A report from The New York Times has confirmed the fate of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whose life was lost at the hands of an Israeli sniper using an artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted sniper rifle.
Fakhrizadeh was warned by Iranian intelligence of a possible assassination plot, but the scientist ignored the warnings, as he and his wife were on their way to their country house near Tehran.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions
Since the 1950s, Iran has been investing in nuclear technology. As part of the U.S. Atoms for Peace program, which aimed to transfer nuclear materials and technology to other countries for peaceful endeavors, Iran received technical assistance.
Even after the 1979 revolution, the country remained focused on nuclear development. Iran has made significant developments over the years but has been penalized with sanctions by the U.S. and other countries for violating the boundaries set.
Furthermore, Iran has been friendly with communist governments in countries like China and North Korea in hopes of nuclear cooperation.
“China supports Iran’s reasonable demands concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] on the Iranian nuclear issue, and stands ready to strengthen coordination with Iran and safeguard the common interests of both sides,” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping told former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
When he was 18, after the Shah of Iran was overthrown during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was driven to fulfill his dreams of being a nuclear scientist and taking part in the new government’s military. After joining the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, he earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the Isfahan University of Technology.
Fakhrizadeh spearheaded the country’s nuclear program, was put in charge of the Guards’ missile development program, and developed drones for the Defense Ministry. Before his death, Fakhrizadeh was named deputy defense minister.
The scientist was also said to sneak in “sensitive equipment or technology” past international checkpoints to and from Iran, creating an underground network from Latin America to North Korea and Eastern Europe, Iranian advisor Gheish Ghoreishi said in an interview.
On Nov. 27, Fakhrizadeh was on his way to his country home in Absard, east of Tehran, despite warnings Iranian intelligence had given him. The scientist was driving in an unarmoured car with his wife and had security following him along the way.
However, as the convoy was driving down a road, an explosion reportedly occurred and a series of machine-gun shots pinned the convoy down, instigating a gunfight between Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards and a team of assassins.
In the midst of the gunfire, a sniper was able to locate Fakhrizadeh and successfully eliminated the scientist from 1,000 miles away using an AI-assisted machine gun.
An intelligence official reported that the Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun used to kill Fakhrizadeh was equipped with an “advanced robotic apparatus” designed to steady the gun’s aim against shaking. Because the gun was so heavy, it had to be broken down as much as possible before being smuggled and reassembled in Iran.
The gun was attached to a truck, which was wired to explode after the assassination was confirmed. After Fakhrizadeh was killed, the truck was blown up. However, the gun remained intact, allowing the Revolutionary Guards to determine the inner workings of the weapon.
In response to his father’s death, Hamed Fakhrizadeh said on state television, “It was not a simple terrorist attack for someone to come and fire a bullet and run. His assassination was far more complicated than what you know and think. He was unknown to the Iranian public, but he was very well known to those who are the enemy of Iran’s development.”
‘Remember that name’
With his prominent role as the father of Iran’s nuclear program, he became a high-priority target for more than a decade, suspected of leading Iran’s efforts to weaponize its nuclear energy.
“Remember that name,” said former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a news conference in 2018. “Fakhrizadeh.”
Meetings to plan for the assassination between 2019 and 2020 involved Israeli officials led by Israeli foreign agency Mossad director Yossi Cohen, and American officials such as former President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
In Jan. 2020, a U.S. drone strike, with the help of Israeli intelligence, claimed the life of Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
According to the New York Times, several of Fakhrizadeh’s colleagues have been killed since 2007, but an assassination attempt on Fakhrizadeh in 2009 was called off when the plan was compromised.