Mossad: Another Day, Another Murder
NOTE: I just published a Middle East Eye piece on the limitations imposed on Biden’s Middle East policy by Israeli and Israel Lobby constraints. I also did the following interviews on the presidential transition and how it will impact the region. Listen to them here:
- Flashpoints KPFA
- Arab Voices KPFT
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Israel’s Mossad assassinated yet another Iranian Nuclear scientist in Tehran today. It was the sixth such murder by the Israeli murder squad since such killings began in 2010. But this operation was different. The victim, Moshen Fakrizadeh was the father of Iran’s nuclear program and the most senior scientist in the country. He founded it and has remained a key leader since the beginning.
As I noted after last week’s Mossad hit against another figure in Iran, the number two al Qaeda official, the Mossad likely coordinated all the elements of the murder short of actually firing the gun. For that, the Israelis use their hit men of the Iranian terror group, the MeK, to do the dirty work on the ground.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. collaborated with Israel to sabotage the country’s nuclear program through Operation Olympic Games. It also looked the other way as the Mossad eliminated the scientists engaged in nuclear research. But at some point, after Obama decided he would pursue a nuclear deal with the Iranians, both the killings and the sabotage stopped. Undoubtedly, Obama directed the Israelis to stand down and they did.
But now, in the waning days of the Trump administration, all bets and all constraints are off. In fact, Pompeo-Kushner-Trump are without question encouraging the Israelis to do their worst. These two recent killings may only be the tip of the iceberg, since there are reports from Barak Ravid and my own Israeli source that either the U.S. or Israel plan their own assault against Iran’s nuclear program.
It’s possible that these killings are a prelude to a much stronger blow. Though it’s possible the U.S. has placed some limit of Israeli actions and told them not to attack Iran, but instead permitted them to kill those it did.
I have written this after virtually every Israeli assassination I’ve reported here: they don’t work. That’s assuming of course that these murders are designed to weaken the “enemy” or prevent it from pursuing whatever policy or operation the victim directed. But in this case, the assassination has no counter-terror value. It is simply a political act not just of vengeance, but of provocation. The Israelis have two goals: to limit Biden’s range of policy options on Iran and to provoke Iran into retaliation that would undermine any chance for renewing JCPOA or normalization. Fakrizadeh was simply a tool to achieve those aims.
He had little value as a target. As with every other Israeli assassination victim, the organization (whether Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran) can replace them. In fact, it knows that it must prepare others to take their place in precisely this situation. The victim’s successor is probably already known to Iran’s leaders. He will carry on the work and possibly do so even more brilliantly than his predecessor.
This is outrageous. Any nation would consider this an act of war. Imagine if Iran had murdered an Israeli scientist. A direct attempt by Bibi to block Biden’s diplomacy with Iran (best case) or provoke a war. It will do nothing to set back Iran’s program. https://t.co/L6MHRKddvA
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) November 27, 2020
Here, Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan calls out the killing for what it is, a war crime. Though of course, he conveniently neglects to mention that he himself approved similar murders (even of U.S. citizens) while he served in government :
This 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. https://t.co/0uZhyBTM3S
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) November 27, 2020
Anticipating my criticism, Brennan tweeted that Obama only killed “illegal combatants” affiliated with terror groups, while Israel killed government officials. The distinction does highlight the graver crime of the Israelis, but avoids the fact that the U.S. assassinations were no more effective than the Israeli ones.
Pres.-elect Biden has a choice: either he can permit the Israelis and Trump to do their worst at boxing in his policy options when he assumes office on January 20th; or he can act decisively now to warn the Israelis that if they continue on this path there would be serious repercussions in bilateral relations. The only way to get Israel to stop doing something is either to threaten a consequence or offer something valuable in return.
In 2008, before Barack Obama was sworn in as president, Israel was waging a savage war against Lebanon. George Bush exerted no pressure on Israel to accept a ceasefire. In fact, Condoleezza Rice has heralded the war as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” in the region.
It was then, according to secret files provided to me by Shamai Leibowitz, based on Justice Department surveillance, that Obama’s key Middle East advisor, Dan Shapiro, made a late night visit to Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren’s home. I don’t know what exactly was said that night, but we do know the outcome: Israel did accept the ceasefire and the war ended before Obama’s inauguration. Which was precisely what Obama wanted. He did not want Israeli cluster bombs and artillery fire raining down on Southern Lebanon during his first inauguration.
