The Slatest

Iran’s Supreme Leader: Killers of Top Nuclear Scientist Deserve “Definitive Punishment”

Students of Iran's Basij paramilitary force burn US and Israeli flags during a rally in front of the foreign ministry in Tehran, on November 28, 2020, to protest the killing of prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh a day earlier near the capital.
Students of Iran’s Basij paramilitary force burn US and Israeli flags during a rally in front of the foreign ministry in Tehran, on November 28, 2020, to protest the killing of prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh a day earlier near the capital. ATTA KENARE/Getty Images

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that those who were behind the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist should receive the “definitive punishment.” Khamenei gave his assessment a day after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush outside Tehran on Friday. Iranian officials immediately called it an assassination and pointed the finger at Israel. Israel has yet to comment and Iran hasn’t provided evidence of its accusation. But Israel was behind the assassination of Iranian scientists a decade ago, and Fakhrizadeh’s killing did appear to have been a carefully planned, military style attack that is similar to ones Israel has been accused of carrying out in the past. The New York Times says one American official and two other intelligence officials agreed Israel was behind the attack.

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“There are two matters that people in charge should put in their to do list: 1- To follow up the atrocity and retaliate against those who were responsible for it. 2- To follow up Martyr Fakhrizadeh’s scientific and technical activities in all fields in which he was active,” Khamenei wrote Saturday. In a letter to the United Nations, Iran said there were “serious indications of Israeli responsibility” and that it reserved the right to “take all necessary measures to defend its people.”

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Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also vowed retaliation for the killing and accused Israel. “The think tanks and the enemies of Iran must know that the Iranian nation and the officials in charge in the country are brave and determined to respond to the murder in time,” he said. “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”

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Amid the threats, Germany is urging calm, calling on all sides to avoid making any big moves that could prevent new negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. “A few weeks before the new U.S. administration takes office, it is important to preserve the scope for talks with Iran so that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved through negotiations,” a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We therefore urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the situation.” Some analysts believe that the real purpose of the assassination was to make it more difficult for Biden to revive the nuclear deal, notes the New York Times’ David Sanger.

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