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Israel Or Inside Job? What Killing Of Iran Scientist Reveals

The targeted killing of a top Iranian scientist has increased pressures on Iran's regime at a time of speculation about a renewal of dialogue with the United States.

At the funeral Of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
At the funeral Of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

LONDON — Less than three months ago, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami vowed retribution for "enemies' should "any Iranian lose so much as a hair on their head." Now, as we know, nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom the Islamic Republic called "the father of Iran's atomic bomb," was killed in an operation near Tehran. The killing comes less than a year after U.S. drones killed the Revolutionary guards commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad airport, and the Islamic Republic's intelligence agencies have yet to trace the source of this latest attack or identify how Fakhrizadeh could be struck in broad daylight, while traveling with a security escort in the district of Absard, not far from Tehran.

The explosion that killed the scientist left no civilian casualties. Officials of the Islamic Republic are blaming the Israelis, though quite a few people in Iran are also attributing the act to the regime itself. Speculations may proliferate but many in Iran cannot believe elements outside the regime's intelligence apparatus to carry out such a "neat" and precise operation.

The attack has heightened political pressures on those intelligence agencies, which will likely get to work to clear up a shameful security lapse.

Fars news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, reported on November 29 that Fakhrizadeh had been shot at from a distance, by elements sitting in a delivery van. It affirmed there were no "human elements' at the site of the incident. That may be an attempt by state media to cover up for the security apparatus, and shift the blame onto other institutions.

But hours after the attack, the state broadcasting body interviewed a truck driver as an eyewitness. He said there had been shooting on the road, and someone had even shot at his vehicle. Mehr news agency suggested another scenario in a report entitled "Shadow of cyber-espionage over Fakhrizadeh's assassination." It stated he may have been tracked with mobile phone signals, and urged strengthening its communications infrastructures.

Protesters burn American and Israeli flags during a protest gathering against the killing of Fakhrizadeh — Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Regime supporters want to present Fakhrizadeh not just as an important security or military figure, but an esteemed researcher and scientist, working in the field of "philosophy." Academic Ebrahim Osuli-Haris told the Fars agency that Fakhrizadeh was "a researcher in the field of the philosophy of physics and science." Other official media in Iran have claimed the Israeli spy agency Mossad killed him as he had created an anti-Covid vaccine, and taken it as far as the testing stage.

The Islamic Republic's Information ministry has promised it would soon reveal the results of "clues' it had found about the culprits. Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the state would "certainly pursue the criminals, and the Supreme Leader's orders will be carried out." Moved by the incident, members of parliament are reported to have variously urged an increase in the number centrifuges, increased uranium reserves, abandoning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and even firing missiles onto Haifa or Tel Aviv.

Parliament has since tabled a "double urgency" motion to suspend the Additional Protocol to the Treaty (allowing closer nuclear checks), with legislators wanting to block visits to nuclear installations by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The motion was to be voted on on December 1.

The killing has upset the hopes that the regime might initiate talks with Washington.

Legislator Alireza Salimi says "we are not optimistic about the Agency's process of inspections. Its inspectors are suspect and we see them as the source of many of these bitter events and the killings of scientists." Information Minister Mahmud Alavi had earlier vowed that ministry operatives would avenge Fakhrizadeh's killing, which he was to discuss with members of the parliamentary National Security committee within days.

The killing has upset the hopes entertained by some that the regime might initiate talks with Washington with the incoming U.S. President Joseph Biden, and widened divisions inside the regime on the issue. That may be why some senior Democrats were angered by the killing. Yet one should bear in mind that the killings of several other Iranian nuclear scientists influenced Tehran's willingness to sign the 2015 nuclear pact, as it saw itself under unavoidable security and economic pressures.

Radical elements in Tehran are loudly blaming that pact now for Fakhrizadeh's killing, and opposing negotiations with renewed vigor. That will make it more difficult for the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to decide on whether or not to engage in talks. For talks have now become intertwined both with a matter of national pride, and the impact of continued economic sanctions. Ditching the Additional Protocol and falling out with the IAEA can only provoke its governing board against the Iranian regime.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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