If Israel was going to kill a senior Iranian official, an act that had the potential to start a war, it needed the consent and protection of the United States. That meant acting before Biden could take office. In Netanyahu’s best case, the assassination would derail any chance of resurrecting the nuclear deal even if Biden won.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh grew up in a conservative family in the holy city of Qom, the theological heart of Shiite Islam. He was 18 when the Islamic revolution overthrew the monarchy of Iran, a historical calculation that fired his imagination.
He set out to achieve two dreams: to become a nuclear scientist and to join the military wing of the new government. As a symbol of his devotion to the revolution, he wore a silver ring with a large, oval red agate, the same type worn by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and General Suleimani.
He joined the Revolutionary Guard and rose through the ranks to general. He got a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Isfahan University of Technology with a dissertation on “neutron identification,” according to Ali Akbar Salehi, former director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency and longtime friend and colleague.
He led the missile development program for the Guards and pioneered the country’s nuclear program. As director of research at the Defense Ministry, he played a key role in the development of homegrown drones and, according to two Iranian officials, traveled to North Korea to join forces in missile development. At the time of his death, he was Deputy Minister of Defense.
“In the field of nuclear, nanotechnology and biochemical warfare, Mr. Fakhrizadeh was a character on par with Qassim Suleimani but in a totally covert way,” said Gheish Ghoreishi, who has advised the Foreign Ministry of Iran in Arab affairs.
When Iran needed sensitive equipment or technology that was prohibited by international sanctions, Fakhrizadeh found ways to obtain it.