On 28 November 2020, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani promised that Iran will retaliate following the assassination of a prominent Iranian scientist on 27 November. The scientist was killed in a coordinated ambush in Tehran’s Absard neighborhood, when unspecified militants detonated a car bomb to stop his vehicle and five gunmen targeted his sedan, shooting and killing the scientist and wounding several of his bodyguards. Iran’s foreign minister referred to the incident as an act of “state terror,” and other top Iranian officials blamed Israel for the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analyst Comment: While it is unknown whether or how the Iranian government will retaliate for the killing of the scientist, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF) maintains significant ties with regional proxy groups — including Kataib Hizballah in Iraq, Hizballah in Lebanon, Ansar Allah in Yemen (also known as the Houthis) — and the IRGC-QF itself maintains a significant presence in Syria. Iranian retaliation may also involve attacks in the maritime domain — such as against oil tankers — in the Persian Gulf or involve cyberattacks, given Iran’s recent pattern of behavior. Businesses with operations in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon and Iraq should also monitor the situation closely due to Iran’s extensive capabilities. Reports indicate that the government of Israel placed its embassies around the world on high alert as of 28 November, suggesting that officials judge that a potential attack from Iranian forces or their proxies is likely.