Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated

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Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is seen in Iran, in this undated photo.WANA | via Reuters

WASHINGTON – A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, nicknamed the ‘father of the Iranian bomb’, died of his injuries after gun assassins shot at his car, according to Iranian media reports that have not been independently confirmed by NBC News .

State media shared photos of a black Nissan sedan with multiple bullet holes through the windshield and bloodbath on the road next to the car door. No group immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack.

A view shows the scene of the attack that killed prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran, Iran on November 27, 2020.

WANA via Reuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the murder on Twitter and alleged “serious indications” of Israeli involvement.

Fakhrizadeh’s death comes just days before the tenth anniversary of the murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, which Iran has also blamed on Israel.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The Pentagon declined to comment. The State Department and National Security Council did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. President Donald Trump, however, retweeted a news article and commentary on Fakhrizadeh’s death.

Little is known about Fakhrizadeh, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, long regarded as Iran’s foremost nuclear scientist overseeing the regime’s secret weapons programs.

In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu accused Iran of continuing to develop nuclear weapons and said Fakhrizadeh was working within the Iranian Defense Ministry on “special projects”.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Fakhrizadeh’s death is expected to worsen tensions between Iran and the United States, which exploded under the Trump administration after Washington’s exit from the historic nuclear deal with Iran.

The standoff with Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, January 10, 2019.

Agence Anadolu | Agence Anadolu | Getty Images

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA agreement, brokered by the Obama administration, lifted sanctions against Iran, which had crippled its economy and roughly halved its oil exports. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran has agreed to limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.

In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the JCPOA. Trump called the JCPOA “the worst deal ever.”

Trump has previously said he wants to strike a broader deal with Iran that places tighter limits on its work on nuclear and ballistic missiles and removes the regime’s role in regional proxy wars. Tehran has refused to negotiate as long as US sanctions remain in place.

After Washington exited the nuclear deal, other signatories to the pact – France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China – attempted to keep the deal in place.

In October, the United States unilaterally reimposed UN sanctions on Tehran through a recovery process, which other members of the UN Security Council had previously said Washington did not the power to execute because he pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018.

The relationship between the United States and Iran took a different turn for the worse last summer following a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf.

In June, US officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a US military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the plane was flying over its territory.

The strike came a week after the United States accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.

In June, the United States imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders accused of downing the drone. The measures were also aimed at blocking the financial resources of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Tensions exploded again in September when the United States accused Iran of striking in Saudi Arabia against the world’s largest crude processing plant and oil field.

The attack forced the kingdom to halve its production operations and sparked the biggest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed fears of a new conflict in the Middle East. Iran maintains it was not behind the attacks.

Earlier this year, the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander.

Iranian mourners gather in the final stage of the funeral processions for slain General Qasem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman on January 7, 2020.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

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