The Mean Streets of Tehran
Last week's assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist was hardly the first
It’s dangerous being a nuclear scientist. Especially in the Middle East.
Over the weekend, news outlets reported Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated in the town of Absard, about an hour’s drive away from Tehran.
Accounts of Friday’s ambush vary, with some sources claiming Fakhrizadeh was killed while riding in his car by gunmen armed with automatic weapons while others claim the culprit was a pickup truck armed with a remotely-controlled machine gun turret. It is perhaps more likely Fakhrizadeh was killed in a complex ambush involving explosives and automatic weapons fire.
Iran has accused both the Israeli Mossad as well as the People’s Muhajadeen of Iran (MEK) of perpetrating the attack, the latter of which has been categorized as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department but which has found surprising allies among Iran hawks within the US in recent years. One US official also said Israel was behind the attack.
Fakhrizadeh is hardly the first Iranian nuclear scientist to die under mysterious circumstances. Between 2010 and 2012, four nuclear scientists were killed in Tehran either by gunmen or remote-controlled bombs. And of course, those killings came on the heels of a covert action campaign involving computer viruses and stealth drones as the US was ratcheting up pressure on Iran in the runup to the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015.
Expect the assassinations and sabotage to continue. In September, a senior al-Qaeda figure involved in the 1998 US Embassy attacks was allegedly killed in Tehran by Israeli operatives at the behest of the US. Add to that the recent killing of a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in a drone strike along the Iraq/Syria border earlier this week.
At this rate, 2020 may end just as it started.