Amid swirling questions over what, if any, role the United States played in the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, President Donald Trump on Friday amplified to his 88 million followers a Twitter post describing the killing as a "major psychological and professional blow" to Iran.
Sina Toossi, a senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), characterized the U.S. president's move as an "implicit approval if there ever was one." The president also retweeted a New York Times report on the killing, an ambush that took place as Fakhrizadeh was traveling by car in northern Iran.
As of this writing, Trump—who ordered the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier this year—has not otherwise responded to the assassination, which is drawing widespread condemnation from anti-war groups and Iranian officials.
12. There you have it. Trump retweets a tweet saying #Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is a “psychological & professional blow” to #Iran. A implicit approval if there ever was one pic.twitter.com/9WQrK1GZbk
— Sina Toossi (@SinaToossi) November 27, 2020
It is not entirely clear who carried out the Fakhrizadeh killing, but some—including Iran's top diplomat, Javad Zarif—said they believe Israel, the top U.S. ally in the region, may be responsible, noting its history of similar attacks.
"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today," said Zarif. "This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators."
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Given that the move came in the wake of reports that Trump recently requested options for a military strike on Iran and news that Israel has been preparing for such an attack for weeks, suspicions that the U.S. or Israel—or both—played a role in the killing are hardly fantastical.
As the Times reported, "Mr. Fakhrizadeh had long been the No. 1 target of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, which is widely believed to be behind a series of assassinations of scientists a decade ago that included some of Mr. Fakhrizadeh's deputies."
"One American official—along with two other intelligence officials—said that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist," according to the Times. "It was unclear how much the United States may have known about the operation in advance, but the two nations are the closest of allies and have long shared intelligence regarding Iran. The White House and the CIA declined to comment."
Win Without War, an anti-war advocacy group, tweeted Friday that "if the U.S. was involved with this assassination, it will be further evidence on top of the already heaping pile that Trump, Pompeo, and the other war hawks will do everything in their power to prevent the Biden admin from succeeding at diplomacy with Iran."
Paul Kawika Martin, senior director of policy and political affairs at Peace Action, added that the international community "should condemn assassinations, especially those with apparent U.S. complicity to provoke war or block efforts by a new administration to revive the nuclear agreement that made the world safer."
This story has been updated with new reporting on Israel's alleged role in the assassination.