Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist

  • IASbaba
  • December 2, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Assassination of Iranian Nuclear Scientist

Context: The brazen murder of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran during November last week.

Fakhrizadeh was widely regarded as a key figure in Iran’s nuclear weapons programme and his assassination — for which no one has yet claimed responsibility — will have serious geopolitical implications in West Asia and beyond

Critical Analysis of the killing

  1. It highlights Iran’s growing strategic vulnerabilities
  • This is second such high profile killing during 2020.
  • General Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general in charge of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard was killed by a US drone strike in January.
  • The frequent attacks on high-profile Iranian targets raise questions about the hostile penetration of its society. 
  • There has been speculation that the assassins may have had help from locals on the ground.
  1. Killing was done to sabotage the renewal of Iran Nuclear Deal
  • In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany
  • Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions that was imposed on Iran by US, UN and EU.
  • However, in May 2018, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal and reinstated sanctions targeting both Iran and states that trade with it. 
  • Subsequently in 2019, Iran also suspended commitments under the agreement. This made that the landmark deal dead.
  • However, President elect Joe Biden has talked about restarting the negotiation with Iran after he assumes Presidency after Jan 20. 
  • For Trump Administration, Israel and Saudi Arabia — Iran’s rival in the Great Game in West Asia and North Africa — such a rapprochement would be detrimental to their interests. The assassination of Fakhrizadeh is about achieving that political objective.
  • If Iran retaliates vigorously, it will invite an all-out confrontation with Israel and the US and kill the prospects for a productive engagement with the Biden administration. 
  • Holding back will expose Iran’s weakness and sharpen internal divisions between pragmatists who want to engage the US and the hardliners who are itching for a confrontation.
  1. Rapid transformation of Arab relations with Israel. 
  • The fear of Iran has been driving Gulf Arabs to embrace Israel. 
  • In the last few months, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have normalised ties with Israel (Abraham Accords)
  • There is also speculation of an impending normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia — the ideological core of the Islamic and Arab world.
  • Iran has much goodwill in South Asia, but India and its neighbours have no desire to get sucked into Tehran’s conflicts with the Arabs or the US.
  • All this will further widen the gap between Iran and rival Arab Camp (led by Saudi Arabia, supported by US & now Israel)
  1. Deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Turkey for the leadership of the Muslim world
  • Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE want to return the Middle East towards political and religious moderation.
  • However, the once secular Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become the new champion of political Islam. 
  • Turkey’s new religious zeal provides a good ideological cover for Erdogan’s ambitions to expand its geopolitical influence in the Middle East.
  • The recent developments might change the geopolitical alignments in the region with Turkey playing a more aggressive role in the conflicts of the region


  • Although India has made some important adjustments to its engagement with the Middle East in recent years, Delhi can’t take its eyes off the rapid changes in the region.
  • New Delhi has thus far managed to maintain strong ties across the Middle East. This is a time to wait and watch, while continuing the policy of bipartisan friendship.

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s Chabahar Project and consequent changes: Click here & here

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