Iran's top diplomat says there are 'serious indications' Israel was involved in the reported assassination of a top nuclear scientist near Tehran

John Haltiwanger
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
Russia's FM Lavrov meets with Iran's FM Zarif in Moscow Reuters
  • Iran's top diplomat, Javad Zarif, on Friday suggested Israel was involved in the reported assassination of a top nuclear scientist. 

  • Iranian media on Friday reported that nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in a small city not far from Iran's capital, Tehran.

  • "Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role —shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators," Zarif tweeted

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Friday said there are "serious indications" of Israeli involvement in the reported assassination of a top nuclear scientist in a shootout not far from the capital, Tehran. 

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role —shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators," Zarif tweeted.

"Iran calls on [international] community — and especially EU — to end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror," the top Iranian diplomat added. 

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not offer a comment when contacted by Insider. 

Iranian media on Friday reported that nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in Absard, located roughly 40 miles to the east of Tehran. Fakhrizadeh, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer, was widely considered to be the father of Iran's nuclear program. 

The reported assassination also came less than two weeks after the New York Times reported President Donald Trump has consulted senior advisors about the possibility of conducting a strike on Iran's main nuclear facility. A number of top advisors reportedly urged Trump against pursuing such a strike, warning it could catalyze a broader conflict with his time in the White House waning. 

Tensions between the Washington and Tehran have reached historic heights under Trump, with relations declining precipitously ever since the president made the controversial decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The US and Iran were also pushed to the brink of war in the early days of 2020 after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Qassem Solemani, the country's top general. 

Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader, in a tweet on Friday made an apparent reference to Trump while issuing a warning to those responsible for Fakhrizadeh's reported assassination. 

"In the last days of their gambling ally's political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war," Dehghan said. "We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!"

Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Insider there "are ample reasons to suspect US involvement" in the reported assassination. Fitzpatrick cited Trump's desire to strike Iran and the recent report of the president's request for military options, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent meetings in Israel. 

Fitzpatrick also said that "the assassination is consistent with Trump's efforts to prevent his successor from restoring the JCPOA."

The White House did not offer a comment when contacted by Insider. 

No group or government has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack.

Iran has accused Israel of involvement in previous killings of scientists. Israel was also suspected of being behind an act of sabotage on Iran's main nuclear facility in July. And back in August an Israeli hit squad took out an Al Qaeda leader in Tehran.

Henry Rome, a senior analyst for the Eurasia Group, in a statement said "the most plausible explanation" at the moment is that Israel is responsible for Fakhrizadeh's killing. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once singled out Fakhrizadeh during a 2018 press conference. "Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh," the Israeli prime minister said at the time.

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