Iran: MPs chant in Parliament after passing nuclear bill
And Tehran is counting down the days until January 20 and the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden, at which point the regime of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will hope to reset relations with Washington, they added. The circumstances behind Mr Fakhrizadeh’s death on Friday are still emerging – but Iran has accused Israel of having dispatched operatives to kill him.
Pictures of the 62-year-old’s bullet-ridden car have been widely circulated in international media – although there have also been suggestions he was killed by a “remote-controlled device”.
Israel accused Mr Fakhrizadeh of being the mastermind of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically named him in the course of a presentation delivered days before Mr Trump confirmed he was pulled the US out of the landmark JPOCA agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, claiming multiple violations.
However, after the attack Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi insisted: “I have no clue who did it.
“It’s not that my lips are sealed because I’m being responsible, I simply really have no clue.”
Iranians fear Donald Trump may send them “a final goodbye”, said Dr Van Engeland
Iranian MPs chant “death to America” this week
Dr Anicee Van Engeland, a Senior Lecturer in International Security and Law at the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), told Express.co.uk with less than 50 days to go before he is due to quit the White House, there was mounting concern at the prospect of “Trump unleashed”.
Referring to the US drone strike which killed the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds force in January, she explained: “The population was absolutely enraged by the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.
“This time they are enraged – but they are also worried.
“There is a lot of anxiety because apparently Donald Trump was thinking of attacking Iran.
“Donald Trump does not have any ideology.
This time they are enraged – but they are also worried
“The only thing that matters to Donald Trump is money – what he can get from it financially.
“So the question is what he would gain from this, from starting a war in the region.”
The concern within Iran centred on the idea Mr Trump was considering targeting their country “as a sort of final goodbye or parting gift”, she added.
Asked about Israel, she said: “It is difficult to reach a conclusion about Israeli involvement but it is a strong possibility.”
As such, it was unlikely such an operation would have been undertaken without Mr Trump’s awareness, and even blessing.
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The car Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was supposedly travelling in
Qassem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in January
She added: “That’s certainly the belief in Iran although we have very little evidence of how it actually happened.”
Iran’s Parliament this week backed plans to end international inspections of its nuclear power stations and increase uranium enrichment, and footage of MPs chanting “Death to America” has been widely circulated.
However, Dr Van Engeland said it was nevertheless highly unlikely that Iran would seek to retaliate against either the US or Israel, mindful as they would be of the disastrous consequences of doing so.
Instead, she suggested Iran’s leaders would focus their attention on the incoming administration – even though significant obstacles stand in the way of the US rejoining the JPOCA.
Assessing Mr Fakhrizadeh’s significance, Dr Van Engeland said: “He has been called the father of nuclear power in Iran but they are not anywhere near being able to make a nuclear bomb in Iran – they are still focusing on the energy side.
Donald Trump pictured with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“But he was also surrounded by collaborators that are younger than him and that will simply take over.
it was about sending a message and taking down a symbolic figure, or it was the beginning of more targeted acts targeting anyone involved with the nuclear energy programme.”
Dr Sanam Vakil, a Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow with Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, suggested the scenes in the Iranian Parliament had been more for domestic consumption than a threat to the United States.
She told Express.co.uk: “It’s very important to caveat that by pointing out that the Iranian Parliament does not have any influence on national security issues or foreign policy decisions.
“Of course the assassination is embarrassing because it is obviously clear that they were not able to protect the safety and security of one of their top officials.”
Iran military factfile
Despite Israel’s refusal to comment, it was reasonable to conclude it was behind the attack, she said.
She added: “It is clear that the Israelis have a network of operatives who collaborate with them.
“I don’t think that the Islamic Republic will take the Israeli bait and react right now.
“I think they are praying to get back to the negotiating table with the Biden administration.”
Dr Vakil likewise suggested the US would have been aware of the planned attack at some level – although she said this did not necessarily include Mr Trump.
Iran: Killing of scientist by ‘Israel’ a ‘really big deal’ says expert
Nevertheless, she too said there was alarm within Iran at the possibility of further attack prior to Mr Biden coming into office.
She said: “There is a concern that the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration might try to up the ante during the transition period.”
As for whether Israel was correct to suggest Mr Fakhrizadeh had been instrumental in helping Iran develop nuclear weapons, she was sceptical that the Islamic Republic had the necessary technology in place.
She added: “I think the Israeli government has their own agenda vis-a-vis Iran.
“I think they have legitimate concerns about Iran’s support of proxy groups around Israel’s border.”