Islamic Guard Commander, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was known as the “father of the Iranian bomb.”
Israel’s Mossad used a sophisticated remote-controlled machine gun to assassinate the head of the Iranian nuclear weapons program last year, the New York Times claims in an exclusive account published on Saturday.
The detailed article written by Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi suggests that the Israeli intelligence agency deployed artificial intelligence and remote-operated weaponry to eliminate Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely known as the “father” of the Iranian rogue nuclear weapons program.
In late November 2020, an apparent roadside ambush near Tehran killed the top Iranian nuke operative. Iranian helpers on the ground supported the Mossad operation, the NYT report says.
Fakhrizadeh, who headed the rogue Iranian nuclear weapons program, also held the rank of brigadier general in the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
The Israeli government had taken then-U.S. President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA director Gina Haspel into confidence ahead of the hit, the article indicates.
True to its style, the NYT offers a sympathetic portrayal of the Iranian nuke weapons chief. The top IRGC commander “wanted to live a normal life,” the Times claims. “He craved small domestic pleasures: reading Persian poetry, taking his family to the seashore, going for drives in the countryside,” the newspaper added.
The New York Times reported the details of the hit that eliminated the Iranian nuke chief on November 27, 2020:
Iranian agents working for the Mossad had parked a blue Nissan Zamyad pickup truck on the side of the road connecting Absard to the main highway. The spot was on a slight elevation with a view of approaching vehicles. Hidden beneath tarpaulins and decoy construction material in the truck bed was a 7.62-mm sniper machine gun. (…)
The assassin, a skilled sniper, took up his position, calibrated the gun sights, cocked the weapon and lightly touched the trigger.
He was nowhere near Absard, however. He was peering into a computer screen at an undisclosed location more than 1,000 miles away. The entire hit squad had already left Iran. (…)
[The specifics of the remote-controlled machine gun]
The straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened that afternoon and the events leading up to it, published here for the first time, is based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation, and statements Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s family made to the Iranian news media. (…)
The idea of a pre-positioned, remote-controlled machine gun was proposed, but there were a host of logistical complications and myriad ways it could go wrong. Remote-controlled machine guns existed and several armies had them, but their bulk and weight made them difficult to transport and conceal, and they had only been used with operators nearby. (…)
A killer robot profoundly changes the calculus for the Mossad.
The organization has a longstanding rule that if there is no rescue, there is no operation, meaning a foolproof plan to get the operatives out safely is essential. Having no agents in the field tips the equation in favor of the operation.
But a massive, untested, computerized machine gun presents a string of other problems.
The first is how to get the weapon in place. Israel chose a special model of a Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus, according to an intelligence official familiar with the plot.
The official said the system was not unlike the off-the-rack Sentinel 20 manufactured by the Spanish defense contractor Escribano.
But the machine gun, the robot, its components and accessories together weigh about a ton. So the equipment was broken down into its smallest possible parts and smuggled into the country piece by piece, in various ways, routes and times, then secretly reassembled in Iran.
The robot was built to fit in the bed of a Zamyad pickup, a common model in Iran. Cameras pointing in multiple directions were mounted on the truck to give the command room a full picture not just of the target and his security detail, but of the surrounding environment. Finally, the truck was packed with explosives so it could be blown to bits after the kill, destroying all evidence.
There were further complications in firing the weapon. A machine gun mounted on a truck, even a parked one, will shake after each shot’s recoil, changing the trajectory of subsequent bullets.
Also, even though the computer communicated with the control room via satellite, sending data at the speed of light, there would be a slight delay: What the operator saw on the screen was already a moment old, and adjusting the aim to compensate would take another moment, all while Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car was in motion.
The time it took for the camera images to reach the sniper and for the sniper’s response to reach the machine gun, not including his reaction time, was estimated to be 1.6 seconds, enough of a lag for the best-aimed shot to go astray. The A.I. was programmed to compensate for the delay, the shake and the car’s speed. Another challenge was to determine in real time that it was Mr. Fakhrizadeh driving the car and not one of his children, his wife or a bodyguard.
Israel lacks the surveillance capabilities in Iran that it has in other places, like Gaza, where it uses drones to identify a target before a strike. A drone large enough to make the trip to Iran could be easily shot down by Iran’s Russian-made antiaircraft missiles. And a drone circling the quiet Absard countryside could expose the whole operation.
The solution was to station a fake disabled car, resting on a jack with a wheel missing, at a junction on the main road where vehicles heading for Absard had to make a U-turn, some three quarters of a mile from the kill zone. That vehicle contained another camera. (…)
[The actual hit on November 27, 2020]
The blue Zamyad pickup was parked on the shoulder of Imam Khomeini Boulevard. Investigators later found that security cameras on the road had been disabled.
As the convoy left the city of Rostamkala on the Caspian coast, the first car carried a security detail. It was followed by the unarmored black Nissan driven by Mr. Fakhrizadeh, with his wife, Sadigheh Ghasemi, at his side. Two more security cars followed. (…)
The convoy turned right on Imam Khomeini Boulevard, and the lead car then zipped ahead to the house to inspect it before Mr. Fakhrizadeh arrived. Its departure left Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car fully exposed. The convoy slowed down for a speed bump just before the parked Zamyad. (…)
The machine gun fired a burst of bullets, hitting the front of the car below the windshield. It is not clear if these shots hit Mr. Fakhrizadeh but the car swerved and came to a stop. (…)
According to Iran’s Fars News, three more bullets tore into his spine. He collapsed on the road.
The Iranian regime on Sunday dismissed the claims made in the NYT article. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman “Khatibzadeh denied the report’s claims, saying Iranian intelligence has all the details of the incident, including all the people involved,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
It is embarrassing for Tehran to admit Mossad’s ability to strike at the heart of the regime’s security establishment and the involvement of Iranian helpers in an Israeli strike.
The NYT report, however, echoes previous claims made by senior Iranian officials. “Gen Fadavi, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards [IRGC], told a ceremony in Tehran on Sunday that a machine-gun mounted on the Nissan pick-up was ‘equipped with an intelligent satellite system which zoomed in on martyr Fakhrizadeh'” and “was using artificial intelligence,” the BBC reported in December 2020.
The mainstream media widely criticized the assassination of Fakhrizadeh. Many left saw this as an attempt to derail President Joe Biden from restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The United Nations, the European Union, and Germany also condemned the hit.
The Iranian regime blamed Israel for the killing of its top nuclear weapons operative. Israel did not take responsibility for the operation. Earlier this year, the outgoing chief Mossad tacitly admitted Israel’s role in disrupting Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, though he did not mention Fakhrizadeh’s elimination.
Fakhrizadeh was eliminated almost 11 months after Qassem Soleimani, the chief architect of Iran’s international network of terrorist groups. Former President Donald Trump ordered the January 2020 drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport.
The Mullah regime has threatened to target Israel following the strikes. In January 2021, pro-Iranian terrorist group Jaish-Ul-Hind carried out a bomb blast outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi to ‘avenge’ Soleimani and Fakhrizadeh.
“Iran vows revenge” after nuke weapons chief assassinated (November 2020)
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