With tensions between Iran, Israel, and the United States running higher than ever, the Islamic Republic is losing many government officials to assassinations. But the assassinations aren’t just being conducted far from the Irani borders; many are taking place inside the country. This is sending warning signals through the Iranian security apparatus.
The Iranian government is blaming Israel, and specifically the Mossad, for the assassinations. Therefore, this recent escalation could lead to widespread violence that would no doubt spread to include several other actors in the region.
From 2010 to 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists, Masoud Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad, and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, were assassinated, while another, Fereydoon Abbasi, was wounded in an assassination attempt.
Iran arrested a number of its citizens in conjunction with those assassinations claiming that they were, in fact, working for Mossad and the Israeli government.
The Israelis reportedly stopped the targeted killings after the United States put diplomatic pressure on Tel Aviv.
Back in August, the number two leader in al-Qaeda, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down in Tehran along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden. Al-Masri was considered one of the masterminds behind the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. Those bombings killed 224 people and wounded hundreds more. The United States had put a $10 million dollar bounty on his head.
Coincidentally, al-Masri was assassinated on August 7, the anniversary date of the embassy bombings.
Iran announced that the assassination of al-Masri was conducted by Israeli operatives at the behest of the United States. Neither Israel nor the U.S. commented on the situation, however, it is known that the U.S. has been tracking al-Qaeda operatives in Iran for quite some time.
Iran and al-Qaeda are supposedly bitter enemies. According to Iranian officials, al-Masri was living under “house arrest” in Tehran. Yet, it was learned that he traveled freely inside the city. On the night in question, he and his daughter were traveling in the upscale neighborhood of Pasdaran in a Renault L90 sedan, when two gunmen on a motorcycle approached and fired five shots with pistol and silencer.
It is believed that Iran had allowed him to live freely in the country since al-Qaeda was attacking U.S. targets. It was “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” type of situation.
Iran initially put out that the assassinated man was actually a Lebanese member of Hezbollah, but the person they listed didn’t exist.
On November 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist who founded Iran’s military nuclear program in the early 2000s, was assassinated on a busy highway. A truck bomb exploded in front of his vehicle, stopping traffic. Then gunmen came out of a vehicle with machine guns and riddled his car killing him.
At his funeral, however, the Iranians changed their story and now claim that Fakhrizadeh’s killing was done remotely. Iranian state TV’s Arabic-language channel, Al-Alam, claimed the weapons used were “controlled by satellite,” a claim also made on Sunday by the semiofficial Fars news agency. This gives the Iranian authorities a way to explain why no one was reportedly arrested at the scene. Yet, no evidence was produced in support of these claims.
The English-language Press TV reported on Monday that a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.”
Al-Alam interviewed a witness the night of the attack who described seeing gunmen open fire at Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle.
Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, said to state TV, “Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated one and was carried out by [the use of] electronic devices.”
“We have some clues but surely the ‘Monafeghin’ group was involved and the criminal element behind it is the Zionist regime and Mossad,” he added, referring to Israel’s foreign intelligence service.
“Monafeghin” is how Iranian government officials refer to the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a bloc of opposition groups in exile that seeks an end to Shiite Muslim clerical rule.
The government also blamed the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) for “having a role in this,” again, without offering any evidence. The MEK has been suspected of assisting Israeli operations in Iran in the past. The MEK released a statement vehemently denying any involvement.
On Sunday, Muslim Shahdan, a senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was killed with three other officers in a drone strike soon after crossing the border from Iraq into Syria. The men were believed to have been carrying weapons at the time of the drone strike.
Iranian-proxy militia members retrieved the bodies. Although Saudi-based Al-Arabiya News reported that the drone strike killed Muslim Shahdan, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, there has not been any independent confirmation as to the exact identification of the deceased officer. Iran has denied that Shahdan was killed in the drone strike.
Israel and the U.S. have long accused Iran and its proxy militias of attempting to smuggle weapons via Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to be used against Israel.
Just last night, Amir Toumaj, an independent researcher whose work has appeared in Long Wars Journal, reported that Habib Savari, an agent for the Intelligence Ministry was assassinated in his car.
Intelligence Ministry agent Habib Savari has been reportedly assassinated by several assailants in southwestern Ahvaz, according to Javaneha pic.twitter.com/8ITHsGGIGf
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) December 1, 2020
Iranian opposition media, including the website Javanha, were the first to report this latest killing. The Iranians are vowing revenge at these latest assassinations, but are weighing their options given the change of administration in Washington in the next month.