Crushed flowers in fresh snow. Chipped asphalt, fences seemingly crushed by a shock wave, and bullet holes in the sidewalk.
In the nearby orchard, a thin layer of white covers a discarded glove and covers a broken tree branch, either caused by farmers or by killers who Iran says were Israeli, but about whom Israel has made no claims.
A local witness said CNN He heard a large explosion on the Friday of the attack, and then about 10 minutes of exchanges of gunfire, a consistent account of a bomb and an ambush.
They told state media on Sunday that artificial intelligence and facial recognition were combined with satellite technology to control a remotely operated machine gun, which killed Fakhrizadeh when he got out of his bulletproof car to investigate the initial noise of the shots. .
However, intelligence and security experts have cast doubt on the possibility that the murder was remotely operated, and three experts said CNN that despite the advantages, it introduces more risk factors in an operation with little apparent margin of error.
The scientist’s son told state media that his father had been discouraged by his security team from making the trip that morning through the quiet, green streets of Absard, a mountainous refuge a two-hour drive from Tehran.
“My father said he had a class, one that he couldn’t teach virtually, and an important meeting, so they couldn’t persuade him to come back,” Hameed Fakhrizadeh said. IRIB.
However, as explanations for this security flaw multiply, other questions resonate louder in its wake.
Does the assassination have any impact on the prospects for diplomacy in the region and on what Iran’s critics say is its stalled quest for a nuclear weapon?
Has the scientist’s death, following the assassination of a key military figure Qasem Soleimani in January by an American drone, mark another insult to Iran’s pride that he cannot help but retaliate against?
The outgoing Trump administration believes the answer to all questions is simple: no.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an unwavering defender of the White House’s noisy “maximum pressure” rhetoric and sanctions strategy, said Friday: “We know our campaign is working as the Iranians are desperately signaling their willingness to return. to the negotiating table to get sanctions relief. “
Iran is much more ambiguous: Its leaders are furious, but divided between moderates and hawks on what to do next.
Parliament set the clock ticking on diplomacy by passing a motion Thursday that gave the United States two months to lift some sanctions or confront Iran by enriching uranium to roughly 20 percent purity early next year, in the President-elect Joe Biden’s first weeks. administration.
President Hassan Rouhani opposed parliament, calling on Iran to allow those with 20 years of experience in diplomacy with the United States to try to reignite negotiations.
The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, immediately responded to the assassination by demanding retaliation and for Fakhrizadeh’s work to continue.
What was the senior scientist working on?
The broader issue for Iran’s adversaries is exactly what that job was.
The IAEA and the United States have said that Fakhrizadeh was the repository of Iran’s knowledge of nuclear bombs.
Israel has gone further, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exhorting his audience in an April 2018 speech to “remember that name.”
It is unclear what he was involved in at the time of his death, as Iran’s official position is that its nuclear research is still in search of technological advancements.
Professor Sayeed Mohammed Marandi of the University of Tehran said that if Iran was looking for a nuclear weapon, it was already technologically advanced enough to have manufactured one.
“Its conventional military capabilities, which are indigenous, show Iran’s strength,” he said, raising another issue that holds back any future diplomacy.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Mirror that any new deal with Iran will have to be “a kind of nuclear plus deal,” a more accurate version of Biden’s suggestion that CNN that a deal would have to address “missile problems.”
Iran has made no secret that its conventional arsenal has advanced rapidly, while the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has left its nuclear program dormant – until recently, when Tehran began to back away from the pact after Trump withdrew.
Professor Marandi said that the only deal Iran would rejoin would be the old one, which Iran had already negotiated once and did not need to start over.
“The Iranians will not accept any additions to the (2015 agreement) and they will not negotiate their defense capabilities, and they will not negotiate their alliances in the region,” he said, speaking for many of the rising and harsher voices in Iran.
Iran reflects on appropriate retaliation
However, diplomacy is often preceded by boasting.
The most important question right away is whether any retaliation for the deaths of Fakhrizadeh and Soleimani kills the prospect of the talks before they get off the ground.
Retaliation for Soleimani’s death was limited to an attack on the US military base in Iraq, al-Assad, in which no US troops were killed.
Iran’s hardliners feel that retaliation is already overdue.
“If the Israeli regime feels that it can, with the help of the United States,” Professor Marandi said, “continue to carry out acts of terror, then the Iranians will pay an unnecessary price. The only way to stop these acts of terror is by they pay a price that makes more such acts not worth doing. “
There are just over 40 days until Biden can begin negotiating and during which adversaries of diplomacy can stop the talks.