Iran has directly accused Israel of killing nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In his November 27 letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, Iran's Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi has written the following: "The cowardly assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh — with serious indications of Israeli responsibility in it – is another desperate attempt to wreak havoc on our region."
In a special message delivered on Saturday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged a thorough investigation of the attack and a punishment to those responsible. But at least one fact does point to Tel Aviv's possible involvement. A couple of months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Fakhrizadeh as a target of the Israeli security services, who was yet to be caught.
If Israel's involvement is proved, Fakhrizadeh will become the sixth in a row of leading Iranian nuclear scientists to be so brutally dealt with by the Israeli security services. In 2010-2012 alone, five scientists were killed: Shahram Amiri, Masoud Mohammadi, Majid Shahriari in 2010, Dariush Rezaee Nejad in 2011, and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan in 2012. In 2010, another one, Fereydoon Abbasi, was injured but survived.
On Saturday, the Iranian Majlis sent a message to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, recalling a number of murders of Iranian nuclear scientists that have already been committed in the past, including over the leaks of confidential information from the IAEA. The letter emphasizes: "Under the sway of arrogant powers, international organizations violate their obligations by providing terrorists with information about Iranian nuclear scientists, and continue to employ double standards, avoiding to condemn the killing of scientists in the Islamic Republic of Iran."
In response, the UN Secretary General's office called on Tehran to exercise restraint and avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation in the region. The European Union's foreign policy office spoke in similar vein. And that's it.
Even self-possessed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reproached the international community for its double approach. Calling Fakhrizadeh's murder an act of "state-backed terrorism," the Iranian Foreign Minister wrote the following on his Twitter page on Saturday: "Shameful that some refuse to stand against terrorism and hide behind calls for restraint." In fact, bluntly accusing Israel and its American "assistants" of the crime, Javad Zarif stressed: "Terror attack on our scientist was indubitably designed & planned by a terrorist regime and executed by criminal accomplices. Impunity emboldens a terrorist regime with aggression in its DNA." "The international community is duty-bound to counter such measures," he said in another statement the same day.
The Israeli security agencies are known to have experience in eliminating people undesirable or dangerous to Tel Aviv in foreign territories. But It seems a stretch of imagination that in this case, Israel decided to crack down on Fakhrizadeh without Washington's approval or at least consultation. After all, such an inhumane action will certainly force Iran to retaliate and will undoubtedly become a challenge to the new US administration as regards returning to the international nuclear agreement – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if Joseph Biden is announced next US President.
Apparently, the Democrats are really concerned about this. So on Saturday, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, a former rival of Joe Biden in the Democratic primaries, wrote on Twitter that "the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was reckless, provocative, and illegal" and "intended to undermine US-Iranian diplomacy."
But what we have now is no longer only the disruption of the United States' hypothetical return to the JCPOA, but a complete failure of the nuclear agreement.
In response to the crackdown on the nuclear physicist, Majlis deputies approved an accelerated strategic counter-sanction plan, which implies Iran's pivotal shift away from the JCPOA. The lawmakers called on the government to start fully restoring nuclear activities to the level that preceded the 2015 nuclear agreement and to further develop the nuclear program. In particular, the lawmakers demanded to stop the optional implementation of the Supplementary Protocol to the NPT and to admit IAEA inspections to Iranian nuclear facilities.
As for a direct military clash with Israel, Tehran will likely try to avoid it. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran wouldn't get into the trap set by Israel and lend itself to an open armed conflict that would plunge the region into chaos, but it still reserved the right to adequately retaliate against the nuclear physicist's murder.
The Iranian society is now very agitated, with threats of revenge against Israel and the United States heard at various levels, from high-ranking military personnel to influential Shiite preachers. There is no doubt that Fakhrizadeh's murder will not go unpunished. It remains to be seen what the answer will be. In this regard, the statement by Iran's government speaker Ali Rabiei is very eloquent: "Iran will definitely punish the aggressors, but not in the game field that they define."