Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Another Iranian Nuclear Scientist Assassinated

 

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.

There are 100 comments.

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  1. outstripp Inactive

    Killing a person isn’t that difficult, but getting away afterwards requires some skill and planning. Also, the small size of the bomb suggests that the killers were concerned with limiting collateral damage. What kind of people would worry about that? Answer: smart people.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2012, at 4:10 AM PST
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  2. Israel P. Inactive

    They seem to be getting more frequent. Good.

    • #2
    • January 12, 2012, at 4:19 AM PST
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  3. Charles Rapp Inactive

    From the 1975 Church committee to Eric Holder breathing threats at the Guantanamo interrogators, CIA operations no longer has the chops for foreign assassinations. Mossad has the chops but this many assassinations in a police state entirely hostile to Israel? I hesitate to believe it possible.

    Is there an internecine conflict within Iran? Is there a significant and competent Iranian faction that foresees a similar catastrophe to Iraq and Saddam Hussein if Iran continues with its nuclear program? The faction is attempting to halt the nuclear program by murdering the most important personnel.

    Can, “walk softly and carry a big stick” have such serious consequences? I certainly hope so.

    • #3
    • January 12, 2012, at 4:56 AM PST
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  4. Instugator Thatcher

    To run any program, be it the Iranian Nuclear program or your local chapter of the YMCA you have to have three things: people, money and stuff.

    For the Iranian nuclear program, the stuff is contained in what is called a “Hardened, Deeply Buried” facility, so attacking the stuff directly (conventionally) and from without is extremely difficult. So Stuxnet attacked the stuff unconventionally. The interesting thing for me is the presence of above-ground explosions at critical facilities – if they are related.

    Attacking the people is easier (especially if they aren’t on lockdown) it just requires some grunt work to identify them ahead of time.

    Money is the most difficult to attack in this case – the Revolutionary Guard has a long history of sponsoring terrorism and smuggling – both of which lend to the ability to launder money.

    Two years ago, during a lunch meeting with friends, I pointed out that we would know that sanctions and other diplomatic maneuvering had failed when we saw someone start bumping off Iranian nuclear scientists.

    • #4
    • January 12, 2012, at 5:18 AM PST
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  5. Illiniguy Member

    All’s fair in love and war.

    • #5
    • January 12, 2012, at 5:19 AM PST
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  6. Jeff Y Inactive

    The Constitution grants the authority for Letters of Marque and Reprisal to the Congress. Unless we are at war with Iran, we can’t legally kill Iranian civilians. So, I doubt we are directly involved with these assassinations.

    • #6
    • January 12, 2012, at 6:13 AM PST
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  7. Jeff Y Inactive
    Instugator: Two years ago, during a lunch meeting with friends, I pointed out that we would know that sanctions and other diplomatic maneuvering had failed when we saw someone start bumping off Iranian nuclear scientists.

    Well sanctions always fail. They impoverish people not governments. Why does this indicate diplomacy has failed? Diplomacy typically continues under even wartime conditions. Do you mean it’s failed to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

    • #7
    • January 12, 2012, at 6:30 AM PST
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  8. Mel Foil Inactive

    When you start making military weapons for a specific purpose, you’ll become another military target. Plan accordingly.

    • #8
    • January 12, 2012, at 7:37 AM PST
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  9. dogsbody Inactive

    Whoever is responsible should eventually, in a sane world, be given the Nobel Peace Prize. They’ve done more for the cause of peace than all the protesters who ever marched.

    • #9
    • January 12, 2012, at 7:45 AM PST
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  10. Instugator Thatcher
    Jeff Younger
    Instugator: Two years ago, during a lunch meeting with friends, I pointed out that we would know that sanctions and other diplomatic maneuvering had failed when we saw someone start bumping off Iranian nuclear scientists.

    Well sanctions always fail. They impoverish people not governments. Why does this indicate diplomacy has failed? Diplomacy typically continues under even wartime conditions. Do you mean it’s failed to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions? · Jan 12 at 5:30am

    Wow, so those sanctions and other diplomatic maneuverings didn’t compel South Africa to abandon Aparthied?Sanctions don’t ‘always’ fail. They mostly fail. Sometimes they work.

    However, yes, as Iran appears closer to achieving the bomb the more overt action we will see trying to derail the program.

    • #10
    • January 12, 2012, at 7:51 AM PST
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  11. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    This is exactly right. Being evil should have negative consequences.

    • #11
    • January 12, 2012, at 7:55 AM PST
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  12. Profile Photo Member

    If the United States is involved, then shame on us. If Israel is involved, then shame on them. This is nothing but an act of terror, and if Iran was the perpetrator on our soil, it would be loudly denounced as such. So shame on those who are happy for the frequency of these terror attacks, or who write inane comments like “all is fair in love and war.” War has not been declared yet, and this is an action that falls well outside the laws of war.

