Fakhrizadeh Killing Not Possible Without Help From U.S.—Iran Official

A top Iranian official has claimed that the assassination of leading nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh—which Iran has blamed on Israel—would not have been possible without the help of American or other foreign spy agencies, as Tehran continues to vow revenge for the killing.

Fakhrizadeh was killed last month on a country road close to Tehran. Known as the father of the Iran nuclear program, his assassination marked a serious escalation in U.S.-Israeli efforts to slow Tehran's nuclear project and undermine incoming President-Elect Joe Biden's expected effort to re-open dialogue with the regime.

Israel has refused to confirm or deny involvement in the assassination, per longstanding policy. President Donald Trump's administration has refused to comment on the killing, prompting speculation it may have known about the planned operation or even given it the green light.

Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a senior foreign advisor to the speaker of the Iranian parliament, told the Al-Alam news network Wednesday it was "impossible" for Israel to have carried out the killing without support from Washington, D.C. or elsewhere, citing its high level of sophistication.

"With regard to architects and elements of the terror there are different pieces of evidence that the Zionists had a role in this issue," Abdollahian, using common Iranian parlance to refer to Israel, which Tehran still officially refuses to recognize.

"But whether the Zionists alone were able to do this act without cooperation by other services such as those of the U.S. or other services, they definitely were not able to do that," Abdollahian said, according to a translation in Iran's English-language Tehran Times.

Mystery still surrounds Fakhrizadeh's killing, which observers and foreign governments have warned could yet spark in tit-for-tat escalation risking war in the closing weeks of Trump's term.

Iran has claimed it has identified those involved and made arrests, but it is unclear what role those arrested are accused of playing. Initial eyewitness reports said multiple gunmen attacked Fakhrizadeh's car after setting off a roadside bomb, sparking a shootout with his bodyguards.

But in recent days, Iranian officials have claimed that a satellite-controlled machine gun was used in the assassination. One official this week claimed the weapon used belonged to NATO, though presented no evidence to support the assertion.

Whatever the details of the killing, it harks back to the years before the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal when Iranian nuclear scientists were regularly assassinated, allegedly by Israel with American backing.

"They are always monitoring our scientists and try to make use of every opportunity and intelligence gap to deal a blow to the unique area of science and technology in Iran," Abdollahian told Al-Alam.

According to The New York Times, the assassinated has prompted an internal regime blame game as to how such a prominent and obvious target—Fakhrizadeh had been name checked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past—could be killed in such a public way.

Abdollahian said the assassins had exploited "a security loophole" with a "complicated plot." Blaming Israel, Abdollahian branded Netanyahu a "coward" and criticized the Israelis for failing to admit responsibility.

Iranian leaders have vowed revenge against those deemed responsible. This prompted Israel's counter-terrorism agency to issue a warning that Iran may target Israeli interests or civilians across the Middle East.

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad—often targeted by Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq—has also reportedly withdrawn staff temporarily amid the fresh tensions, plus ahead of the first anniversary of the American assassination of top Iranian commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.

"The commanders of this terror have been identified for the Islamic Republic of Iran and they will surely get a crushing response," Abdollahian said. "In the not-too-distant future you will witness a decisive response to commanders of this terror by the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added, describing the coming response as "multi-layer."

Iran Mohsen Fakhrizadeh assassination grave burial Israel
Iranian mourners attend the burial ceremony of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in northern Tehran, on November 30. HAMED MALEKPOUR/TASNIM NEWS/AFP via Getty Images/Getty