Killing Fakhrizadeh

I’ve been following the stories on the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, but they are confusing and conflicting. On November 27, for example, the New York Post reported that Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in “an ambush.” The story added that Fakhrizadeh was “seriously wounded” during a battle between the gunmen and his bodyguards before being rushed to a nearby hospital.

On November 29 the Post reported that the assassination was carried out by a highly trained hit squad of 62 people — pouncing in six vehicles after the local power supply was cut. The killers included a team of 50 giving “logistical support” to the dirty dozen who carried out the actual ambush Friday, sources told leading Iranian journalist Mohamad Ahwaze.

On November 30 the Post reported that the assassination was carried out by what an Iranian security official claims was a team of Israelis who used remote “electronic devices.” The Post quoted Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani speaking on state television: “Unfortunately, the operation was a very complicated operation and was carried out by using electronic devices. No individual was present at the site.”

The November 30 story added conflicting details: “On Sunday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said that Fakhrizadeh was wiped out by a machine gun operated by remote control, while the Arabic language Al Alam TV reported that the weapons used were ‘controlled by satellite.'”

A Reuters story offered this incredibly unlikely detail attributed to Press TV: “The weapons collected from the site of the terrorist act bear the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” I think we can discount this one.

Most recently, the Times of Israel reports this morning that Iran is distributing pictures of four suspects in the killing. The subhead of the story has it that “London-based Iranian journalist claims intelligence handing out photos of 4 men suspected of involvement in assassination, as state media says clues found to identity of attackers.”

Seth Frantzman doesn’t reconcile all of the conflicting details in these accounts, but he does take note of them in the Jerusalem Post column “Hit squads, car bombs and remote-controlled guns – analysis.” I take it that among the friends of Obama, Kerry, and Blinken over in the Iranian regime there’s a whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on, but Frantzman sees something more. He arrives at this optimistic conclusion:

What is clear is that like so many well-known assassinations, the full details of this one may never be known. That they are suddenly presented in a blow-by-blow just 48 hours later appears to be a message to Tehran. It’s about showing Iran how eas[y] it was to do. That means the stories and details are messaging, not necessarily connected to reality. It feeds into the regime’s sense of failure – and feeling that its highest members are vulnerable.

Let it be.

UPDATE: See also Judah Ari Gross’s Times of Israel column “Nuke chief’s killing dealt Iran a major blow, but the price may be high.”