Four days after the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an attack Tehran blames Israel for, cracks are opening in the country over how to respond.
President Hassan Rouhani’s government reacted strongly to the parliament’s ratification of a “strategic action plan” to further scale down Iran’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
At a news conference on Tuesday, government spokesman Ali Rabiee said parliament has “no right” to interfere in matters related to the 2015 deal.
He said the decision on Iran’s nuclear activities is the responsibility of the Supreme National Security Council, the country’s top security body, and said he hoped the matter will be discussed by Guardian Council, a constitutionally mandated body that reviews legislation.
Parliament on Tuesday adopted a “strategic action plan” which requires the government to resume 20% enrichment and increase the stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU).
The plan, designed as a counter-measure to sanctions, calls for ending “voluntary” implementation of the Additional Protocol, giving a one-month deadline to the government.
Rabiee, in a swipe at lawmakers, said the plan would lead to permanent sanctions on Iran.
He said the 2015 deal had no effect on the volume and numerical quantity of Iran’s enriched uranium, as the country continues to produce 250-300 kilograms of enriched uranium every month.
Defending the government, which has come under pressure from lawmakers calling for “strong retaliation” to the assassination, Rabiee said it has “pledged to mobilize all its forces to pursue and punish the perpetrators” and at the same time “continue the path of Fakhrizadeh.”
Government vows ‘decisive response’
The government spokesman said Iran will give a “decisive response” to the killing but would decide on “the dimensions, time, and place,” in sharp contrast to growing calls for immediate “revenge.”
Rouhani’s government has faced criticism from the lawmakers, who have linked the killing with negotiations over the nuclear deal and inspections by the UN nuclear agency.
Rabiee called this “slander,” adding that the country is going through a critical phase when people should not “follow short-term political goals” which foster an “unfavorable atmosphere.”
He added that the Intelligence Ministry a few months ago explored the likelihood of “terrorist operations” with details about possible locations and objectives.
Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani on Monday spoke about “enemies” trying to target the slain scientist “for 20 years” but failing in their attempts.
Rabiee also denied reports that Fakhrizadeh had met with visiting UN nuclear agency inspectors, a claim made by Fereydoun Abbasi, a senior lawmaker and former head of Iran’s nuclear organization.
He said, however, the scientist had been involved in negotiations with three European countries at the beginning of the 2000s, echoing the words of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who said Fakhrizadeh’s name was given to the UN nuclear agency by the US and Israel in the mid-2000s.
The top scientist’s killing, which has sparked a new crisis in the region, has been blamed on Iran’s archrival Israel. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on Monday said “new clues” point to Israeli involvement.
Fakhrizadeh was accorded a state funeral in Tehran on Monday in a ceremony attended by top government and military officials, who vowed the killing “will not go unanswered.”
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