Tehran, Iran (AP) – A top Iranian security official on Monday accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to kill a scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the 2000s.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the country’s highest National Security Council, made the remarks at the funeral of Mohsin Fakhrizade, where Iran’s defense minister separately vowed to continue the man’s work “with greater speed and more power”.
Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has declined to comment on the attack.
Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program, which Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation given the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the “structured program” ended in 2003. US intelligence agencies agreed with that assessment in a 2007 report.
Israel says Iran still has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, pointing to research into Tehran’s ballistic missile program and other technologies. Iran has long believed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Shamkhani’s comment changed the story of Fakhrizadeh’s murder, which took place on Friday. Authorities initially said a truck exploded and then gunmen opened fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. State TV also interviewed a man on the night of the attack, who told the gunmen about the open fire.
State TV’s English-language broadcaster Press TV reported on Monday that a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore the “logos and peculiarities of Israel’s military industry”. State TV’s Arabic-language channel Al-Alam claimed that the weapons used were “satellite-controlled”, a claim claimed by the paramilitary Fars news agency on Sunday.
None of the outlets immediately offered evidence to back up their claims, which gives the authorities a way to explain why no one was allegedly arrested.
“Unfortunately, the operation was a very complex operation and was carried out using electronic devices,” Shamkhani told state TV. “No person was present on the site.”
Satellite control of weapons is nothing new. Armed, long-range drones, for example, rely on satellite connections handled by their remote pilots. Remote-controlled gun turrets are also present, but their operator is usually shown to be connected by a hard line, which cuts down on delays in orders to be reeled. Israel uses such hard-wired systems along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
While technically feasible, it was not immediately clear whether such a system had been used before, said Jeremy Binnie, Mid-East editor of Jerry’s Defense Week.
“Can you set a weapon with a camera that has a feed that uses an open satellite communication line for the controller?” Binny said. “I can’t see why that’s not possible.”
It also raised the question of whether the truck that exploded during the attack tried to destroy a satellite-controlled machine gun that was hidden inside the vehicle. Iranian authorities did not immediately accept. One would also need someone on the ground to install the weapon.
Shamkhani went on to detail the Iranian exiled group Mujahideen-e-Khalq for “no role.” The MEK, known as the deportation group, is suspected of aiding Israel’s operations in Iran in the past. MEK spokesperson Shaheen Gobari dismissed Shamkhani’s remarks as “anger, rancor and lies” that the group first exposed over Iran’s nuclear program.
Monday’s service to Fakhrzadeh took place in Tehran on an outskirts of Iran’s Ministry of Defense, with Revolutionary Guard Chief General Hossein Salami, the Guard’s Quad Force leader General. Ismail Ghani, civil nuclear program chief Ali Akbar Sahi and intelligence minister Mamoud Alavi. . They used to sit separately from each other and wear masks due to the coronovirus epidemic as the Quran is sweetly read in the Quran and religious texts.
Defense Minister General Amir Hatami gave a speech after kissing Fakhrizadeh’s casket and putting his forehead against it. He said Fakhrizadeh’s assassination would make Iranians “more united, more determined”.
“For the continuation of our path, we will continue with more speed and more power,” Hatami said in live comments by state television.
Hatami also criticized the countries that did not condemn Fakhrizadeh’s assassination and warned: “It will happen to you someday.”
Overnight, the United Arab Emirates, which just reached a normalization deal with Israel, issued a statement saying “heinous murder”. The United Arab Emirates, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, warned that “fuel in the region could further exacerbate conflicts.”
Last year, the UAE found itself amid an escalating chain of events between Iran and the US, although Iran’s nuclear program has long been suspected, with Emirates saying it wants to end the crisis. The UAE had just launched passenger air service to Israel and Israelis are expected to leave the country over Hanukkah in the coming days.
Bahrain is an island state in the Persian Gulf separate from Saudi Arabia, which recently normalized relations with Israel, similarly condemning Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said, “In view of the current situation in the region, the Kingdom of Bahrain has called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint to avoid new levels of instability.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Usheep urged diplomats around the missions and Jewish community centers to urge diplomats to maintain “the highest level of awareness of irregularity and any irregular activity”. A cable has been sent to the delegations.
Hebrew-language media in Israel reported that following Fakhrizade’s assassination, the Foreign Ministry ordered that security be increased on some Israeli diplomatic missions abroad. The ministry declined to comment on diplomatic security matters.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed to Jerusalem.