Yesterday, a young Iranian nuclear scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was killed while on his way to work in north Teheran. The car in which he was driving exploded; a bomb had apparently been attached to the car with a magnet by a passing motorcyclist. Roshan was identified by the Mehr News Agency as the deputy director of commercial affairs at the Natanz uraniam enrichment plant, where he was in charge of buying equipment and materials.
The Americans were quick to disavow any connection to the hit, with Hillary Clinton "categorically" denying not only this killing but “any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.”
The prevailing assumption is that this and the other assassinations of nuclear scientists that preceded it (as well as the explosions and cyber sabotage that have targeted the Iranian nuclear program over the past two years) are the work of Mossad, either with the tacit support or in direct defiance of the United States. It could be the work of Greens inside the country, formerly non-violent but pushed too far (a theory held by Michael Ledeen at Pajamas Media). Some of the scientists could even have been targeted by the Iranian government itself, since they were known to have sympathized to some extent with the opposition. “I think there is reason to doubt the idea that all the hits have been carried out by Israel,” Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The New York Times. “It’s very puzzling that Iranian nuclear scientists, whose movements are likely carefully monitored by the state, can be executed in broad daylight, sometimes in rush-hour traffic, and their culprits never found.”
Iranian score-settling might explain a few of the killings, but it doesn't explain the broader campaign -- not that it matters. Either the Americans are already waging a war of a new, more surgical kind with the intention of disrupting Iran's nuclear program, or someone else -- someone with chops -- is operating with the same strategic interests in mind. All the will-they-or-won't-they armchair pontificating about American and Israeli military intentions vis-a-vis Iran might already be beside the point.
Haaretz published a list today of mysterious deaths and explosions linked to Iran's nuclear program. Here they are, in reverse chronological order:
- Yesterday (January 11, 2012): Nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan is killed by a bomb.
- December 11, 2011: An explosion at a steel mill linked with Iran's nuclear program kills at least seven in Yazd.
- November 28, 2011: An explosion rattles Isfahan in western Iran, where a critical nuclear facility is located.
- November 12, 2011: A huge explosion at a military arms depot near Teheran kills 17 Revolutionary Guards as well as a senior military figure considered to be a central actor in Iran's missile program.
- July 23, 2011: Dariush Rezaeinejad, a young member of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, is gunned down by two men firing from motorcycles. Rezaeinejad was a PhD student involved in developing high-voltage switches, which are used to set off the explosions needed to trigger nuclear warheads.
- May 24, 2011: An explosion causes a fire at an oil refinery during a visit by Ahmadinejad. He is not injured, but one person is killed and six others wounded.
- November 29, 2010: Majid Shahriyari, a nuclear engineer, is killed when his car explodes. On the same day, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, a nuclear scientist sanctioned by the UN, is wounded by a car bomb.
- January 12, 2010: Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a professor and nuclear scientist, is killed in a bombing outside his home in Teheran. Haaretz notes that Mohammadi had publicly backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the presidential election, and his name was on a list -- published on pro-reform websites before the election -- of university teachers who supported the opposition.