Iranian President Hassan Rohani has accused Israel of being responsible for the murder of a high-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist. In a statement on his official news portal, he calls Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s death an “act of terrorism” carried out by Israel. The president also said Iran would “in due course” retaliate for his death. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called on those responsible on Saturday to “punish” those responsible.
“Once again, the ruthless hands of global arrogance, with the usurping Zionite regime as a mercenary, are smeared with the blood of a son of this nation,” the Iranian president said in his statement on Saturday. By ‘global arrogance,’ Iran generally refers to the US. The death of the nuclear physicist will not slow Iran’s scientific progress, Rohani says.
On Friday, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had spoken of “serious indications of an Israeli role” in the death of the nuclear physicist. The Iranian army had already vowed to retaliate.
Khamenei advocated “punishing the perpetrators and those responsible for this crime (…) and to continue the scientific and technical endeavors of this martyr in all the fields where he worked,” a statement posted on his official website said.
Fakhrizadeh was responsible for research and innovation at the Iranian Ministry of Defense. He was also a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He was widely believed to have played an important role in Iran’s nuclear program.
The ayatollah called him a “distinguished nuclear and defense scientist” who was “a martyr at the hands of cruel and criminal mercenaries.” “This unsurpassed scientist gave his precious life to God for his great and enduring scientific endeavors.”
According to Ali-Akbar Salehi, the head of the Iranian nuclear energy organization, Fakhrizadeh’s death will not stop or affect Iran’s nuclear program. “Thousands of others will grow for that one torn flower,” said Iranian Communications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi.
Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard launched an investigation into those responsible for the death of the nuclear physicist. Fakhrizadeh’s car was attacked and shot at with a bomb car in a suburb of Tehran’s capital. The nuclear physicist succumbed to his injuries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment, as did officials at the US Pentagon. The US intelligence agency CIA also did not respond to inquiries whether the US was aware of any plans to carry out a murder. The New York Times reported that some US officials have confirmed that Israel is behind the assassination attempt.
The murder comes two months before Democrat Joe Biden becomes president of the US. He has said he wants to work towards a resolution of conflicts with Iran through diplomacy. President Trump has repeatedly sought confrontation with, among other things, new sanctions.
In 2018, he pulled his country out of an international agreement that allowed Iran and a range of powers to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear projects. This was to get the Iranian economy stuck due to international isolation back on track.