One of the things President-elect Biden said he planned to do early in his term was to re-establish the U.S. role in the Iran nuclear agreement that was negotiated and signed under President Obama, but then along came Trump and pulled out of it, leaving our allies scrambling trying to pick up the pieces and salvage the deal. Yesterday, Biden’s hope for re-joining the agreement may have been shattered.
On Friday morning, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was shot and killed in an ambush as he was traveling in a vehicle in northern Iran. Gunmen waited along the road and attacked Mr. Fakhrizadeh as his car was driving through the countryside town of Absard, in the Damavand region. Mr. Fakhrizadeh was gravely wounded in the attack, and that doctors tried to save him in the hospital but could not.
It is believed by most that Israel was behind the attack, but also that Donald Trump was aware of it beforehand. Frankly, I have no trouble at all believing it, for a few reasons. Earlier this month, Trump asked military aides for a plan for a possible strike on Iran but was advised against the idea. And we cannot forget that it was Trump who, without conscience or understanding what he was doing, ordered a U.S. drone strike in January in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander.
Robert Malley, who served as Iran adviser to Obama and has informally advised Biden’s team, said Fakhrizadeh’s killing was among a series of moves that have occurred during Trump’s final weeks that appear to be aimed at making it harder for Biden to re-engage with Iran.
Donald Trump’s niece, Mary, is quoted as saying that if Donald Trump feels “like he’s going down he will bring everyone down with him…He’s going to tear us apart as much as he can on the way out the door.” And Former Trump Organization executive Barbara Res made a similar statement …
“It’s a matter of wrestling this loss, as it were, from the victory of Biden, and he’ll do anything. And if all else fails, he will burn down the house.”
After the January drone strike that killed Soleimani, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at a U.S. base in Iraq, the closest the U.S. and Iran have come to war in decades. After yesterday’s killing of Fakhrizadeh, Iran vowed to “strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate’s Middle East subcommittee, said on Twitter that “this assassination does not make America, Israel or the world safer.”
Israel is widely agreed to be the most likely perpetrator. Mossad is reported to have been behind a string of assassinations of other Iranian nuclear scientists – reports Israeli officials have occasionally hinted were true. If Mossad was indeed behind the assassination, Israel had a closing window of opportunity in which to carry it out with a green light from an American president, and there seems little doubt that Trump, seeking to play a spoiler role in his last weeks in office, would have given approval, perhaps even active assistance.
Dina Esfandiary, a fellow at the Century Foundation, said …
“I think they would have had to get a green light from Washington. I don’t think they would do it without. In terms of motive, I think it’s just pushing Iran to do something stupid to ensure that the Biden administration’s hands are tied when they come in to pursue negotiations and de-escalation.
The problem is if you keep pushing their buttons, eventually it’s going to work. I don’t know if this is going to be the occasion, but certainly the calls for proper action in Tehran are going to increase across the political spectrum. The hardliners have already started. So it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the Iranians to act with restraint.”
Most people who have any understanding of the dynamics in the Middle East were pleased when the Iran nuclear deal was forged in 2015, and horrified when Trump withdrew from the agreement two years later. For one thing, it was a slap in the face to our allies, but for another it was feared the deal would fall apart and open a door for Iran to move full speed ahead in the development of their nuclear program, to the detriment of the world. I had high hopes that President-elect Biden would be able to salvage our role in the agreement, but the events of yesterday will no doubt make it harder, if not impossible.
Former CIA director John O. Brennan tweeted that the attack was …
“… a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict. Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits.”
This all could all have been prevented back in February when the United States Senate had the option … nay, the obligation, to convict Donald Trump of the crime of obstruction of justice and could have removed him from office. Instead, they gave him carte blanche, and now he may well have brought the world to the edge of war.