Iran’ President Hassan Rouhani has once again vowed revenge for the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last week, an operation for which Tehran blames Israel.
Speaking at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyipp Erdogan on Thursday, Rouhani said the Iranian state news agency Mehr.
The President – whose term in office ends next summer – also said that Iran is open to rejoin the beleaguered Joint Comprehensive Nuclear Deal Plan if President-elect Joe Biden restores compliance with U.S. rules.
“The murder of this scientist was a great crime and an inhuman act,” Rouhani said of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.
The scientist was widely regarded as the father of the Iranian nuclear project, and his assassination marks a serious escalation in Israeli-American efforts to undermine Tehrizadeh’s nuclear program and to undermine a possible revival of dialogue under the new Biden government.
Israel has refused to confirm or deny its involvement because of its long-standing policy. Several reports cite unnamed U.S. intelligence officials who attribute the operation to Israel.
The White House, the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the State Department have so far refused to comment on the killing or to clarify whether the US knew about the plan or agreed to it.
“There is no doubt that this act of terrorism demonstrates the helplessness and incapacity of the Iranian nation’s archenemies against the science and research movements of our scientists, and it is the right of the Iranian government to take revenge on the blood of this martyr on the perpetrators at the right time,” Rouhani said.
Biden said it was “difficult to say” how much the Fakhrizdeh assassination would affect his efforts to revive the JCPOA. He also told CNN: “The bottom line is that we cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” and he said his push to prevent this would involve American allies and other JCPOA signatories.
Despite the killings, Rouhani said Tehran was still open to discussion. “We have repeatedly stressed that we will also meet our obligations if the other parties to this agreement meet theirs,” he said on Thursday.
But President Donald Trump will remain in office until January 20. During that time, he and his Israeli allies may decide to exert more pressure on Iran.
Both the US and Israel are now preparing for a possible retaliatory strike by Iran. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which is regularly targeted by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, is reportedly temporarily reducing its staffing levels, for example, due to security concerns.
And the Israeli counter-terrorism office said on Thursday that Iran may launch attacks against Israeli interests and civilians in regional nations such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“In light of recent threats from Iranian agents and given the past involvement of Iranian agents in terrorist attacks in various countries, there is concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” the Office said.
Tehran has previously targeted Israelis abroad in retaliation for Israeli attacks in Iran. In 2012, for example, Israel accused Iranian-born Hezbollah fighters of blowing up a tourist bus in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis.
Iran has always denied any involvement, and Hezbollah has refused to comment. The attack was interpreted as retaliation for the Israeli murders of Iranian nuclear scientists.