The clock is ticking on Iran. With the targeted killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the temperature rose by more than a few degrees. This was not meant to be a de-escalation. Iran might have thought they were in the “clear” after America’s Presidential election, but turns out it is quite the opposite.
Fakhrizadeh was indeed the architect of Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) went so far as to call him the “father of Iran’s Nuclear Bomb.” They also named him as involved in Iran’s Project 111 (packaging the Shihab 3 ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead).
Fakhrizadeh was a Brigadier General in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In January, the United States took credit for the drone strike against the Commander of the Revolutionary Guards – Qassem Soleimani.
Fakhrizadeh visited North Korea in February 2013 to observe its third nuclear test. He was also believed to be present at its first two. None of these activities suggest that Iran was pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful means. Iran was copying North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, and Fakhrizadeh was smack in the middle.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh makes a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities even more likely, not less likely. Once the nuclear sites are neutralized, Iran will no longer be able to rebuild them. That is how important Fakhrizadeh was to Iran’s nuclear program.
One may then ask: Who will destroy Iran’s nuclear reactors?
The confusion over who is actually going to be President on January 20, 2021, actually makes it more likely that a strike will occur. Adding to the urgency is the fact that Joe Biden, if President, will seek to make a new deal at any cost. In a recent interview with Thomas Friedman, who asked Mr. Biden if he would adhere to his September op-ed, he said, “As a starting point for follow-on negotiations. It’s going to be hard, but, Yeah.” Joe Biden, in other words, plans to snap back to the JCPOA, if President. This would be unacceptable to Israel and its new Arab Peace Partners, including Saudi Arabia. It is for these reasons that I believe that Israel will take on the responsibility to, once and for all, rid the world of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia only reinforces my belief that Israel is ready to act. Although hailed as a Peace Initiative, it appears that the Prime Minister was guaranteed access to Saudi airspace if needed in a strike against Iran. This is crucial to the operation. It made the possibility of eradicating Iran’s nuclear reactors much more realistic and imminent.
What might complicate matters is not America’s recent election, but Israel finds itself in a possible new election cycle, as well. One of the major goals of the Unity Government was not just to take care of the coronavirus pandemic, but to deal with the existential threat of Iran. Going to new elections could get in the way of both. It leaves a very narrow window of opportunity to do the job.
In my discussions with high-level Israeli officials, they are quite confident that Israel can take out the nuclear reactors, and do it rather quickly. This will not be a prolonged operation.
We are now one minute to midnight. I fully expect the Iranian nuclear weapons chapter to finally come to an end.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.