That is precisely what Biden needs to do now. Send Tony Blinken, his secretary of state-designate to Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer’s house tonight, and tell him if Israeli actions don’t stop now, then the incoming president will take decisive action come January 20th. For example, these murders are war crimes. Perhaps a referral to the ICC for any future violations of international law (though we couldn’t make the referral since we are not an ICC signatory).
The only drawback is that in 2008 Obama was dealing with Ehud Olmert as prime Minister. Olmert was a pragmatic politician. He understood how deals are made and commitments kept. Bibi Netanyahu has no such compunctions. He would sell out his own mother if it offered him political or financial gain. So Biden may not have much leverage over Netanyahu. But that shouldn’t stop him from trying.
Cutting off that $30-billion aid package Obama negotiated with Israel in order to mollify them about the JCPOA deal, would be a good start. But does Biden have the spine to go up against Israel and the Israel Lobby? Is he willing to spend political capital to do so? Or is he so tied up in undoing the multiple disasters created by Trump, which have wrecked our public health system and our economy, that he decides this is not a high enough priority to engage?
On the other hand, disengaging and allowing Israel to have its way on these matters would likely foreclose Biden’s intention to return to the JCPOA agreement. If Israel continues to attack Iranian assets, there will be no one in the Iranian leadership willing to engage with Biden on this or any other matter. Can the president-elect afford not to engage?
30 thoughts on “Mossad: Another Day, Another Murder – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Didn’t your Israeli source tell you Fakrizadeh was in charge of the Iranian military nuclear program?
He didn’t need to. There is no Iranian military nuclear program. The CIA made that determination in 2007, saying the program ended in 2003.
Why do you cry murder for an arch-murderer, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, but not when a Palestinian slaughter an Israeli?
You have such mercy on those terrorists (you also called Bin-Laden death, a murder), but when an innocent Israeli is killed, whether a settler or not, whether in the west-bank or not, you whitewash it. BUSHA!
Well, um, for one thing because he WAS murdered. Second, if you think Israel killed this guy because he was an arch murderer you’re a nitwit. Israel killed him either because Trump asked it to; or because it was part of its desired escalation and provocation program designed to box Biden in and restrict his policy options concerning Iran. Al Qaeda has never attacked Israel and it would have no reason to assassinate any al Qaeda leader. In fact, in Syria Israel collaborated closely with the Syrian affiliate of al Qaeda, al-Nusra.
The insanity of the day. Thx for your unrelentless coverage Richard. It does make a difference … not all voices are silenced. Weeks ago I have written about the signs of Trump’s Last Days. Now hopefully Bibi’s last chapter before he destructs Israel.
[comment deleted: You were already moderated. You made a claim about the murdered Iranian scientist which is a lie, as Iran has no nuclear weapons program and has not since 2003. You also offered no evidence to support your false claim. You are now banned.]
You missed half of the question…
I’ll cry for Israeli dead when Israel stops giving Palestinians ample reason to want to kill them. Stop Occupation, stop apartheid, stop ethnic cleansing, stop land theft, stop Judeo-fascism, etc. Then the killing of Israelis and Palestinians will stop and no one will have to cry for deaths of either.
These “Ariels” seem to consider that Israel has the right to assassinate Iranian nuclear physicists because Iran might have had a military nuclear program. Doesn’t that opinion mean that all Israeli nuclear physicists etc scientists are also “legal” targets for Iran, Turkey and all Arab nations, considering that Israel has had a long military nuclear program, hundreds of ready nukes and politicians and military leaders openly showing their readiness and willingess to use those weapons. Justifying Israel’s right in these cases using democracy and the enemy’s religion as excuses are idiotic in case of Israel. A country where Jews have superior rights can not be a democracy and Zionism is in the end a religious ideology.
The last point is the strongest:Biden must somehow send this message to Netanyahu and have the balls to be strong IF Biden wants to go back to the Iran deal. So even though Biden should not be interfering in foreign policy because he is not yet president, this has been done. Maybe Biden can even make a public statement of a “personal nature”.
@Potter … nothing out of the ordinary.
“Cutting off that $30-billion aid package Obama negotiated with Israel in order to mollify them about the JCPOA deal, would be a good start” — Biden wouldn’t be able to do that even if he wanted to. Congress controls the purse. The republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t stand for it (and it’s doubtful that the House, with its slim democratic majority, would).
How many billions of US taxpayer dollars should Biden offer Iran (this time) to restart nuclear talks? And what good causes will Iran use those $ for?
@ Bruce: Snark does not constitute an acceptable comment here. Read the comment rules before commenting again. And also, do not substitute your opinion for truth or facts. Your comment was based on false claims, which are not acceptable here. All opinions must be backed by credible evidence.
