“Under Trump’s presidency, Iran and US tensions rose to a 40-year peak. It seems unnecessary for this situation to continue,” Zarif told the Entekhab news website in an interview on Sunday.
Both Israel and US President Donald Trump oppose President-elect Joe Biden’s intention to rejoin the Obama-era nuclear accord if Tehran – which denies bomb-making ambitions – also returns to full compliance.
Trump, who pulled the US out of the deal in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, considered attacking it during his last few weeks in office but was dissuaded by senior aides, the New York Times has reported. Killing Fakhrizadeh, who is to be buried in Tehran on Monday, could also complicate a return to the accord.
“This assassination will not remain unanswered, but not at a time that they want or the way and place they expect,” Rabiei said, referring to Israel and the US. “Iran sets the time and the place.”
Speaking Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Admiral Mike Mullen, said the assassination will make it more difficult for Biden to re-enter the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“Fakhrizadeh was at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program,” he said. “Not only the brains but also the passion behind it, so his assassination is really a significant event.”
Mullen added he was hopeful that Biden “can actually reach in and calm the waters, but I think this heightens tension significantly.”
Hardliners inside Iran are angry at President Hassan Rouhani for trying to keep the 2015 deal alive while attacks continue on Iran. Friday’s incident tops a year of crisis and instability that started with Trump ordering the killing of a top Iranian general in a January 3 drone strike in Baghdad.
The ultra-hardline Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, published an opinion piece on Sunday calling for the northern Israeli city of Haifa to be attacked in retaliation.
“Assuming that the role of the Zionist regime in this great martyrdom can be proved, we can operationalise this threat,” the column said.
“We should attack the port city of Haifa in such a way that in addition to destroying its facilities, heavy human casualties are also incurred so that our deterrence is optimised.”