Israel put its embassies around the world on high alert on Saturday after Iranian threats of retaliation following the killing of a nuclear scientist near Tehran.
Military experts in Tel Aviv described the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh as a “dramatic operation” as significant as the assassination of Iran's Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January.
Security sources in Tel Aviv said that Iran is likely to retaliate through its militias or sleeper cells abroad, because a direct response would trigger to an all-out war. Tehran has blamed Israel for the assassination.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani threatened an aggressive response to the killing of Fakhrizadeh, while the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) warned that “severe revenge and punishment” has been put on Iran's agenda.
Moreover, Lebanon’s Hezbollah announced in a statement that it will strongly stand by Iran.
A senior US official said that the United States had nothing to do with the scientist’s killing, reported the Washington Post. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said there was little doubt Israel was behind the attack.
Dr. Eran Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said that the assassination was a message to US President-elect Joe Biden that Iran’s nuclear program file was not just any other political file.
Lerman revealed that Fakhrizadeh was not only responsible for developing Tehran’s nuclear program, but in charge of relations with North Korea, which is seen as a major source of Iran’s nuclear expertise.
He added that the assassination is no less significant that the killing of Soleimani.
“This is strong blow to the Iranian leadership on several levels. First, it is a blow to its nuclear project. No person is irreplaceable, but it will be difficult to recover from this blow. Second, the assassination reveals that Iran is suffering from a serious crisis among its intelligence agencies,” he added.
They are remarkably exposed and easily infiltrated, he added.