The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may not much have impact on the Iranian nuclear programme, but it will certainly make it harder to salvage the deal intended to restrict it.
The killing of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has once again fueled hostilities in the Middle East when Iran needs to restore diplomacy with the United States and particularly with the newly elected Biden administration to gain sanctions relief and salvage its economy but is also looking for ways to dissuade its enemies.
Fakhrizadeh died after an elaborately planned ambush on Friday on the outskirts of Tehran. Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Country’s Supreme National Security Council, accused Israel on Monday of using “electronic devices” in the attack.
Israel is widely agreed to be the most likely perpetrator. On Tuesday, the Iranian Majles approved a bill calling for the suspension of nuclear inspections and a resumption of nuclear enrichment unless European states gave Tehran sanctions relief. Though only the US has reimposed sanctions following withdrawal from the nuclear deal, others have been wary of investing in Iran, afraid to draw American ire. This has had a debilitating effect on the Iranian economy.
Currently, Iran is no doubt under immense pressure due to the crippling sanctions, and the murder of its scientist is a grave provocation, the Iranian leadership must be mulling over to react with caution and realism. The suspension of inspections will only give Iran’s foes the chance to further implicate Tehran, accusing it of seeking a confrontation with the international community. Israel has long been believed to be running a covert operation to assassinate key Iranian officials, while some news outlets have reported that Mr Trump — in his final few months in office — has allowed his administration to ramp up the pressure even more on Iran, with some suggesting the American president has given the green light for everything short of war. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the Israeli hit targeting Fakhrizadeh had America’s blessing.
Fakhrizadeh was to Iran’s nuclear program what Suleimani was to its proxy network. The most important question is whether Iran follows the same approach it adopted after the assassination of Qasim Sulemani or not. The Trump administration has time and again tried to test Iran’s patience and capabilities in a bid to create an impression that Iran is bent upon hostilities to ignite a regional conflict and is a threat to the regional peace. Considering this incendiary situation, Iran must not take the bait and fall into a trap that can drag the entire region into a devastating conflict. On the other hand, Biden has also said that he wants to go back to the nuclear deal. If he is serious about mending fences he should send strong signals to Iran for regional peace.
Meanwhile, if the Biden administration also decides to further tighten the screws on Iran, it will clearly be disastrous as those who have seen Iran’s determination and hard line foreign policy will access that Iran will not cow down. The Iranian regime will get strong public backing against the United States’ harsh response. But most of all, until the presidential change is complete wiser minds within the US establishment should ensure that an unnecessary confrontation with Iran is avoided and that Israel’s provocative behavior is kept in check to prevent a powerful clash. Can Tehran continue to hold its nerve? Yes! It can be inferred that Iran will not take the bait to observe the regional reaction and will wait for the Biden administration to take up this matter for a clear policy statement. A retaliatory strike could make it even harder for a Biden administration to negotiate the multifaceted steps.