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Explained: Who was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist who was assassinated?

According to media reports, Hossein Dehghan, who is the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed to avenge Fakhrizadeh’s death.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 5, 2020 3:45:05 pm
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Who was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iranian scientist killing, Donald Trump, Iran news, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassination explained, Explained Global, world newsMohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist that Israel alleged led the Islamic Republic's military nuclear program until its disbanding in the early 2000s was killed in a targeted attack that saw gunmen use explosives and machine gun fire Friday. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Iran’s senior-most nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near Tehran on Friday. Fakhrizadeh was the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the Ministry of Defense.

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif posted on Twitter after Fakhrizadeh was killed, “Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators. Iran calls on int’l community—and especially EU—to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”

According to media reports, Hossein Dehghan, who is the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed to avenge Fakhrizadeh’s death.

How was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassinated?

As per Iran’s FARS news agency, Fakhrizadeh’s car was targeted by an explosion and machine gun in Absard, which is located about 40 km east of Tehran. As per the agency, about three to four individuals were killed in the attack and they were “most likely all terrorists”.

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A statement released by Iran’s Defence Ministry said that in the shootout between Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards and the terrorists, the scientist was seriously wounded and taken to hospital.

Also in Explained: Assassination in Iran could limit Joe Biden’s options. Was that the goal?

Who was Mohsen Fakhrizadeh?

One of the most prominent scientists of Iran, Fakhrizadeh was also a member of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and has been compared by The New York Times to J Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist who was the director of the Los Alamos laboratory during the development of the world’s first atomic weapons. According to the BBC, he was a “key player” – something that Israel has alleged in the past – especially since Iran started breaching its nuclear deal commitments.

Earlier this year, Iran said it would abandon limitations on enriching uranium, thereby refusing to adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal that it signed with six major powers.

In a letter addressed to the UN, Iran’s UN ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said that Fakhrizadeh, who was one of the most prominent Iranian scientists, was most recently involved in the development of the first indigenous COVID-19 testing kit and called his assassination a “cowardly” act.

He added that there are “serious indications” of Israeli involvement in what he mentioned was “another desperate attempt to wreak havoc on our region as well as disrupt Iran’s scientific and technological development”. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

Also Read | Iran tells UN ‘serious indications’ of Israeli responsibility in scientist’s death

What are the implications of his killing?

As per a report in The New York Times, the killing of Fakhrizadeh could “complicate” the effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which Biden has pledged to do. Significantly, ties between the US and Iran – which first became acrimonious during the 1979 Iranian revolution – have continued to worsen since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran.

Therefore, his assassination could also be an attempt to slow down Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In January last year, a US strike killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander. Because of Soleimani’s influence, observers equated his killing to that of a US vice president.

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