The U.S. did not “give” anything to Iran. The U.S. released Iranian funds which it had frozen in U.S. financial institutions. The funds were Iran’s and not ours to “give” to them. And the funds certainly were not the funds of U.S. taxpayers. Since the funds are Iran’s when it repatriates them it can do whatever it wants with them.
Your prejudices, and your ignorance are showing. Watch your step here.
“I have written this after virtually every Israeli assassination I’ve reported here: they don’t work. That’s assuming of course that these murders are designed to weaken the “enemy” or prevent it from pursuing whatever policy or operation the victim directed.”
While there may be a line of terrorist leaders in waiting, that’s not true of people with deep scientific knowledge and capabilities. From last night’s News Hour, Norman Roule, former national intelligence manager for Iran at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this:
“The killing of the 59-year-old Iranian official removes from Iran its greatest institutional memory on its weaponization program. It will be very difficult for Iran to replace this, and it will actually impair their ability to reestablish a weaponization program, should they decide to do so.”
By the way, does “ you’re a nitwit” fit your ‘no insults’ commenting policy, or is that just for others?
@ Jeff: That’s horse crap. Every Iranian leader in sensitive, critical military or scientific circles has probably trained four or five junior figures who could reasonably take their place. I don’t care if Norman Roule is the head of the CIA, he’s talking nonsense.
As for commenting on my editing decisions, don’t. Commenters don’t get to do that. And the answer is yes, I get to write what I want here because it’s my blog.
Iranian diplomat on trial over plan to bomb a rally where Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker but Mossad tipped off the police
@ Dick: Israel has bombed six Iranian scientists in the past decade and murdered scores of other Palestinian in similar fashion and you get your knickers in a knot because Iran is alleged to have tried to bomb an MeK rally? This is the same MeK supplying the hit men assassinating those scientists. And you want to raise a geschrei when Iran seeks payback? Puh-leeze give me a fucking break!
Come back when Israel stops bombing anyone it doesn’t like or finds a threat. Then you can talk. Till then…
A slidings scale … all terror should be banned by responsible leaders. Extrajudicial pin-point strikes to eliminate a murderer may be acceptable as last resort, a bomb placed which kills civilians is totally unacceptable.
After 35 Years, Iran Liquidates MKO Terrorist near Amsterdam
“There is no Iranian military nuclear program.”
True that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program, but it can have one, on very short notice.
‘Iran also took steps to keep former weapons program scientists employed – e.g., at Iran’s Defense Research and Innovation Organization (SPND), an organization subordinate to the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics that conducts military research and development – on weaponization-relevant dual-use technical activities (and under the continued leadership of the former head of that program, Moshen Fakrizadeh), which suggests that Iran preserved this information at least in part potentially to aid in any future nuclear weapons development work in the event that a decision were made to resume such work.’
So it’s OK to murder a man because his country may at some time in the future restart a nuclear weapons program? Your hypocrisy is breathtaking. Why not execute the scientists leading the actual, existing nuclear weapons programs of the US, Israel, Russia, China, etc.
Oh and there is no law, nor is it a violation of NPT to maintain an Option to have a nuclear weapons program, without actually doing so.
But until Israel does everything you wish it had, you cry for the death of a super terrorist?
Isn’t the world a better place w/o Abu Muhammad al-Masri? How many lives have been saved by eliminating him?
@ Ariel: You see, here’s the thing. If a national or international court sentenced al-Masri to death for his crimes. That’s perfect. But for Yossi Cohen or Bibi Netanyahu or even Gina Haspell to do that? No way. Because if they can sentence anyone to death without trial, then anyone can do that to anyone else if they have the power to do so. That leads to anarchy and chaos.
Now, Israel thrives on creating such chaos among its enemies. Because it’s enemies are limited in the damage they can do to Israel. The IRG can’t assassinate Yossi Cohen or Gadi Eisenkot. Not right now they can’t. But who’s to say they won’t be able to at some point in the future? Maybe in the near future? And when they do you will be the first with a geschrei about war crimes and state terrorism. Why? Because you’re a hypocrite. And a hypocrite of the worst kind.
BTW, I don’t cry for al-Masri’s murder. I cry for the war crime committed by Israel because I respect the rule of law and international treaties. Israel doesn’t. You don’t. So you will reap the whirlwind and deserve every bit of it when you do.
Richard writes “As with every other Israeli assassination victim, the organization can replace them”.
