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Tuesday , January 19 2021

Hit Haifa, say Iranians

TEHRAN, Nov 29, (AP): An opinion piece published Sunday by a hardline Iranian newspaper urged Iran to attack the Israeli port city of Haifa if Israel carried out the killing of the scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program in the early 2000s.

Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi pays his respect to the body of slain scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh among his family in Tehran, Iran on Nov 28. Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the killing of Fakhrizadeh who led Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program. (AP)

Though the hard-line Kayhan newspaper has long argued for aggressive retaliation for operations targeting Iran, Sunday’s opinion piece went further, suggesting any assault be carried out in a way that destroys facilities and “also causes heavy human casualties.” Israel, suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the past decade, has not commented on the brazen slaying of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

A military-style ambush Friday on the outskirts of Tehran reportedly saw a truck bomb explode and gunmen open fire on the scientist, killing him and a bodyguard. US intelligence agencies and UN nuclear inspectors have said the organized military nuclear program that Fakhrizadeh oversaw disbanded in 2003, but Israeli suspicion of Tehran’s atomic program and his involvement has never ceased. Kayhan published the piece written by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei, who argued Iran’s previous responses to suspected Israeli airstrikes that killed Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria did not go far enough to deter Israel.

He said an assault on Haifa also needed to be greater than Iran’s ballistic missile attack against American troops in Iraq following the US drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general in January. Striking the Israeli city of Haifa and killing a large number of people “will definitely lead to deterrence, because the United States and the Israeli regime and its agents are by no means ready to take part in a war and a military confrontation,” Zarei wrote.

While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper in Iran, its editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past. Haifa, on the Mediterranean Sea, has been threatened in the past by both Iran and one of its proxies, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Such a strike likely would draw an immediate Israeli retaliation and spark a wider conflict across the Mideast.

While Iran has never directly targeted an Israeli city militarily, it has conducted attacks targeting Israeli interests abroad in the past over the killing of its scientists, like in the case of the three Iranians recently freed in Thailand in exchange for a detained British-Australian academic. Israel also is widely believed to have its own nuclear weapons, a stockpile it neither confirms nor denies possessing.

The Iranian Parliament on Sunday held a closed-door hearing about Fakhrizadeh’s killing. Afterward, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf said Iran’s enemies must be made to regret killing him. “The criminal enemy does not regret it except with a strong reaction,” he said in a broadcast on Iranian state radio. A public session of lawmakers saw them chant: “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” They also began the review of a bill that would stop inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The nuclear watchdog has provided an unprecedented, real-time look at Iran’s civilian nuclear program following the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

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