Previous killings all took place at times when Washington and Tehran appeared to be on the cusp of a diplomatic breakthrough.

By Trita Parsi, Responsible Statecraft

While no one has yet taken responsibility for the latest assassination of an Iranian official, if the initial press speculation pointing to Israel is correct, what may be its motives and goals?

What we do know is that a senior officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, was shot to death Sunday while parked in front of his home in Tehran by two unidentified gunmen on a motorbike.

We also know that very few countries have the motivation and capability to conduct an assassination in Iran and that Israel — possibly using members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq cult as proxies — has assassinated a number of Iranian scientists in the same fashion in the past.

Iranian flag with a missile in the background

As noted Sunday by the Washington Post,

[Iran’s] accusation [of Israel’s responsibility], as well as the style of the brazen killing, raised the possibility of a link with other motorbike slayings previously attributed to Israel in Iran, such as those targeting the country’s nuclear scientists.

The most recent high-profile assassination attributed to Israel was that of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of Iran’s atomic energy program, in November 2020, just two months before the inauguration as president of Joe Biden who had promised during his election campaign to return the United States to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which President Trump had withdrawn.

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