President Trump’s envoy for Iran and Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, defended the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an interview with The Times of Israel last week.
In the interview, which was published on Monday, Abrams defended a common criticism of assassinations inside Iran. Critics argue that the officials killed are replaceable and that the targeted killings do nothing but escalate tensions.
“I think it’s a mistake to believe that Iranian officials… are interchangeable cogs in a machine who have no personal aspects that are irreplaceable,” he said. In defending targeted killings, Abrams cited the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.
Although it has not been officially confirmed by Israel, there is little doubt that Israel was behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing. According to The Times of Israel, Abrams was careful not to attribute the assassination to Israel, but did say, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
Abrams fed into the Israeli narrative that Fakhrizadeh was the mastermind behind Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program. “He was the main organizer of this program, and the main intermediary between the nuclear weapons program and the top leadership of the country,” he said. “So I do think that his departure from that position will slow them down.”
In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented documents he claimed were obtained in Iran by Mossad that said Iran was operating a secret nuclear weapons program headed by Fakhrizadeh.
Investigative journalist Gareth Porter demonstrated in a report that the documents Netanyahu presented were likely fabrications. For example, there was no evidence to show the documents were genuine, and they were missing markings from the relevant Iranian agencies.
In another report, Porter documented how Israel carried out a propaganda campaign that started in the early 1990s to portray Fakhrizadeh as the head of a secret nuclear weapons program.