A top Iranian adviser said Sunday that Iran is prepared to respond to the recent killing of its leading nuclear scientist with “calculated and decisive” measures, which an influential newspaper said should include an attack on Israel.
Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of Tehran on Friday. According to an account from Iran’s Fars news agency, Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s bulletproof car was shot at from an automatic remote-operated machine gun, contradicting reports that he was ambushed by a pack of gunmen.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Iran was quick to point fingers at Israel, which Iran believes has killed several of its nuclear scientists in the past.
“Undoubtedly, Iran will give a calculated and decisive answer to the criminals who took Martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” Kamal Kharrazi, a former Iranian foreign minister and head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Sunday slammed what he called the “cowardice” involved in the attack and said that there are “serious signs of Israel’s role.”
“Iran calls on the world community including the EU to abandon the double standard and condemn this state terrorism,” he tweeted.
While American and Israeli officials remain silent on the attack, a hard-line Iranian newspaper also ramped up the accusations against Israel and called on Iran to attack the Israeli port city of Haifa.
In an opinion piece published Sunday, Iran’s Kayhan newspaper, which has long urged Iran to aggressively respond to anti-Iran operations, suggested that any response should destroy facilities and cause “heavy human casualties.”
The author of the piece, Sadollah Zarei, argued that launching a strike on Haifa “will definitely lead to deterrence, because the United States and the Israeli regime and its agents are by no means ready to take part in a war and a military confrontation.”
While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him.
The Iranian parliament on Sunday held a closed-door hearing about Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s killing. A public session of lawmakers saw them chant: “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”
But as Iran weighs retaliation, some former top officials are warning that the attack is going to present an increasingly difficult challenge for presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden and his intentions to return to the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump repudiated.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under then-Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the assassination “makes it much more challenging in terms of where President-elect Biden wants to go in terms of renegotiating or making — you know, reentering into the nuclear deal specifically.”
Mr. Trump withdrew from the Obama-era pact in May 2018 and quickly reimposed sanctions that were lifted under the deal.
Mr. Biden has stated that he intends to rejoin the agreement if Iran returns to compliance. But the former vice president has yet to make clear whether he would seek to modify the deal, amid increasing pressure from Israel to abandon the deal altogether.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Mr. Biden to not return to the deal and said during a memorial service for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that they “must keep to an uncompromising policy to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.”
Adm. Mullen said that Mr. Fakhrizadeh “was at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program that has been for years not only the brains but also the passion behind it It’s a real, real center of gravity, if you will, for that program.”
He compared the killing to the fatal January strike on Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, and called the assassination a “significant event.” Soleimani’s death ratcheted up tensions between the U.S. and Iran, pushing the two sides to the brink of war.
“I’m hopeful that President-elect Biden can actually reach in and calm the waters,” Adm. Mullen said, “but I think this heightens tension significantly.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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