It’s rare to see a news story so seemingly ripped from the pages of a cheesy action flick, yet with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, by way of a remote-controlled machine gun mounted atop a truck that was then rigged to explode, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the case. No one has officially taken credit for the killing, but all signs point to Israel. Mossad, the Israeli equivalent to our CIA, has a history of carrying out covert operations and killings in Tehran. Additionally, Israel has every incentive to poison the well of diplomatic relations between the US and Iran ahead of President-Elect Joe Biden’s commitment to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal.
It is unclear whether or not President Trump knew about the attack or even sanctioned the attack. Still, the goals of this targeted killing line up entirely with the rhetoric his administration and, most pointedly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been churning out since they formally left the Iran Deal. They criticized the deal for being weak and instead opted for a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran back to the table on much more favorable terms. That was back in 2018.
Now, two years later, it’s hard to see any apparent successes from that campaign. Iran has repeatedly refused to return to the table despite crushing sanctions, and several killings carried out by both the US and Israel. They have almost ten times the amount of enriched uranium compared to when they were complying with the Iran Deal, and there is little appetite domestically for the US to be drawn into yet another endless war in the Middle East. Frankly, it’s hard for me to see any tangible benefit to the US from antagonizing Iran further, save for a desire out of some combination of spite and obfuscation to make further diplomacy with Iran impossible.
At what point do you say, “This didn’t work. Let’s try something new!” When you think of a region as complicated and volatile as the Middle East, one would think the goal would be to ratchet down tensions wherever possible and not the reverse. Well, it seems that any admission of failure or at least acknowledgment that a stated policy hasn’t worked to achieve any conceivable metric of success in the Middle East will not be forthcoming from this administration.
Moreover, more killings and attacks will likely take place before President-Elect Joe Biden takes office. What effect will that have? It’s not hard a hard question to figure out. Retired Navy Admiral Bill McRaven did an interview on ABC asking that same question, “ Iran, you know, either suspects or knows that Israel was responsible for this attack…then, of course, kind of by association, they’re going to assume that we either collaborated with it or at a minimum were witting of the Israeli actions…The Iranians are going to be in a position where they have to retaliate. I don’t see any way around it. They’re going to have to save face. So now the issue becomes, what does that retaliation look like? Does that then begin to escalate the problems in the region?”
Iran will undoubtedly respond in some fashion, and we can only hope that cooler heads prevail when they do. Following the funeral of Fakhrizadeh, Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami confirmed this, giving a televised speech saying, “ The enemies know and I, as a soldier, tell them that no crime, no terror and no stupid act will go unanswered by the Iranian people.” Most pointedly, Hatami continues, “ The criminal Americans have thousands of nuclear weapons, and the criminal Zionist regime has hundreds of nuclear weapons. What are they for? Are they to be used as decorations in your homes?”
It’s hard to argue with that point. At what point does Iran say screw the Western world and rush to complete a bomb, and at what point will the US realize its culpability in having let that happen.
Originally published at https://robertpotter.co on November 30, 2020.