Mohsen Fakhrizadeh: Who was the murdered Iranian scientist? | Middle East


Prominent Iranian military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, killed in an attack outside Tehran on Friday, has been widely viewed by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of Iranian underground efforts to develop nuclear weapons.Iran denies that Fakhrizadeh was involved in any such endeavor and that he ever attempted to militarize uranium enrichment for nuclear power.

But he is widely believed to have led what the United Nations atomic watchdog and US intelligence services believe to be a coordinated nuclear weapons program that was halted in 2003.

What do we know about him?

Western officials and experts believe Fakhrizadeh played a central role in past Iranian work to design ways to assemble a nuclear warhead behind the facade of a declared civilian uranium enrichment program.

Iran denies ever having sought to develop a nuclear weapon.

He lived in the shadows under tight security and was never made available to UN nuclear investigators.

Fakhrizadeh rarely – if ever – surfaced in public and few outside of Iran know for sure what he looked like, let alone met him.

He has the rare distinction of being the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear program and whether it aimed to develop a bomb.

The report of the UN non-proliferation watchdog says it is overseeing activities “in support of a possible military dimension [Iran’s] nuclear program ”as part of the so-called AMAD plan.

A 2011 IAEA report described him as the “executive director” of the AMAD plan, a central figure in alleged Iranian work to develop the technology and skills needed for atomic bombs, and suggested that he could still play a role. role in such activities.

Israel has also described the AMAD plan as Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program, and says it has captured much of an Iranian nuclear “archive” detailing its work.

In an April 2018 televised presentation on the archives, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh a leading figure in what he described as covert nuclear weapons work under the guise of a civilian program .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a screen with an image of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a press conference in April 2018 at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv [File: Amir Cohen/Reuters]

Citing the archives as evidence, Netanyahu said Israeli agents recovered numerous documents from a site in Tehran. At the time, Iran said the documents were false.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu said, describing Fakhrizadeh as the head of AMAD.

Netanyahu said that after AMAD was shut down, Fakhrizadeh continued to work at an Iranian Defense Ministry agency on “special projects.”

In 2018, Israeli broadcaster Kan conducted an interview with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he hinted that Fakhrizadeh could be a target.

“I know Fakhrizadeh well. He doesn’t know how well I know him. If I met him on the street, I would probably recognize him, ”he says.

“He doesn’t have immunity, he doesn’t have immunity and I don’t think he will benefit from immunity.”

What does Iran say?

Iran’s defense ministry on Friday identified Fakhrizadeh as head of the ministry’s research and innovation organization. He was also believed to be a senior officer of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The IAEA has long wanted to question Fakhrizadeh as part of a lengthy investigation into whether Iran was carrying out illicit research on nuclear weapons.

Iran acknowledged Fakhrizadeh’s existence several years ago, but said he was an army officer not involved in the nuclear program, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the matter.

The assassination of four Iranian scientists associated with the nuclear program between 2010 and 2012 may have reinforced Tehran’s resolve not to give the IAEA access to Fakhrizadeh – lest it lead to information leaks about him and his location.

Iran has accused its main opponents – the United States and Israel – of causing the killings.

Fakhrizadeh is also believed to have been involved in the development of Iran’s ballistic missiles, and an Iranian source told Reuters he is considered the father of this program.

He was named in a 2007 UN resolution on Iran as someone involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

What do we know about his background?

In May 2011, the exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), released a report containing what it said was a photograph of Fakhrizadeh, with black hair and beard hair.

It was not possible to verify the image independently.

The NCRI said in the report that Fakhrizadeh was born in 1958 in the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom, was deputy defense minister and brigadier general of the Revolutionary Guards, held a doctorate in nuclear engineering and taught at the University. Iranian woman of Imam Hussein.

A senior Iranian source described Fakhrizadeh to Reuters news agency in 2014 as “an asset and an expert” dedicated to Iran’s technological progress and enjoying the full support of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The source added that Fakhrizadeh had three passports and has traveled extensively, including Asia, to get “the latest information” from overseas, but did not give details.


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