The killing of Fakhrizadeh reduces Iran to its true size

Once again, Iran is likely to direct its retaliation against targets in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Yemen, not Israel or the US.
Saturday 28/11/2020
An Iranian man walks by a billboard of slain Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran, on November 30, 2020. (AFP)
An Iranian man walks by a billboard of slain Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran, on November 30, 2020. (AFP)

Israel is not excluded from being behind the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in a suburb of Tehran. Such a possibility is more than possible.

This is because it is possible to include the assassination of a prominent scientist who plays a pivotal role in the development of the Iranian nuclear programme in the context of a war that has been going on for several years now between Israel and Iran in two areas.

The first is Iran’s military presence in Syria, especially in the south, and the other is the possibility that Iran will one day possess a nuclear weapon. Israel cannot imagine such a possibility. Therefore, it is focusing its efforts on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb one day.

Such an Israeli position is quite well-known and does not apply to Iran alone. In 1981, Israel attacked the Iraqi-French nuclear reactor Osirak and destroyed it. This happened under then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who could not care less about the international or French reactions. At the time, the Israeli government simply dismissed Paris’s assurances that the reactor it was building in Iraq was for peaceful purposes only.

Iranian commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Esmail Qaani (C), attends the funeral of slain top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran. (AFP)
Iranian commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Esmail Qaani (C), attends the funeral of slain top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran. (AFP)

At the current stage and in light of Joe Biden’s victory over US President Donald Trump, it seems important for Israel to let the new team at the White House know that there are certain limits that cannot be breached, regardless of who resides in the White House. In addition, Israel is concerned about the possibility of a qualitative change in the US’s approach to relations with Tehran.

What is certain so far is that there will not be a radical reversal in Washington against Trump’s Iran policies, but it is not unlikely that the new US administration will initiate this week contacts with an Iranian delegation through one of its envoys. The US-Iranian meeting is expected to take place in a European capital, and its aim will be to set a general framework that includes specific conditions allowing America to rethink the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, an agreement that Trump tore up in 2018.

It is also not unlikely that one of the US’s top conditions would be a major change in Iranian policy in Yemen. The Biden administration believes that imposing such a change will greatly relieve Saudi Arabia and significantly contribute to the search for a way out of the crisis there by reducing the Houthis back to their true size rather than eliminating them, after they revealed their aggressive face. Aggressive propensities are the true nature of the Houthis, who ironically call themselves “Ansar Allah” and do not hesitate to launch Iranian-made ballistic missiles towards Saudi territory. The last of these missiles hit an oil facility near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea.

It is clear that Israel will not be affected by Iran’s reactions. It will undoubtedly consider that, at least until now, there is nothing that proves it is behind Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, which could just as well have been carried out by Iranian opposition elements working for Israel.

What is certain, however, is that the death of Fakhrizadeh is a great loss for the “Islamic Republic.”

This was evidenced by the words of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who vowed to avenge the killing of the Iranian scientist, adding that whatever Fakhrizadeh was working on before his death will continue. Iranian President Hassan Rohani did not hesitate to directly accuse Israel of the killing, saying that “the assassination of Fakhrizadeh shows the desperation of (Iran’s) enemies and the extent of their hatred,” adding that the operation “will not slow down Iran’s nuclear path.”

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had previously described Fakhrizadeh as “the father of Iran’s military nuclear programme.” This simply meant that sooner or later, he would be a target for Israeli operations. And that is exactly what happened.

The question now is: “How will Iran respond to the assassination?” It is certain that it will not dare retaliate against Israel, nor retaliate against America. It discovered long ago that it is unable to conduct significant military action against either of these two targets. We saw a sample of that inability when it failed to strike back at the assassination last January near Baghdad Airport of Qassem Soleimani, ex-commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF), which is nothing but an Iraqi militia group affiliated with Iran.

Once again, Iran will direct its retaliation to targets in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon or Yemen. In other words, it will target Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese and Yemenis.

Perhaps it will for the moment dismiss retaliating in Yemen because of its calculations regarding the future Biden administration; so its choices will be limited to one of the Arab countries and maybe from the Palestinian Gaza Strip, where it has militias.

The likely Iranian response will mean that Tehran refuses to acknowledge that the world, as well as the region, has changed and that it is unable to pursue a policy other than the one with no prospects, a policy based on an expansionist project that relies on provoking sectarian instincts.

Iran should have learned from the US administration’s liquidation of Soleimani and understood that it is not a regional power capable of playing a dominant role in the region.

A woman walks in the Iranian capital Tehran, on November 30, 2020. (AFP)
A woman walks in the Iranian capital Tehran, on November 30, 2020. (AFP)

In the final analysis, Iran is a third world country with half of its population living below the poverty line. It can surely destroy, but it cannot build.

We see that everywhere it has intervened. In Iraq, Tehran played the role required of it so the country would never catch its breath in the post-US invasion phase. In Lebanon, it did everything it could to make sure the country never rises again. In Syria, it was, and still is, an effective partner in the war waged by the minority regime against its people for more than nine years. In Yemen, it exacerbated the misery of the Yemeni people. In Gaza, it supported the Taliban-style Muslim Brotherhood emirate there.

The assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist, while tragic, could be an opportunity for Iran to discover its true size and learn from it, and maybe it will discover that it has no viable civilisational model to offer to the Arabs or the world.

The US sanctions against Iran were enough to grind its economy to a halt. Isn’t it time for the Iranian regime’s leadership to ask itself: “What good have all the missiles and nuclear bombs brought to the Soviet Union? Did they prevent its collapse in early 1991?”