Will the assassination of a nuclear expert become the fuse for the escalation of the conflict between the United States and Iran?
According to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, Iran held a funeral ceremony for the previously assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist Muhsin Fakrizad in three cities of Mashhad, Qom and Tehran. The funeral ceremony will be held on the 30th of this month.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei and Iranian President Rouhani expressed their respective positions on the 28th on the attack on the death of an Iranian nuclear physicist the day before. Khamenei said that the perpetrators of terrorist crimes should be punished. Although no organization or individual has announced the attack, Iran believes that the attack was planned by Israel and accused the presence of the United States behind the scenes.
Will Iran retaliate?
Khamenei issued a statement on the 28th that the first priority of the Iraqi side is to “clearly punish” the murderer and the people who ordered the killing of Muhsin Fahrizad. Rouhani also expressed condolences on the same day for Fahrizad, who was killed in the attack, and said that terrorist acts would not hinder Iranian scientists from continuing their efforts.
Majid Takht-Ravanhi, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations, wrote to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the current President of the Security Council on the 27th, saying that there were “clear signs of Israel’s responsibility” behind the assassination. He pointed out that in the past decade, many top Iranian scientists have been assassinated.
Analysts pointed out that Iran vowed to avenge Fahrizad, and if the retaliation resulted in the death of American personnel, the possibility of a military conflict between the United States and Iran would be significantly increased. However, Iran does not want to get involved in the war.
Liu Lanyu, a visiting scholar at Tehran University and an expert on Iran at Tsinghua University, believes that the assassination of key Iranian figures by external forces is a provocation or temptation, intending to stimulate the Iranian side to make “excessive revenge” and thus create excuses for military operations against Iran. However, in the current sensitive period of domestic power transfer in the United States, Iran may minimize the risk of triggering direct conflict.
“Assassination” of the Iran Nuclear Agreement?
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former official in charge of nuclear non-proliferation affairs of the U.S. State Department, said that Iran’s nuclear program has long passed the stage of relying on individual scientists. The assassination is not intended to undermine Iran’s “war potential”, but to undermine diplomatic channels to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue.
The diplomatic team of U.S. President-elect Biden has made it clear that the new government will return to the track of the Iran nuclear agreement. Biden’s recently announced Secretary of State and the presidential assistant to national security affairs, Anthony Blinkincoln and Jack Sullivan, who have participated in the negotiations of the Iran nuclear agreement and are strong supporters of the agreement. Sullivan previously said that returning to the Iran nuclear agreement would be a priority in the diplomatic field of the new U.S. government.
Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the United States, believes that the purpose of the assassination of Fahrizad is to “assassassination” the Iran nuclear agreement before the Biden administration takes office.
Liu Lanyu believes that the Iran nuclear agreement belongs to a political achievement of Biden’s vice president under the Obama administration. Between January, when Biden officially takes office next year and June of Iran’s next presidential election, there may be a better negotiation window between the United States and Iran, but the internal and external situation they face are still many variables.