US likely involved in assassination of Iranian scientist: Ex-US diplomat
The assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was likely carried out by Israel with the backing of outgoing US President Donald Trump, according to former US diplomats and top experts.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh will also derail any efforts by President-elect Joe Biden to return the US to the Iran nuclear agreement, experts have told the Insider news website.
Biden has pledged to return Washington to the 2015 nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — a pact reached during Barack Obama’s presidency that Trump has opposed.
But the assassination of the Iranian scientist may have disrupted Biden's plans to rejoin the JCPOA.
Fakhrizadeh, who headed the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (known by its acronym SPND), was targeted on Friday in a multi-pronged attack involving at least one explosion and small fire by a number of assailants in Absard city of Damavand County, Tehran Province.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US diplomat and an associate fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told Insider there "are ample reasons to suspect US involvement" in the attack.
"The assassination is consistent with Trump's efforts to prevent his successor from restoring the JCPOA," he said, citing recent reports on the president's request for military options against Iran and a secret meeting between US, Saudi and Israeli regime officials.
Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Atlantic Council, echoed this view in an op-ed for The New York Times.
"Israel and the Trump administration apparently fear that a Biden administration would seek a quick return to the nuclear agreement," Slavin wrote. "Killing Mr. Fakhrizadeh makes that all the more difficult."
Similarly, Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security advisor under the Obama administration, said the assassination was an "outrageous action aimed at undermining diplomacy between an incoming US administration and Iran."
Israel has acknowledged pursuing covert sabotage operations against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program to gather intelligence.
Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, not for weapons.
Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — whose aim is to prevent the spread of nuclear arms and weapons technology — in July 1968 and ratified it in February 1970.