Days after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian nuclear scientist, retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven said that retaliation is all but inevitable.
“The Iranians are going to be in a position where they have to retaliate. I don’t see any way around it,” McRaven, former head of US Special Operations Command and the Navy SEAL who oversaw the bin Laden raid, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Iran has already threatened to retaliate for the attack, though it is unclear exactly when or how it may do so.
Retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, the former Navy SEAL and special operations commander who oversaw the bin Laden raid, said Sunday that Iranian retaliation for the assassination of a prominent nuclear scientist is all but certain.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a former officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a physics professor who made substantial contributions to Iran’s nuclear program, was killed outside of Tehran on Friday, state media reported.
Shortly after news of the attack broke Friday, Iranian officials began blaming Israel. Accusations have continued for days, as have threats of retaliation.
“Iran, you know, either suspects or knows that Israel was responsible for this attack,” McRaven told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”
The retired admiral added that “then, of course, kind of by association, they’re going to assume that we either collaborated with it or at a minimum were witting of the Israeli actions.”
“The Iranians are going to be in a position where they have to retaliate,” McRaven said. “I don’t see any way around it. They’re going to have to save face. So now the issue becomes, what does that retaliation look like? Does that then begin to escalate the problems in the region?”
“That’s not going to be good for anybody,” McRaven said.
Fakhrizadeh was shot when a remote-controlled machine gun mounted on the back of a Nissan truck opened fire on him and his bodyguards. The truck self-destructed after the attack, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, said at the funeral Monday that “necessary improvements were made for his security, but the enemy used completely new, professional and special methods and, unfortunately, they were successful.”
Iran has said that it will have its revenge for Fakhrizadeh’s killing. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday that Iran will seek “definitive punishment for the perpetrators and those who ordered it,” though it is unclear exactly when retaliation might come.
“We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday.
Following the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the US in early January, Iran retaliated by striking two coalition bases in Iraq with more than a dozen short-range ballistic missiles.
While no US troops were killed, 110 service members — 29 of whom have received Purple Hearts — were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
While much of the focus has been on Israel, Iranian Brig. Gen. Esmaeil Qaani, who replaced Soleimani as head of the IRGC Quds Force, said Saturday that Fakhrizadeh was killed “with American bullets.”
McRaven urged de-escalation during his interview with ABC, saying: “The Iranians don’t want to war with us. We don’t want to go to war with Iran. So everybody needs to do the best they can to kind of lower the temperature and try not to get this into an escalation mode.”
He explained that current situation with Iran is likely to make things more difficult for the incoming Biden administration.
“By attacking their nuclear scientist, by really escalating this effort, the Iranians, I think, are going to be more compelled to try to get a bomb quicker,” McRaven said. “This is going to complicate President [Joe] Biden’s efforts, diplomatic efforts.”
McRaven recently met with Biden to discuss national security and defense issues that the new administration will face.
McRaven had a distinguished career as a Navy SEAL, serving as the 11th commander of Joint Special Operations Command and the ninth commander of US Special Operations Command. His most recognizable achievement was planning and overseeing the assault that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
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