President-elect Biden’s hopes to stabilize Iran and the rest of the Middle East is significantly more complicated following the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, according to Virginia Tech’s Djavad Salehi-Isfahani.   

“The killing has succeeded in its main objective of making it harder for Biden to reverse Trump’s exit from the nuclear deal,” said Salehi-Isfahani. “Much depends on how the Iranians respond to the assassination.  If they respond with force and escalate, Biden will have to put the return to the nuclear deal on the back burner.”

The murder was likely carried out by Israel, but all the West will deal with the fallout, said Salehi-Isfahani, a noted expert on economic development in Iran and the Middle East.  

“The killing has intensified the opposition to compromise with the West across Iran and thus empowered the political leaders in Iran who are opposed to rapprochement with the West and globalization. So irrespective of what Iran does, a peaceful resolution of the Iran standoff is more difficult now.”

What happens next, especially in the final days of the Trump administration is anyone’s guess.

“It is hard to tell because there is an intense debate inside Iran about the appropriate response.  All sides fear that lack of any response would invite further aggressions.  Strong condemnation by the global community aimed at dissuading similar actions in the next few months can allay Iranian fears and calm tensions,” said Salehi-Isfahani.

“They are keen to avoid war as it would make life harder for ordinary Iranians who are already suffering from sanctions and the pandemic.”

About Dr. Salehi-Isfahani

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani is Professor of Economics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, Nonresident Senior Fellow for Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, and a research fellow at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) in Cairo. His research focuses on demographic economics, energy economics, and the economics of the Middle East.  A native of Iran, he most recently served as a visiting scholar at the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.

To schedule a print or broadcast interview with Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, contact Bill Foy at 540-998-0288 or by email.

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