Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was martyred in terrorist attack outside Tehran on Friday, was widely seen by Western intelligence as the ‘mastermind’ of Iranian nuclear program.
Iran’s Defense Ministry on Friday identified Fakhrizadeh as Head of Research and Innovation Organization at the ministry.
Born in 1958 in Qom, he joined the Revolutionary Guards after the overthrow of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1979. Even as a scientist he reportedly retained a senior rank in the RGC as a brigadier general.
The scientist has been a familiar sight to his students at Tehran’s Imam Hossein University, where he lectured in physics.
A report by the UN nuclear watchdog in 2011 identified Fakhrizadeh as a central figure in suspected Iranian “work to develop technology and skills needed for atomic bombs,” and suggested he may at that time still have had a role in such activity.
One of the only Iranian nuclear engineers to be named by the IAEA in its documents, Fakhrizadeh was invited repeatedly by the agency’s inspectors to talk about his role.
One Western diplomat told Reuters news agency in 2014: “If Iran ever chose to weaponized (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb.”
Fakhrizadeh’s name was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear program in May 2018.
Netanyahu named Fakhrizadeh as a ‘leading figure’ in what he described as “secret nuclear weapons work conducted under the guise of a civilian program.”
“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Netanyahu said in his presentation.
Also in 2018, Israeli broadcaster Kan carried an interview with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he hinted Fakhrizadeh could be a target. “I know Fakhrizadeh well. He doesn’t know how well I know him. If I met him in the streets most likely I would recognize him,” he said.
“He does not have immunity, he did not have immunity, and I don’t think he will have immunity.”