John Brennan, CIA Director between 2013 and 2017, took to Twitter Friday to condemn the reported assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, labeling it as “criminal”, “highly reckless”, adding that if it were found to be a “state-sponsored attack,” it would be a “flagrant violation of international law.”
According to Iranian news reports, Fakhrizadeh was targeted by unknown assailants on Friday as he was travelling approximately 50 miles outside of Tehran. While initially reported as an instance of attempted assassination, it was later confirmed that the attack was fatal after the medical team failed to revive him.
Fakhrizadeh was a former officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a physics professor who was widely seen outside Iran as the architect of the country’s nuclear weapons programme. For the past decade, American and Israeli intelligence have hinted at the extent of Fakhrizadeh’s involvement within the programme. As recently as early November, the UN reported?that Iran’s nuclear weapons stockpile was 12 times more than the quantity agreed upon in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
While no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the killing yet, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed there are strong indications of Israeli involvement,?and the president and the supreme leader have promised to retaliate.?Israel has yet to comment.
The killing follows reports of US President Donald Trump consulting senior advisors on initiating a strike against Iran’s major nuclear weapons facilities. It is reported that the president was strongly advised against doing so as US-Iran relations have remained hostile since a US drone strike killed a top Iranian military general last year. While the White House has declined to formally comment on the killing, Robert Malley, who was an Iran advisor under the Obama administration, has claimed that it was a part of the Trump administration’s final efforts to complicate the incoming president’s ability to re-engage in conversation with Iran.