Photo: Demonstration against U.S. aggression vs. Iran in Washington, D.C. — ANSWER Coalition
The state funeral for Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, one of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists, was held today following his assassination on Friday. A top Iranian defense official said that the assassins murdered Fakhrizadeh using a remote-controlled machine gun mounted on a vehicle packed with explosives.
The Times of Israel reported that Israeli intelligence officials have acknowledged Israel’s role in carrying out the assassination. Israel had been targeting Fakhrizadeh for years. In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu identified Fakhrizadeh as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, saying “remember that name,” as if to foreshadow his assassination two years later.
After hundreds of visits by the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it can be definitively stated that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Therefore, Israel and the United States cannot plausibly claim the existence of an active weapons program. The charge against Fakhrizadeh seems to be that he once led a project to evaluate the development of nuclear weapons – a project that has been defunct since 2003!
According to an interview given by his adult son, at the time of the assassination Fakhrizadeh was in a car, along with his wife and a bodyguard. The bodyguard reportedly attempted to shield Fakhrizadeh from the assassin’s bullets. But the bodyguard and Fakhrizadeh’s wife survived, while Fakhrizadeh died shortly thereafter.
To normalize this cold-blooded murder, U.S. corporate media tend to portray Fakhrizadeh as a shadowy figure who lived a secret life. By creating a spy movie atmosphere, the assassination of a scientist is made to look like a normal spy on spy hit job. But Fakhrizadeh was a scientist and an academician with ties to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, a wing of Iran’s military. Like most other nuclear powered countries, Iran’s nuclear program is managed by the military. He was a physics professor at Imam Hossein University in Tehran. This hardly fits the profile of a mad scientist bent on destroying the world with his evil plans. The fact that Fakhrizadeh had a bodyguard is reflective of the fact that Iranian nuclear scientists have been the target of Israeli assassination attempts for years.
Iran’s nuclear program has made achievements such as producing energy at the Bushehr power plant, manufacturing medical isotopes for cancer treatment and other civilian goods. Scientists, technicians and other workers in the nuclear field have relentlessly worked on developing the technology for decades, in spite of obstacles being placed along their way. Living under the daily threat of an Israeli assassination squad is among the occupational hazards of being an Iranian nuclear scientist.
Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is the latest in a long-running U.S./Israeli terror campaign. Several others have been assassinated, including Dr. Majid Shahriari in 2010 and Dr. Ardeshir Hassanpour in 2007, to name just a couple. Shahriari’s killing was part of a double assassination attempt in one day. But the other target, Dr. Fereidoon Abassi, was only injured as he and his wife suspected foul play at the last minute and narrowly escaped their vehicle just before it exploded.
Aside from nuclear scientists, there is the well-known assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Qods brigade of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. There was no mystery about who assassinated Soleimani, as the United States proudly took responsibility for it. For all the decades-long U.S./Israeli propaganda campaign against Iran being a “leading sponsor of state terror,” it is instructive that every time we turn around, we see Iran as the victim, not the perpetrator, of state terror!
Israel provoking a war?
Why would Israel carry out this assassination at this time? One possibility is that the opportunity just presented itself now. Israel’s efforts to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists has likely been uninterrupted over the last 15 years or more. The long gap between the last assassination and this one may well be due to Iran having tightened the security provided for its nuclear scientists. Israel is unable to carry out assassinations at will. But when its assassins have received proper training and acquired the appropriate weapons and explosives, pinpointing the whereabouts of their target at a given time may be the trigger.
Another possibility is that Israel is again attempting to provoke Iran into a reaction that will ultimately result in all-out war. Since shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Israel and Netanyahu in particular has done everything in its power to get the United States to invade and occupy Iran.
Over several elections, much of Netanyahu’s electoral campaigns have revolved around being “tough on Iran.” For over a decade, he has been warning the world that Iran is about to launch an annihilation campaign against Israel.
Netanyahu campaigned hard to prevent the United States from signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. He went so far as addressing the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, against the wishes of the Obama administration, reporting the “existential threat” Iran presents against Israel. Now, on the eve of the Biden presidency, Netanyahu would welcome any developments that could potentially prevent Biden’s stated goal of rejoining the JCPOA.
But if this is primarily an Israeli provocation, Iran is unlikely to fall for it. Iran’s leaders have long been portrayed in the Western media as a bunch of bloodthirsty maniacs. However, their actual record in dealing with U.S./Israeli aggression demonstrates a strategic pattern of measured responses tempered with significant restraint. If Netanyahu wants to draw Trump into a last-minute war with Iran, he will likely have to fire the first shot in open warfare.
COVID-19 and sanctions
Iran is dealing with the dual crises of COVID-19 and U.S. sanctions. The threat of heavy fines keep states and companies around the globe from engaging in trade with Iran. Everything that Iran can purchase has to be done clandestinely, through third parties, trading in barter, etc. Access to tests for COVID-19 are quite limited. Despite having an advanced medical system, Iran has been unable to effectively control the spread of the pandemic.
Out of a population of 80 million, Iran is averaging about 12,000 new infections and 400 deaths per day. Limited access to test kits due to sanctions severely hampers Iran’s ability to reign in the pandemic. Iran has now imposed severe restrictions, as most work places are shut down or operating on a strictly limited basis.
The sanctions, illegally imposed by the United States, have caused significant harm to Iran’s economy. The value of the Rial, Iran’s currency, has plummeted. This has curtailed the buying power of Iranians, particularly the working class. The economy has not collapsed and consumer items are widely available. But the severity of the sanctions can be seen everywhere, resulting in successive years of economic contraction. Even if it wanted to, Iran is in no condition to start a war.
Iran’s presidential elections are coming up in June 2021. In 2013, President Rouhani got elected with the explicit promise of ending the warlike relations with the United States and reaching an agreement. The 2015 signing of the JCPOA ended most sanctions against Iran. Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and other members of the administration staked their whole career on the JCPOA.
The opposition argued that no agreements should be signed since the United States could not be trusted. Now that President Trump has withdrawn from the JCPOA, the opposition’s suspicion has been borne out by facts. This could possibly impact who wins the next elections and what the approach of the winning candidate towards the United States might be.
It is possible that, once president, Biden will quickly rejoin the JCPOA and fulfil U.S. obligations to this internationally recognized agreement. That way, Washington might hope to improve the chances of a victory by those factions of the Islamic Republic that are more willing to negotiate with the United States in the future.
On the other hand, there is also speculation that Biden might play hard ball with Iran. He may tell Tehran that the U.S. will rejoin the JCPOA only if Iran makes additional concessions that were not part of the original agreement, such as limits to Iran’s ballistic missiles.
One needs to look at the big picture to see the absurdity of the U.S./Israeli position. Iran is accused of at some point having had a nuclear weapons program, while it certifiably has none currently. This accusation, supposedly, justifies the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. Who is leading the charge against Iran? Who is carrying out the assassinations? The United States and Israel, both of which have a strong arsenal of nuclear weapons. The reality is that the leading imperialist power, the United States, and its main watchdog in the Middle East, Israel, are targeting Iran, an independent state that refuses to take its dictates from Washington. Socialists and other progressives need to condemn this U.S./Israeli terrorism.