This is nonsense. While everyone is replaceable, it does not mean the final result w/o the same person will be the same and will take the same to produce. Fakrizadeh was a genius and a veteran in his field. Nothing can replace the connection he had and the proof of it is the security guards who were with him.
Did anyone replace Qasem Soleimani since he was removed from the chessboard?
@ Ariel: Nonsense right back at ya. Who replaced Abbas Musawi after Israel assassinated him? Nasrallah. That’s a considerable upgrade over Musawi in terms of his capabilities and leadership. Who replaced Sheikh Yassine after Israel assassinated him? Meshal, Haniye, etc. All equally capable if not more so than Yassine. But don’t just believe me: a CIA report actually quantified the in efficacy of Israeli assassinations and found them to be essentially useless as a counter-terror approach.
Of course someone replaced Soleimani. Of course, as I wrote someone was almost certainly already in place to replace Fakrizadeh in the event of his murder. You simply don’t understand how these organizations work. There is always a line of succession in such critical technical positions. And the successor is almost always as good or better than the deceased figure whose place he is filling.
Simply put, assassinations don’t work. Never have, never will. Though I must say that the assassination of Rabin was a brilliant stroke for the Judeo-fascists who eventually came to power. It ushered in 30 years of Judeo-fascist rule in Israel (minus the few years Barak and Peres were in power).
But you’re as usual barking up the wrong tree. Of course Israel articulates this as countering terror. But that’s not the purpose at all. The real purpose of murdering your opponents is entirely political. It gives you a boost come Israeli election time. And convinces the electorate that you are Mr. Security and that Palestinians are bloodthirsty terrorists. That preserves your ability to maintain an apartheid state that much longer.
Kelvin there are tens of countries technically capable developing nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them. If North Korea could do it with its very limited resources, do you think that Germany, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Mexico etc could not do it a few months and years. The problem in Middle East is that there is one very aggressive country armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons. That country is not Iran, Iraq or Egypt etc. That country is naturally Israel.
In 2011 UN announced that Finland was hosting a Middle East non nuclear zone conference in 2012. All countries beside Israel (and USA) were ready to participate in that meeting and so it was not arranged. What is extremely “funny” is that still Israel and USA are constantly demanding Middle East to be non-nuclear and pretending that Israel is not a nuclear power.
It clear that all major armies except Israel’s in the region are seeking ways to balance the region’s unstable power and security structure. The only way to eliminate the threat of Israeli nukes is to have own or an bigger ally who has them. If Israelis believe that the Sunni kings and dictators will let Israel be the dominant power in the region after Iran might be “neutralized”, they are nuts. Israel’s strong position lasts only so long USA is strong and is being navigated by “Israelis”. USA is strong only so long dollar’s position as the dominant reserve currency lasts and that era could end much sooner as we dare to believe.
You write that assassinations never work but then bring about the tragic assassination of Rabin as an exception for the rule you have just made up.
While political assassinations probably do not work, the assassination of knowledge are very likely to work. To say “these organizations bla bla bla…” is just words. And if Iran abandoned its nuclear program over a decade ago, why would they even teach it to new people??
You make huge assumptions and treat them as facts.
@ Ariel: New rules for you: you publish no more than 3 comments in a 24 hour period. And you get one comment per thread and no more. If you violate them you face moderation.
As for assassinations, they can work in limited circumstances. If a national leader is murdered and his country is riven by ideology and hate, and the opposition is strong enough to take over, then they can be effective as it was in Israel.
But in the case of Israeli assassinations of enemies in frontline states, they haven’t dared kill Assad, Khamenei or Nasrallah (yes, they tried and failed). IF they did, these movements and countries are generally stable and such a killing would unite them against Israel, and not against the internal opposition.
As for Iran’s nuclear program, you haven’t a clue how countries function. You always allow for scenarios and eventualities. In case X happens, you have Y available as an alternative policy option.
We do not know what sort of research Iran is pursuing. We do know it has no nuclear weapons program. So Fakrizadeh could have been pursuing any number of military research projects either releated or unrelated to its nuclear program.
So it is not OK to assassinate a terrorist harbored by Iran b/c we need to wait for the international court but it is OK for a lone angry Palestinian to murder an Israeli civilian.
Talk about hypocrisy…
@ Ariel: Never ever put words in my mouth. I NEVER said it was OK to murder an Israeli civilian. In fact, I’ve often said just the opposite.
But I will be damned if I will be your marionette and say things just because you command me to do so. And if you ever speak in my name or claim I’ve done, said or written anything I haven’t, you will be banned so fast your head will spin.