Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response to the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, said a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, while a hardline newspaper suggested that Tehran’s revenge should include attacking the Israeli city of Haifa.
“Without a doubt, Iran will give a calculated and decisive response to the criminals who took the martyr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh from the Iranian nation,” said Kamal Kharrazi, who is also director of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations of Iran, in a statement.
Fakhrizadeh, long suspected by the Western and Israeli governments of planning a secret nuclear weapons program, was ambushed on a highway near Tehran on Friday and shot and killed in his car.
Iran’s clerical and military rulers have blamed the Islamic Republic’s longtime enemy Israel for the assassination. Iran has in the past accused Israel of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists since 2010.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment on the murder. An Israeli cabinet minister, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Saturday that he did not know who carried it out.
Iranian hardline media on Sunday called for harsh revenge.
The hardline daily Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for an attack on the Israeli port city of Haifa, if Israel’s role in Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is proven.
“The attack must be carried out in such a way that, in addition to destroying the facilities, it also causes large numbers of human casualties,” Saadollah Zarei wrote in an opinion piece.
However, the rulers of Iran are aware of the enormous military and political difficulties of attacking Israel. Such an attack would also complicate any effort by US President-elect Joe Biden to reignite detente with Tehran after he takes office on January 20.
Tensions have been high between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with six major powers and re-imposed sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy hard. In retaliation, Tehran has gradually violated the agreement’s restrictions on its nuclear program.
Biden has said that he will return the United States to the deal if Iran resumes compliance. Iran has always denied the pursuit of nuclear weapons.