A senior Iranian security official on Monday accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to remotely kill a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, made the comment during the funeral of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, where the Iranian defense minister separately vowed to continue the man’s work “with more speed and more. to be able to”.
Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has repeatedly declined to comment on the attack.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program, which Israel and the West said was a military operation examining the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the “structured program” ended in 2003. US intelligence agencies endorsed this assessment in a 2007 report.
Israel insists Iran still maintains the ambition to develop nuclear weapons, highlighting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Shamkhani’s remarks dramatically change the story of Fakhrizadeh’s murder, which took place on Friday. Authorities first said that a truck exploded, and then gunmen opened fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. State television even interviewed a man on the night of the attack who said he saw gunmen open fire.
The English-language channel Press TV reported earlier Monday that a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” State television’s Arabic-language channel Al-Alam claimed the weapons used were “controlled by satellite,” a statement also made on Sunday by the semi-official Fars news agency.
None of the media immediately provided any evidence to support their claims, which also gives authorities a way to explain why no one was arrested at the scene.
“Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated operation and was carried out using electronic devices,” Shamkhani told state television. “No individual was present on the site. ”
Satellite gun control is nothing new. Long-range armed drones, for example, depend on satellite connections to be controlled by their pilots remotely. Remote controlled gun turrets also exist, but usually have their operator connected by a hard line to reduce the delay in relayed commands. Israel uses such hard-wired systems along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
While technically feasible, it was not immediately clear whether such a system had been used before, said Jeremy Binnie, editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly in the Middle East.
“Could you set up a weapon with a camera that then has a feed that uses an open satellite communication line to the controller?” Binnie said. “I don’t see why this is not possible.”
It also raised the question of whether the truck that exploded during the attack subsequently exploded in an attempt to destroy a satellite-controlled machine gun that was hidden inside the vehicle. Iranian officials did not immediately recognize him. Someone in the field would also need to set up the weapon.
Shamkhani also blamed the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq for “playing a role in this”, without giving further details. The PMOI, as the exiled group is known, has been suspected of aiding Israeli operations in Iran in the past. The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Monday’s service for Fakhrizadeh took place in an outside part of the Iranian Defense Ministry in Tehran, with officials including the head of the Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, the head of the Quds Force of the Guard, the General Esmail Ghaani, the head of the civilian nuclear program Ali Akbar Sahei and the Minister of Intelligence Mamoud Alavi. They sat separated from each other and wore masks due to the coronavirus pandemic as reciters melodically read parts of the Quran and religious texts.
Defense Minister General Amir Hatami delivered a speech after kissing Fakhrizadeh’s coffin and laying his forehead. He said the assassination of Fakhrizadeh would make the Iranians “more united, more determined”.
“To continue on your way, we will continue with more speed and more power,” Hatami said in comments broadcast live by State TV.
Hatami also criticized countries that did not condemn Fakhrizadeh’s murder and warned: “It will catch up with you someday. ”
Overnight, the United Arab Emirates, which has just concluded a normalization agreement with Israel, issued a statement condemning “this heinous assassination.” The United Arab Emirates, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have warned that the killing “could further fuel conflict in the region.”
Last year, the UAE found itself in the midst of a growing spate of incidents between Iran and the United States. Although it has long been suspicious of Iran’s nuclear program, the UAE has said it wants to defuse the crisis. The UAE has just started passenger air service to Israel and Israelis are expected to vacation in the country over Hanukkah in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Alon Ushpiz sent a cable to all Israeli diplomatic delegations around the world, urging diplomats to maintain “the highest level of preparedness and awareness for any irregular activity. Around Jewish community centers and missions.
Hebrew-language media in Israel reported that following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, the Foreign Ministry ordered increased security at some Israeli diplomatic missions abroad. The ministry declined to comment on diplomatic security issues.
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