Following the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last week, former Obama officials and others who supported the 44th president’s nuclear deal with the Islamic republic say they believe the act was inspired by the Trump administration to sabotage Joe Biden’s likely attempt at re-engagement with Tehran.
Last week, reports said that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s top nuclear weapons scientist, was killed in a bombing and shooting attack outside Tehran, sparking widespread speculation that Israel was responsible.
Jerusalem has not claimed responsibility for the attack, but Middle East experts and others in the foreign policy realm say it has all of the hallmarks of an Israeli operation, with the approval and likely assistance of the Trump administration.
As such, the attack was widely condemned by former Obama officials and other foreign policy analysts who supported the former president’s nuclear deal with Iran, who also support re-entering the deal under a prospective President Joe Biden.
“This is an outrageous action aimed at undermining diplomacy between an incoming US administration and Iran. It’s time for this ceaseless escalation to stop,” former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted following the attack.
This is an outrageous action aimed at undermining diplomacy between an incoming US administration and Iran. It’s time for this ceaseless escalation to stop. https://t.co/ix6LpeVpcQ
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) November 27, 2020
In addition, Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and his administration, criticized the assassination, characterizing it as “a criminal act” while also suggesting that the White House was involved.
“This was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict. Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits,” he wrote online.
This was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict.
Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits. https://t.co/0uZhyBTM3S
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) November 27, 2020
David E. Sanger, a New York Times reporter, wrote on Saturday, “The assassination of the scientist who led Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon for the past two decades threatens to cripple President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal before he can even begin his diplomacy with Tehran. And that may well have been a main goal of the operation.”
“The reason for assassinating Fakhrizadeh wasn’t to impede Iran’s war potential, it was to impede diplomacy,” added Mark Fitzpatrick, a former State Department nonproliferation official, on Twitter.
The reason for assassinating #Fakhrizadeh wasn't to impede Iran's war potential, it was to impede diplomacy.
— Mark Fitzpatrick (@MarkTFitz) November 27, 2020
It’s not clear whether that truly is the Trump administration’s objective; in fact, though, it could be both.
It’s clear that Fakhrizadeh was a lead scientist directing Iran’s nuclear programs, which — if Tehran builds a bomb would, of course, enhance the country’s offensive military power. Sanger said that Fakhirzadeh has often been compared to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American atomic scientist who oversaw the Manhattan Project, which led to the United States’ first atomic weapons by the end of World War II.
Also, Biden has said he wants to drop sanctions against Iran put in place by President Trump if the Islamic republic returns to the terms of its 2015 nuclear agreement with the Obama administration.
“The Trump administration’s goal seems plain,” head of the International Crisis Group and a chief Iran nuclear deal negotiator, told the Times.
The current White House’s plan is “to take advantage of the time remaining before it heads to the exits to solidify its legacy and make it all the more difficult for its successor to resume diplomacy with Iran and rejoin the nuclear deal,” he added.
That said, he doesn’t believe the assassination or the Trump administration’s actions “will in fact succeed in killing diplomacy,” because “the center of gravity in Iran is still with those who want to wait until Biden is president.”
Other analysts believe that Israel and the U.S. acted now in an effort to spur the Iranians to react, which would give Trump an opening to strike the Tehran regime.
But, Sanger notes, “Iran’s leaders have made clear that regime survival is their No. 1 goal, and they have been careful not to take risks that could upend their hopes of lifting sanctions, and restoring the deal, after Mr. Trump’s term ends.”
As for responses by Rhodes and Brennan, both were dragged on social media for their relentless support of Iran, regardless of the regime’s actions to fund terrorism and support military groups pressuring Israel.
It would be easy to take this narrative more seriously if Iran's regime was held to some standard, ANY standard…as opposed to the total impunity and never critiqued. Remember they hung an innocent wrestler? The list of abuses is very long. And yet never called "outrageous"
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) November 28, 2020
This horrid regime literally held hostage, for trade, an academic. Where was the condemnation? https://t.co/XmKdYUVSAk
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) November 28, 2020
GREAT example of the self-obsessed Amerocentrism of the Obama doctrine of foreign policy
Israel: *Strikes key figure in the nuclear arms program of a country that openly calls to obliterate it*
Galaxy Brain Rhodes: They’re doing this to embarrass Biden. https://t.co/RAoBvyj3UT
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) November 28, 2020
(correction: brennan was us homeland security advisor when the scientists were assassinated. tweet should read “while brennan was in obama admin…”. point still stands, obv. he’s critical of the attack because it’s happening during trump admin)
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) November 28, 2020
That is how you stop escalation you dope. If the mullahs get the bomb you really think they won’t escalate? Give it a rest junior.
— Stacey – 1776 & MLK (@ScotsFyre) November 28, 2020
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