    I agree with Jeff Younger that these actions are so egregious that the U.S. is probably not involved (hopefully). I think the best guess is Israel. And the real question is “why?”.

    Israel has to know that killing isolated scientists is no serious, long-term deterrent to Iran’s nuclear program. My best guess is that she is trying to push Iran into a war. Acts of terror, perpetrated with skill in a deniable fashion, will be ignored by the western media. And with Iran seen as the aggressor, the United States will quickly back Israel and take the brunt of the action, which is what Israel wants.

    • #12
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:02 AM PST
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  13. Profile Photo Member

    I can think of about a dozen reasons why the Iranian regime itself might be carrying these out. Yes, I know, it sounds like 9/11 truther stuff, but it seems serious commentators are going there, why not take it seriously? Note how few of these actually strike home very effectively or hit high-value targets — not what I’d expect from Mossad. And they could well be a combination of such factors, and may be mixed with a few attacks by dissidents (probably not the Greens themselves) within the country. A few possibilities:

    – Propaganda within the state to justify military crack-down

    – Demonization of dissident groups

    – Justifying more concealment and bunkering to the international watchmen organizations

    – The elimination of perceived enemies or potential traitors within the system

    – Distraction of attention from sites/individuals of real value by bringing the focus on known sites/individuals that are expendable

    Etc.

    • #13
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:02 AM PST
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  14. Profile Photo Member

    The gleeful enthusiasm in this thread for terrorist attacks makes me feel sick.

    • #14
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:04 AM PST
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  15. Profile Photo Member

    I just found a short piece saying much the same thing I said.

    • #15
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:09 AM PST
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  16. Profile Photo Member
    Brandon Zaffini: If the United States is involved, then shame on us. If Israel is involved, then shame on them. This is nothing but an act of terror, and if Iran was the perpetrator on our soil, it would be loudly denounced as such. So shame on those who are happy for the frequency of these terror attacks, or who write inane comments like “all is fair in love and war.” War has not been declared yet, and this is an action that falls well outside the laws of war.

    I’ll leave the moral argument aside — these are not simple acts of terrorism as they all involve targets directly associated with the nuclear program. Terrorism targets a civilian population or is nonspecific in general. But would they be shameful for Israel or the U.S. to be involved in? There is a moral equivalence argument in your comment, Brandon, that does not ring true. Yes, there would be a hue and cry about such an attack on American soil, and it would be an undeclared act of war either way. I’m not disputing that. But it is a response to a specific buildup with clear aggressive intent.

    • #16
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:10 AM PST
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  17. Profile Photo Member
    R. Craigen

    ITerrorism targets a civilian population or is nonspecific in general. But would they be shameful for Israel or the U.S. to be involved in? There is a moral equivalence argument in your comment, Brandon, that does not ring true. Yes, there would be a hue and cry about such an attack on American soil, and it would be an undeclared act of war either way. I’m not disputing that. But it is a response to a specific buildup with clear aggressive intent. · Jan 12 at 7:10am

    I see. So blowing up the cars of American politicians, those who want to bomb Iran, would not be an act of terror because it would be specific and it would be a response to a planned buildup for the purpose of clear, aggressive intent.

    Try again.

    Perhaps what you mean is, “We’re good. They’re bad. So we can kill their scientists because they’re too evil to have big guns.”

    Who is demonstrating moral equivalence? It’s an act of terrorism. Period.

    • #17
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:14 AM PST
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  18. DocJay Inactive

    The CIA is not responsible for this. The number of forms and clearances is beyond belief just to order a pencil. I’d like to take this time to criticize the Jews who clearly have no reason to fear Iran or their nuclear program or holocaust in general. Oh wait, I just removed my brain tumor. Sorry for being incredibly naive. Go Mossad, get at few more. Drop the ace of spades on their corpse if you want to. When your lives are threatened by a madman with a purpose, he forfeits his life and the lives of anyone working with him.

    • #18
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:55 AM PST
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  19. DocJay Inactive

    American politicians that say, “Bomb bomb bomb , bomb bomb Iran”( sing it like the Beach Boys) would normally have to get clearance from congress until recently.

    • #19
    • January 12, 2012, at 8:59 AM PST
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  20. Profile Photo Member
    DocJay: I’d like to take this time to criticize the Jews who clearly have no reason to fear Iran or their nuclear program or holocaust in general. Oh wait, I just removed my brain tumor. Sorry for being incredibly naive. Go Mossad, get at few more. Drop the ace of spades on their corpse if you want to. When your lives are threatened by a madman with a purpose, he forfeits his life and the lives of anyone working with him. · Jan 12 at 7:55am

    I support Israel’s right to declare war on Iran. Acts of terror, though, are abhorrent, whether perpetrated by Israel, the United States, or Santa Clause and his elves.

