Whether it’s just coincidental timing or an escalation of conflict in the Middle East, events over the past few days have signaled potential trouble.
The Pentagon sent the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its strike group toward the Persian Gulf region late last week as news broke of an Iranian scientist’s assassination.
On Saturday, new details were brought to light concerning the targeted killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leader in the underground development of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials.
In a New York Times story, a car bomb and a “squad of gunmen” are said to have done the actual killing:
“Driving a carefully circuitous route to the home of his in-laws in a city outside Tehran, Mr. Fahrizadeh’s car was stopped Friday by a car bomb in a Nissan so laden with explosives that it knocked out a power line … . A squad of gunmen then leapt from a black S.U.V., overpowered his bodyguards and unleashed a barrage of gunfire before speeding away as Mr. Fakhrizadeh lay dying in the street.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iranian officials said they believe Israel played a role.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referenced “serious indications of Israeli role” via Twitter, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it,” without providing details.
The Israeli government declined to comment.
The U.S. plan for the Nimitz, officially, is to provide “defensive capabilities” during a drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Navy and Pentagon, though it could serve to deter any escalation of violence in the region.
CNN reported that the aircraft carrier Nimitz, based in Bremerton, Washington, had been in the gulf for much of the past few months and could now remain there into January.