Netanyahu made the comment when he divulged that Israel had obtained 100,000 files from Iran’s secret nuclear archives. He said that Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier-general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a professor of physics at the Guard’s Imam Hussein University, played a central role in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Though he had been sidelined for several years, Fakhrizadeh returned to drive Iran’s nuclear program, Project Amad, specifically to develop nuclear warheads for the multitudes of ballistic missiles the Islamic Republic already possesses.
While Iran was forced to shelve Project Amad in 2003, it continued with its nuclear ambitions, and Western intelligence sources even revealed that in 2013 Fakhrizadeh had attended a North Korean nuclear weapons test.
The New York Times in 2014 compared him to Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the American nuclear bomb.
Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated over the years, but Fakhrizadeh was by far the most important nuclear scientist to be killed to date.
He was so important it was not until Netanyahu showed his picture that there were any photographs available of him, and Iranian authorities even denied numerous requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency to interview him. It was an effort by Iran to protect him from assassins, a sort of protective shield around him.
While it is still unclear who is behind the killing, tensions between the West and Iran have been high, and there have even been reports that the US would strike Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz before US Donald Trump leaves office.
But after Trump was convinced that a direct strike on Iran would be too risky, perhaps taking out Fakhrizadeh was the next best choice.
Senior Israeli officials have met with their American counterparts several times in recent weeks, with the two sides discussing the threat posed by Iran.
While Iran has denied seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic program is peaceful, Israel has warned repeatedly about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and has pledged to never allow it to obtain such weapons that can threaten the Jewish state.
Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program as its number one concern, and the IDF in June opened the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, an entirely new position on the General Staff, which focuses principally on the fight against Iran.
“Iran has become the most dangerous country in the Middle East,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said at a ceremony marking its opening in June, adding that the country has “made significant progress with its nuclear program, but the nuclear [threat] is no longer the only threat. Iran also possesses conventional weapons.”
Over the summer, shortly after the opening of the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate, Iran was hit by a number of mysterious blasts – specifically at sites connected to the country’s missile and nuclear project.
Although those “mysterious” blasts stopped, were they just a prelude to what was to come? Were they warnings or just more actions in Israel’s “war-between-wars” campaign against Iran and its nuclear program?
Either way, Fakhrizadeh’s death will very likely put Iran’s nuclear program on hold. At least for a while.
His death is also a major signal that Israel and the US will not give up on preventing the country from obtaining such weaponry.
The message is clear: Remember, no nuclear scientist is safe.