    Please don’t insinuate antisemitism. It’s a slur, not an argument.

    • #20
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:01 AM PST
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  21. DocJay Inactive

    I was not insinuating anti semetism I take that seriously and had zero intention of conveying that Brandon. I do not think you are a racist at all. I know you’ve had your life immently threatened, so have I. I am here and they are not. That’s how it works. There’s no time for discussion when the guns come out and they’ll be no time if Iran succeeds. There’s no do over button when a million die in three seconds.

    • #21
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:30 AM PST
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  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    DocJay: The CIA is not responsible for this. The number of forms and clearances is beyond belief just to order a pencil.

    I reckon you’re exactly right.

    • #22
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:30 AM PST
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  23. Profile Photo Member
    DocJay: There’s no time for discussion when the guns come out and they’ll be no time if Iran succeeds. There’s no do over button when a million die in three seconds. · Jan 12 at 8:30am

    Then Israel should declare war, not commit acts of terror.

    • #23
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:32 AM PST
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  24. Liver Pate Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    DocJay: The CIA is not responsible for this. The number of forms and clearances is beyond belief just to order a pencil.
    I reckon you’re exactly right. · Jan 12 at 8:30am

    If it was the CIA, I would expect Matt Damon to begin shooting at oil drums with a double barreled Italian shotgun.

    • #24
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:39 AM PST
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  25. Jeff Y Inactive
    Instugator Wow, so those sanctions and other diplomatic maneuverings didn’t compel South Africa to abandon Aparthied?

    Sanctions don’t ‘always’ fail. They mostly fail. Sometimes they work.

    However, yes, as Iran appears closer to achieving the bomb the more overt action we will see trying to derail the program. · Jan 12 at 6:51am

    You’re right, of course. South Africa is the exception that proves the rule. Sanctions on South Africa supported the self-proclaimed interests of the majority in South Africa. Private divestiture is what really tipped the balance. Sanctions helped turned the population in South Africa towards marxism and into the arms of Cuba and other anti-American regimes.

    In every other case, sanctions are about imposing US interests. That never works. It doesn’t work because sanctions don’t harm the government but only the people. The South African example shows why sanctions had to fail in Iran, and it shows why sanctions will create a more hostile population for us to deal with.

    Sanctions are more about domestic political currency than achieving foreign policy objectives. That was true in South Africa as well.

    • #25
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:44 AM PST
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  26. DocJay Inactive

    Israel cannot overtly declare war at this time. The Arabs from many countries would join or aid in their demise.

    • #26
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:50 AM PST
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  27. Instugator Thatcher
    Brandon Zaffini
    DocJay: There’s no time for discussion when the guns come out and they’ll be no time if Iran succeeds. There’s no do over button when a million die in three seconds. · Jan 12 at 8:30am

    Then Israel should declare war, not commit acts of terror. · Jan 12 at 8:32am

    It’s a Cold War, no declaration necessary.

    • #27
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:50 AM PST
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  28. Instugator Thatcher
    Jeff Younger

    …Sanctions helped turned the population in South Africa towards marxism and into the arms of Cuba and other anti-American regimes.

    In every other case, sanctions are about imposing US interests…

    Regarding your first point, Marxism always looks promising to both the uneducated and some of the overly educated. In their case, the leadership-in-waiting was probably already on that path.

    Regarding your second point, the US is not the only nation on the planet who seeks or is granted ‘international’ sanctions. Lumping all ‘sanctions’ under the rubric of “imposing US interests” is sloppy.

    Iran is a much greater threat to its neighbors than it is to US interests and they (the neighbors) know it.

    • #28
    • January 12, 2012, at 9:56 AM PST
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  29. Jeff Y Inactive
    Brandon ZaffiniThen Israel should declare war, not commit acts of terror.

    I can see the Israeli point of view. They’re trying to protect a vital interest with force short of war. I can see why diplomacy can’t work with Iran, acts of terrorism don’t inspire cooperation, and Iran’s vital interests conflict with ours.

    Here’s the FBI definition of terrorism, with all the qualifications:

    International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation ofthe criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. International terrorist acts occur outside the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

    Do these acts meet that definition? Seems so.

    • #29
    • January 12, 2012, at 10:02 AM PST
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  30. Profile Photo Member
    DocJay: Israel cannot overtly declare war at this time. The Arabs from many countries would join or aid in their demise. · Jan 12 at 8:50am

    By “cannot,” you mean would rather not. I argued the same point. Israel wants war to start in such a way whereby they look aggrieved and the United States gets involved and does the heavy lifting.

    Either way, you’re justifying terrorism. Have fun where that leads you.

    • #30
    • January 12, 2012, at 10:10 AM PST
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