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The Iranian ministry of defense issued a statement on Friday confirming the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadhe, an Iranian scientist and the architect behind the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Fakhrizadhe was the head of the Amad project in the Iranian ministry of defense, which focused on developing a nuclear bomb until 2003.

  • In 2018, after Israel exposed the Iranian nuclear archives, which the Mossad captured in Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outed Fakhrizade publicly and dubbed him "the father of the Iranian nuclear bomb."

Details: Fakhrizadhe was attacked while driving his car in a Tehran suburb, according to the ministry's statement. During a shootout, he was critically injured and rushed to the hospital where he died.

What they're saying: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Israel for the assassination, writing on Twitter:

"Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,"

Zarif called on the international community — and especially EU — to condemn the assassination.

  • Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran's supreme leader, blamed Israel and the Trump administration for the killing. "In the last days of the political life of their gambling ally, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase the pressure on Iran to wage a full-fledged war," Dehghan wrote in a tweet.
  • Hossein Salami, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, tweeted on Friday: "The assassination of nuclear scientists is the most obvious violent confrontation of the imperialist system to prevent us from gaining access to modern science."

Go deeper

Jan 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).