The assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, attributed to Israel, threatens to heighten tensions in the region and complicate the work of US President-elect Joe Biden, who has highlighted his intention to resume dialogue with Tehran.
Iran on Friday accused Israel of wanting to sow “chaos” by killing Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, 59, a high-level scientist in the Iranian nuclear program, suggesting that the Hebrew state acted with the blessings of the United States.
Washington did not issue official comments on the operation, but late President Donald Trump retweeted an article and an analysis of the case.
Trump pulled his country out of the international nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, reached in 2015 in Vienna, in the name of a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran that his government is determined to carry forward until the end of his term.
US Chancellor Mike Pompeo, who has just made a visit to Israel, on Friday imposed new economic sanctions against four Chinese and Russian companies, accused of supporting the development of the Iranian nuclear program.
“This administration is there until Jan. 20” and “will continue to implement its policies until the end,” said a senior State Department official who recently asked to have his identity preserved.
Pompeo said he hoped the next American government “would make good use” of the “favorable correlation of forces that the (current) administration is trying to achieve”, to “pressure Iranians to behave like a normal country”.
But for most American analysts, the assassination of Fakhrizadeh is dangerous and undermines Biden’s position, who, eager to break with Trump’s unilateralism, said he wanted to offer “Iran a credible return path” to diplomacy, “with a view to to reintegrate the United States into the nuclear deal “with Tehran.
For John Brennan, a former CIA chief, the homicide was a “criminal and extremely dangerous act”, which risks leading to “lethal reprisals and a new phase of regional conflict”.
Brennan, head of the intelligence agency between 2013 and 2017 during the presidency of Barack Obama and while Biden was vice president, urged Iran to “resist the impulse” to take reprisals and to wait “the return to the international scene of responsible American leaders “.
The Trump administration sent the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf, denying that this decision had anything to do with the assassination of the Iranian scientist.
Germany warned on Saturday of “a further escalation” of the situation, while the United Nations called for “restraint” on the parties.
“Weeks before the new United States government takes over, existing margins of dialogue with Iran must be maintained in order to resolve the conflict over the Iranian atomic program through negotiation,” a spokesman for the German Ministry of Relations told AFP. Exteriors.
An opinion shared by Ben Friedman, a professor at George Washington University, for whom this murder “is likely to help Iran’s tough wing, which wants nuclear weapons”.
It also constitutes “an act of sabotage aimed at diplomacy and the interests of the United States,” he tweeted.
“This is a scandalous move, aimed at undermining diplomatic relations between a new United States government and Iran,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former diplomatic adviser. “It is time for this continuous scale to end.”
However, some see this operation as a lever that the Biden government could use in possible discussions with Tehran.
“There are two months left before Joe Biden takes office,” said Mark Dubowitz, director of the conservative group of experts Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“It is sufficient time for the United States and Israel to inflict severe damage on the Iranian regime and to put pressure on the Biden administration.”