard even as he became a scholar.
He has worked as a lecturer in physics at Imam Hussein University in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
He was considered the most famous Iranian nuclear scientist, but he made sure to keep out of the limelight.
Western security sources have long talked about him as having great influence and a major role in Iran’s nuclear program.
A landmark UN International Atomic Energy Agency report in 2011 identified Fakhrizadeh as a central figure in Iran’s covert program to develop the technology and skills needed to build atomic bombs.
The report indicated that at that time he may still have played a role in such activity.
Agency inspectors have repeatedly invited him to talk about his role, which he has been avoiding.
United Nations records show that he was among 8 Iranians who were subject to travel and international financial restrictions under a UN resolution adopted in 2007 due to its links to “nuclear or ballistic weapons” research.
According to classified documents Israel obtained in 2018, Fakhrizadeh oversaw a program to produce nuclear weapons.
The Israeli prime minister said at the time that Fakhrizadeh was the chief scientist for the program, and urged people to “remember this name.”
In 2018, Netanyahu revealed what he described as Iran’s secret nuclear archive.
In 2015, the New York Times compared him to the physicist who directed the Manhattan Project, Robert Oppenheimer, who during World War II produced the first atomic weapons.
Fakhrizadeh is said to have led the so-called secret “Amad” project, which was established in 1989 to research the possibility of building a nuclear bomb.
It was suspended in 2003, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, although Netanyahu said that documents obtained in 2018 showed that Fakhri Zadeh continued working secretly on the “AMAD” project.
Opinions differed on the extent of the impact of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination on the Iranian nuclear program.
“It is possible that Fakhri Zada knew about Iran’s nuclear program more than any living person, and the loss of his leadership, knowledge and institutional memory is undoubtedly a blow to the Islamic Republic,” says Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment.
On the other hand, says Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Many of the participants in the program can design a nuclear warhead now if necessary, so Iran may now have a greater impulse to arm.”
Sanctions and agreement
It is reported that suspicions that Iran was using the program as a cover to develop a nuclear bomb prompted the European Union, the United States and the United Nations to impose very harsh sanctions on Tehran in 2010.
The 2015 deal, reached by Iran with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany, imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
But US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement. And earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran now has 12 times the amount of enriched uranium it is allowed to possess under the deal.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh came at a time of escalating tension between the United States and Iran and reached its peak in January with the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, by Washington.