image Photo: Reuters

Fakhrizadeh reportedly killed by Israeli robot

The New York Times has published a report alleging that Israel assassinated Iran’s top nuclear scientist Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last year with a state-of-the-art remotely controlled “killer robot.”

By Erin Viner

Citing interviews with senior officials in Israel, Iran and the United States – including “two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation,” the paper claimed that Israel carried out the 27 November 2020 assassination with “a high-tech, computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence (AI) and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute.”

In what the NYT called, “the straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened,” Israel built a one ton, robotic machine gun modeled on a Belgian-made FN MAG that was smuggled “piece by piece, in various ways, routes and times” into the Islamic Republic where it was reassembled to fit the bed of a Zamyad pickup. A sniper watching a computer screen “more than 1,000 miles away” activated the robot, which fired 15 bullets in less than one minute, as Fakhrizadeh drove by with his wife Sadigheh Ghasemias, who was uninjured. The AI was programmed with a 1.6 second delay to account for factors such as the necessary time it took for the camera images to reach the sniper. Iranian agents working for the Israeli Mossad are said to have set up the ambush.

Fakhrizadeh, who was considered the father of Iran’s nuclear program, served as Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister after having been a General in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Gheish Ghoreishi, who has advised Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Arab affairs, told the NYT that Fakhrizadeh “created an underground network from Latin America to North Korea and Eastern Europe to find the parts that we needed” to acquire “sensitive equipment or technology that was prohibited under international sanctions.”

According to the article, Israel had held Fakhrizadeh in its sights for at least 14 years as part of its ongoing campaign to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. 5 Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. The following year, the paper said that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert played a recording in Jerusalem for visiting-President George W. Bush of what 3 people who heard the tape said was Fakhrizadeh speaking “explicitly about his ongoing effort to develop a nuclear warhead.” While exposing a secret Iranian nuclear archive a decade later in 2018, Israel’s then-Premier Benjamin Netanyahu referred to Fakhrizadeh several times warning: “Remember that name,” he said. “Fakhrizadeh.”

The United States was informed of the impending assassination by Mossad Director Yossi Cohen “toward the end of 2019 and in early 2020,” said the NYT.

Israel has never publicly confirmed or denied involvement in Fakhrizadeh’s death.