After Iran's leaders on Friday accused Israeli and United States intelligence agencies of being behind the killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Israel has put its embassies and diplomatic compounds across the globe on 'high alert'.
A series of statements from Iran had laid clear blame on Israel, which has been known for assassinating Iranian scientists in the past as part of efforts to curb and derail the Islamic Republic's alleged pursuit of an atomic bomb. "Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime," President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement.
Iran has vowed revenge for the killing of the man Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acknowledged as "the country’s prominent and distinguished nuclear and defensive scientist" even though Fakhrizadeh for years presented himself to the world as a mere academic and public intellectual. Khamenei called for the "definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it" but without giving details.
Interestingly, Israeli officials said "no comment" to repeat inquiries from international media over whether the Jewish state had a role in the plot, which involved gunmen attacking Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguards outside of Tehran before detonating a suicide blast. The nuclear scientist later died in a nearby hospital after being life-flighted there.
Meanwhile, Israeli and US outposts especially in the Middle East are bracing for possible retaliation from either Iran or its regional proxies. Reuters reports:
Israel put its embassies around the world on high alert on Saturday after Iranian threats of retaliation following the killing of a nuclear scientist near Tehran, Israeli N12 news reported on Saturday.
A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the ministry did not comment on matters of security regarding its representatives abroad.
Fakhrizadeh was reportedly on a Mossad hit list for years, which is no doubt also why he always traveled with bodyguards.
All relevant administrators must seriously place two crucial matters on their agendas: 1st to investigate this crime and firmly prosecute its perpetrators and its commanders, 2nd to continue the martyr’s scientific and technological efforts in all the sectors where he was active.— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 28, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even made public reference to him in a 2018 speech detailing Iran's nuclear ambitions and attempts to hide its weapons program.
As Times of Israel recounts, When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing its nuclear weapons program, he said: "Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh."
It's certainly a huge unknown whether Iran will seek any level of retaliation especially given the impending US presidential transition. Tehran has accused Israel of seeking to provoke a "full-blown war" just before Trump leaves office. The thinking is that by orchestrating a major provocation that would induce an Iranian response, the White House would be drawn into military action.