Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was regarded as Iran’s leading nuclear scientist as far as Western security and intelligence agencies were concerned. He was martyred on 27 November. At the time of writing, no government has claimed responsibility for his murder, but if any one does, it will be an international crime which is, in effect, a declaration of war on Iran and its allies.
“Coincidentally”, outgoing US President Donald Trump has upped America’s aggressive stance against Tehran. As if the US Fifth Fleet stationed in Bahrain was not enough, with its threat to the Strait of Hormuz which could lead to another oil crisis, the American empire made known the presence in the region of B52 bomber aircraft escorted by at least six fighter jets.
In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told journalists in Tel Aviv, “Remember this name” as he showed a photograph of Fakhrizadeh. It was, perhaps, the only record of the scientist. After his murder, further information about him began to emerge.
Fakhrizadeh was born in 1958 in the Shia holy city of Qom. He was the Deputy Minister of Defence and a Brigadier General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. His doctorate in nuclear engineering was from Iran’s Imam Hussein University, where he also taught. Moreover, he was not the first Iranian victim of such terrorism.
Another university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was also murdered in a terrorist bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010. In the same year, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani, who went on to become the director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, and his colleague Majid Shahriari were also attacked. Davani survived, but Shahriari was martyred. In July 2011, Dariush Rezaeinejad was also murdered, as were Professor Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan and his driver in January 2012. All were involved in Iran’s nuclear programme in one way or another.
The modus operandi of all of these killings was similar, although the latest was more sophisticated. It is believed that more than 60 people were directly involved. In addition to a car bomb, the shots that killed Fakhrizadeh were reportedly fired from a remote-controlled machine gun
The list of Arab physicists, engineers and chemists who have been killed under the most suspicious circumstances is long. For example, Tunisian aerospace engineer Mohammed Al-Zawari was assassinated by Mossad in December 2016, in Sfaz, Tunisia. In April 2018, Palestinian engineer Fadi Al-Batsh was murdered in Malaysia, also by the Israelis. A few months later, in August 2018, Syrian engineer and physicist Aziz Asbar was murdered; even the New York Times placed the responsibility on Israel.
Mossad has an ignominious track record in this respect, killing Samir Naguib (Egyptian, 1967), Yahya Al-Mashad (Egyptian, 1980), Rammal Hassan Rammal (Lebanese, 1991), Gamal Hemdan (Egyptian, 1993) and Ibrahim Al-Dhaheri (Iraqi, 2004).Another crime said to have been committed by Israel in conjunction with the US is the assassination of Brazilian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel José Alberto Albano do Amarante, in August 1981. Amarante was an engineer trained by the Air Force Technological Institute and responsible for the development of Brazil’s nuclear programme, at the time in partnership with Iraq. The killing was even more sophisticated, with him being poisoned and eventually dying from leukaemia as a result.
Although the then Brazilian military dictatorship identified Mossad agent Samuel Gilliad as the person responsible, he managed “mysteriously” to flee the country. By another strange “coincidence”, Amarante lived in the state of São Paulo, which was governed at the time by Paulo Salim Maluf, a Brazilian of Lebanese origin and known for supporting the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon’s civil war.
In theory, Israel’s concern is that potential opponents might develop nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles to carry them. The prerogative of having weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East is Israel’s alone, with the cynical complicity of Western powers. As is well known, in October 1973, the then Prime Minister Golda Meir threatened a devastating nuclear attack against Cairo and Damascus. Although never acknowledged openly, it is well-known that the occupation state has nuclear weapons.
Indeed, it is one of nine countries in the world with nuclear arsenals: USA, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. I don’t remember any of the original five nuclear powers ever suggesting that Israel should disarm and get rid of its nuclear weapons, said by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell to be around 200 missiles. Other estimates from the US put 300 missiles (including submarine launchers) at Israel’s disposal.
According to Noam Chomsky, the global powers divide ideas into those which are “thinkable” and those which aren’t. For reasons of imperialist interests apartheid Israel can do and say whatever it wants — and have nuclear weapons — as long as it maintains its alliance with the US, especially the hard core of the oligarchy in Washington and the industrial-technological-military complex. For strategic reasons, Israel must always have the upper hand in the Middle East in terms of military capabilities, reflecting the cynicism of the international criminals holding sway over global affairs.
Such an arrangement is not permitted in the rest of the region, even for America’s allies in the Arab world. The Arab and Islamic regimes which show solidarity with the Palestinian cause know that they have even less leeway in such matters and, in the wake of Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s martyrdom will have to make greater effort to protect their top scientists. The conflict is asymmetric but the struggle for freedom for the Palestinians must continue.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.