Iranian President Hasan Rohani on Saturday accused Israel of acting as a “mercenary” of the United States by accusing it of the murder of Iran’s main nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, on Friday. “Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance, with the usurping Zionist regime as a mercenary, were stained with the blood of a son of this nation,” Roahani said in a statement published on his official website, referring to the murder of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran generally uses the term “global arrogance” to refer to the United States.

“The assassination of martyr (Mohsen) Fakhrizadeh shows the desperation of our enemies and the depth of their hatred. His martyrdom will not stop our achievements,” his declarations continue, also picked up by Iranian state television. The head of the country’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, has promised that the murder of the nuclear physicist will not stop or impede the progress of the country’s nuclear program.

“Fakhrizadeh’s path now continues even more intensely,” Salehi said. Communications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi made a similar statement. “Thousands will grow again because of the only flower that is plucked,” the minister tweeted. Fakhrizadeh was ambushed “by terrorists” in Ab Sard, an eastern suburb of Tehran.

Khamenei calls for revenge

The Iranian supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked shortly after that those behind the murder be “punished”. Khamenei urged to “punish those who committed (the crime) and those responsible (…) and to continue the scientific and technical effort of this martyr in all areas in which he was working,” according to a statement released on its official website.

“This incomparable scientist gave his dear and valuable life to Allah because of his great and lasting scientific efforts, and the great prize of martyrdom is his divine reward”, he added.

Local authorities confirmed the death of Fakhrizadeh and also that several attackers were killed. Fakhrizade had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production. The Fars news agency said that this was the reason why the Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him. “The Iranian nation is too smart to fall into the trap of the Zionist conspiracy. They are thinking of creating chaos, but they should know that we have seen their intentions and they will not succeed,” Rouhani added in his statements, in which he also announced, however, that there would be reprisals.

Many analysts saw the attack as an attempt by Israel and the administration of the still President of the United States, Donald Trump, to torpedo a possible resumption of relations between Tehran and Washington. “It was not just an attack on the professor, but on the diplomatic efforts being made in both countries after President-elect Joe Biden took office,” political scientist Mohsen Milani tweeted. Prominent Iranian journalist Sahra Asghari took a similar view: “The attack was the price Iran had to pay for Trump’s electoral defeat,” she tweeted.

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