Top Sanders Aide Accuses Israel of Terrorism

Matt Duss / YouTube screenshot
November 30, 2020

A top aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) accused Israel of terrorism following the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and military official believed to be instrumental in Tehran's nuclear weapons program.

Matt Duss, a Sanders foreign policy adviser and frequent critic of Israel and Jews, wrote on Twitter that incoming president Joe Biden should reenter the landmark nuclear deal with Iran and offer it billions of dollars in sanctions relief to send a message to Israel that "terrorism doesn't work."

Duss's Monday morning tweet came shortly after the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who helmed the Islamic Republic's nuclear research, including its work on an atomic weapon. While no one has publicly claimed responsibility for the strike, it is widely believed Israel orchestrated the killing.

"Responding to the Fakhrizadeh assassination by reaffirming the commitment to rejoin the JCPOA would be a good way to send the message that terrorism doesn't work," Duss tweeted, referring to the nuclear deal by its acronym. Duss's voice is one of many on the left pressuring the Biden administration to take a softer approach to Iran in service of renewing diplomacy. His commentary was criticized by regional experts who said Fakhrizadeh was a legitimate military target due to his role in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's paramilitary fighting force, and efforts to procure illicit nuclear technology.

"This was a general in the terror-designated IRGC working to create one of the world's most dangerous weapons for the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism with the expressed purpose of committing genocide," said Richard Goldberg, a former White House National Security Council member who worked on Iran issues. "Mr. Duss's comments reflect a deeply disturbing worldview that calls it terrorism for a democracy to defend itself by eliminating a genocidal military-nuclear terrorist."

Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, a watchdog group that tracks Tehran's nuclear progress, said the nuclear deal has not deescalated tension in the region.

"The argument that the JCPOA deescalates tensions in the region is fundamentally untrue," Brodsky told the Washington Free Beacon. "The experience of the JCPOA has shown that nuclear-related sanctions relief today risks non-nuclear destabilization tomorrow."

Since the deal was inked, Iran has sent troops to several Middle Eastern nations and armed the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

Brodsky also pointed out that Fakhrizadeh "wasn't a civilian," an important distinction when discussing killings of this nature.

"When your position mirrors some of the views from a leading U.S. adversary, it's time to rethink your approach. U.S. allies and partners in the region—and even in some quarters in Europe—are counseling against a full return to the JCPOA. That speaks volumes," Brodsky said.

The funeral for Fakhrizadeh was held over the weekend at Iran's Ministry of Defense, further emphasizing the scientist's role in the country's military.

Hardliners in Iran have already called for retaliatory strikes on Israel, with one Iranian newspaper urging an attack on the Israeli city of Haifa, in Israel's northern region.

One of Iran's top generals, Hossein Salami, vowed to respond to the assassination, saying on Monday that "enemies must await our response."

"We determine the time, place, and quality of the response," he was quoted as saying in Iran's state-controlled press. "But the punishment of perpetrators and commanders is definite."

Published under: Bernie Sanders , Israel