Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

  • Israel didn’t take responsibility for the assassination, but the New York Times reported it was Israeli agents who killed Fakhrizade, citing intelligence officials.
  • Iran blamed Israel for the assassination and threatened revenge. But unlike the almost immediate retaliation against U.S. bases in Iraq for the U.S. killing of Quds force commander Qassin Soleimani, this time the Iranians will need more time to prepare their response.

The big picture: The physicist Fakhrizade was to the Iranian nuclear program what
Soleimani was to Iran’s covert activity in the region. Taking him out could
have a similar effect.

  • Iranian army commander Mohammed Bagheri admitted the assassination was a huge blow to the Iranian defense establishment.
  • Israeli officials briefed several media outlets in Israel that without Fakhrizade it will be hard for Iran to continue its nuclear program.

The other side: The Iranian nuclear program has made huge progress and is not dependent on one person.

  • Fakhrizadeh had special organizational and management skills and was very dominant inside the Iranian defense establishment, but the Iranian nuclear program will continue after his death.

Between the lines: The killing of Fakhrizadeh comes as part of what seems as an effort by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government to use the time left until President-elect Joe Biden assumes office for more pressure on Iran.

  • The Trump administration hasn’t concealed its ambition to make it harder for Biden to renew talks with Iran and rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. Sanctions, covert operations and threats for military strikes are part of this effort.
  • The trilateral meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Sunday was also part of the effort to raise the pressure on Iran and send a message to the Biden administration.

What’s next: The tension with Iran, which is high in normal days, is expected to rise ahead of January 20th. After the killing of Fakhrizadeh and possibly more actions against Iran by the U.S. and Israel, the Biden administration is expected to find a much more complicated reality that might make it harder to reengage with Tehran.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 23, 2021 - World

International nuclear weapons ban goes into force

Protesters celebrate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on Jan. 22. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

A UN treaty outlawing the existence of nuclear weapons went into effect on Friday.

Why it matters: The ban is chiefly symbolic, as neither the U.S. nor any other nuclear powers supported it. But moral statements should have meaning for weapons that, by their sheer indiscriminate power, are arguably immoral.

37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.