Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior Iranian physicist and rocket scientist, was killed in a brazen daylight ambush attack on his convoy on 27 November while traveling along a rural road about 175 km east of Tehran. Iran almost immediately blamed Israel for the assassination. Tel Aviv has not made any formal statements on the matter.
Israel’s assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was aimed at destablizing the region and provoking war in the final days of the “ill-fated Trump presidency,” President Hassan Rouhani said Monday at a press conference in Tehran.
Emphasizing that “the region’s stability” was of great importance to Iran, Rouhani warned that Tehran nonetheless reserves the right to retaliate for the assassination, and would do so at the time and place of its choosing.
Iran’s Ballistic Missile Programme Non-Negotiable
Rouhani also commented on the potential for a Biden administration to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal scrapped by Donald Trump, saying the agreement was not “open to renegotiation,” and that Biden was “well aware of” that fact because he was aware of the negotiations in 2015. According to the president, the only option left for the US is to rejoin, and not to demand any changes related to missiles or regional issues. The former, he said, are “totally out of the question.”
Asked about whether Iran is considering making financial compensation a condition for the JCPOA, Rouhani said that while there was a great deal for the US ‘to pay for’, starting with the 1953 CIA coup d’etat, setting compensation as a precondition would only ensure that sanctions remain in place for several more years. First, he said, the parties to the JCPOA must return to the agreement and lift anti-Iranian sanctions.
Rouhani also commented on Iran’s plans for oil exports in the coming year, saying he’d ordered the oil ministry to prepare to produce 2.8 million barrels of oil per day, with some 2.3 million bpd of that expected to be exported. Iran’s crude exports reached 2.15 million pbd in the aftermath of the JCPOA’s signing in 2015 before dropping to 600,000-700,000 pbd in 2020 amid US sanctions pressure and threats to bring Iranian crude exports down “to zero.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is on course to being officially confirmed as president-elect of the United States, with the Electoral College expected to meet Monday for a formal vote. Trump and his supporters continue to contest the election results, with the Supreme Court recently throwing out a case brought by the state of Texas over alleged vote fraud by Trump’s opponents in multiple battleground states.
Iran has expressed cautious optimism about the prospects of a Biden presidency and a US return to the JCPOA, but also stated repeatedly that the agreement was not open to renegotiation.
Tehran’s relations with Washington sunk to lows unseen since the 1979 Iranian Revolution under President Trump, with the US administration pulling out of the nuclear deal in 2018, sending a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf in May 2019, deploying a spy drone in the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019 (which Iran subsequently shot down), and assassinating Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s most respected generals, in a drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020. Iran responded to the latter by lobbing missiles at two US bases in Iraq, leaving over 100 US troops with traumatic brain injuries. Hostilities were racheted up again in April 2020, when the US Navy threatened to blow Iranian gunboats out of the water in the Persian Gulf after reporting that the small vessels had “harassed” their warships.
Fakhrizadeh’s 27 November killing became the latest escalation of tensions between the US-Israeli alliance and Iran, with senior Iranian officials including Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif almost immediately accusing Tel Aviv over the attack.
Tel Aviv has made no formal comments on the assassination. However, Israeli officials have expressed fears that Iran may ‘retaliate’, warning of possible attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions, ballistic missile strikes or the use of ‘proxies’ in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Two days after Fakhrizadeh was killed, an anonymous Israeli official told the New York Times that Israel should be “thanked” by the world for eliminating the scientist, claiming he was the head of Iran’s (nonexistent) nuclear weapons programme.