09.12.2020 Author: Vladimir Platov

Has the VIP Killings Duel Between Iran and Israel Begun?

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As noted earlier, the insidious murder of leading Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27 in a Tehran suburb bodes ill for its apparent inciters and assassins. So far, numerous media outlets have repeatedly emphasized the possibility of severe consequences in the event of further development in the Middle East situation and wondered: Will Iran be able to keep silent about the provocation by Israel and all those involved in the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and what will happen if Iran decides not to swallow the insult and hit back instead?

If earlier, aside from Tehran’s confidence in direct guilt in this murder of the Israeli special services with the US behind them, other states and the media preferred not to speak openly about Tel Aviv’s and Washington’s involvement, this position has recently changed. On December 5, Israeli television, Channel 12, when discussing the murder of the Iranian nuclear scientist, basically confirmed the involvement of the Israeli foreign intelligence service. The news was voiced by the pundits fully aware of the details of this secret service’s work – Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist, working with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and contributing writer for The New York Times; Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy director of the Mossad and now a Knesset member from the opposition Yesh Atid party; and Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad agent who became world-famous after his bestseller By Way of Deception: The Making of a Mossad Officer was published in 1990.

Recently, various Western media have become increasingly confident about the involvement of the Israeli special services in the murder of Muhsin Fahrizade. For example, the German Der Spiegel emphasizes that to carry out such a complicated assassination attempt in the middle of a hostile country, you need the competence and experienced secret agents. The Mossad has repeatedly demonstrated that it is capable of doing this in Iran, which was most recently exemplified by acts of sabotage at Iranian nuclear facilities and the murder in the center of Tehran of one of the al-Qaeda terrorists (banned in Russia – ed.)  probably at the request of Washington. Besides, Mossad had already killed several nuclear scientists in Iran a couple of years ago. The magazine adds, adding clarification: “There is no explicit admission of responsibility, is this would go against Israeli practice. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted recently: he boasted of his recent successes and added that he could not officially declare some of them.”

Speculating whether the US government was involved in the assassination attempt, Der Spiegel suggests that Washington may have been informed of this in advance. Moreover, the day before, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on a visit to Israel. At the same time, the publication adds that Donald Trump’s view is that the assassination of Fakhrizadeh probably represents an acceptable risk. Although this is a daring provocation that cannot be justified from the perspective of international law, Trump previously had little concern about such aspects, including in the case of the assassination of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani in January.

In any case, many experts and politicians are now asking an important for the region and the entire world question: What options for revenge is Iran considering in response to the assassination of Fakhrizadeh? The Arabic version of the website of the Iranian TV channel Al Alam surveyed how Tehran should avenge the murder of the nuclear physicist and whether the decision of the Iranian parliament to increase the degree of uranium enrichment is reasonable under current conditions. Experts in international relations believe that the Iranian parliament’s decision to increase the degree of uranium enrichment only aggravates an already tricky situation since those who killed Mohsen Fakhrizadeh expect that Iran will adhere to the nuclear agreement and leave the murder of the nuclear scientist unanswered. However, the discussion points out that Western countries do not understand the Iranian mentality: dignity for Iranians is above economic interests. Analysts are convinced Iran is considering several options for revenge.

According to the British publication Rai Al Youm, the Iranian nuclear scientist’s assassination could trigger war and radical change in the Middle East. However, Iranian President Rouhani and spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei have different ideas about when and how the revenge plan should be carried out.

An additional round of regional tension occurred after the report on December 2 by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, citing a “well-informed source” that the Secretary-General of the Lebanese Hezbollah (literally “Party of Allah”) Hassan Nasrallah was moving to Iran. As reported by the publication, Lebanon and neighboring countries “are tracking extensive encrypted messages” between the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran and Hezbollah regarding this step. Assuming that Nasrallah will remain in Tehran indefinitely, it is unclear whether he will return to Beirut. Simultaneously, several media outlets suggest that the “next target” for Israel and the United States after the assassination of Fakhrizadeh might be Hassan Nasrallah. Hezbollah, headed by this leader, is declared a “terrorist organization” by both the United States and Israel.

And so, against this background, it became known that on December 6 in Tel Aviv, as a result of an armed attack,  one of the high-ranking Israeli intelligence officers, Mossad commander Fahmi Hinavi, was killed. According to media reports, 15 bullets were fired into the intelligence officer’s vehicle when he stopped at a red light. It is speculated that the attack could have been Tehran’s retaliation for the murder of “the father of the Iranian nuclear program” Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

In this regard, it cannot be ruled out that the series of assassinations, including the January 3 US airstrike on Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Major General and Commander of Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, former leader of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi; the November 27 assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh; the subsequent December 6 armed attack on high-ranking Mossad officer Fahmi Hinavi, as well as the reasonable fears of the Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah of possible physical elimination, open the era of duels of assassinations of VIPs by Israel and The United States, on the one hand, and Iran, which is trying to resist them, on the other. However, it must be emphasized that this duel was imposed on Tehran by Washington and Tel Aviv. They showed their commitment to such actions to the whole world by killing Iranian VIPs, which cannot be assessed other than state terrorism.

Vladimir Platov, an expert on issues in the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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