Officials on Friday confirmed Iranian allegations that Israel was behind the killing of the Islamic republic’s top nuclear scientist, according to a report.
An unidentified American official and two unidentified intelligence officials told the New York Times that Israel was responsible for the slaying of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during an ambush near the capital of Tehran.
It’s unclear whether the US knew about the attack ahead of time, but American and Israeli officials have long shared intelligence about Iran, the Times said.
Meanwhile, a former high-ranking CIA official told the Washington Post that Fakhrizadeh’s slaying appeared to be linked to President Trump’s electoral loss to President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on the condition that “Iran returns to strict compliance.”
“The operation reflects thinking of those in the [Israeli] government – and/or the Trump administration – who see these next few weeks as their last chance to make relations with Iran as bad as possible, in an effort to spoil the Biden administration’s efforts to return to diplomacy with Tehran,” said Paul Pillar, now a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.
Trump pulled out of the Iran deal — — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018 and has since pursued a policy of “maximum pressure” to try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Both the US and Israel have declined to comment on Fakhrizadeh’s killing, although Trump re-tweeted comments by veteran Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, who called it “a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”