January 18, 2012 | Faster, Please!

Who’s Really Killing Those ‘Nuclear Scientists’ in Tehran?

They run the banks, the press, all Western governments, the universities, the spooks (most everywhere). And if you can’t find any evidence for it, well, that shows how diabolical the Jews are, right?

I’m talking about the latest assassination in Tehran, in which a young chemist, who worked in the acquisitions department of the Iranian nuclear project at Natanz, was killed by a “sticky bomb” attached to his car in the middle of rush hour traffic.

None of those writing about this event has any evidence for their theories, but many of them are quite confident that the Israelis did it. The Times of London, which presents a mixture of circumstantial evidence and some “information” from “a source,” at least has the honesty to say what all these self-proclaimed experts should say: “…said a source who released details, impossible to verify, to the Sunday Times.”

An unnamed source provides information that cannot be verified. But the journalists write it, and the paper prints it.

Before getting into the details, let me caveat this whole thing: I don’t know who did it, and neither does anybody else writing about it. The Iranian regime, which usually claims to know everything about everything, has so far accused the Brits, the Americans, the MEK, and the Israelis.

However, I think that I do know this: If the Israelis (or the Americans, or the Brits) are actually capable of operating at will in the midst of the virtual military occupation in Tehran, we do not have to worry about the Iranian nukes, because if the Israelis, the Brits or the Americans can do that, they can do anything they want to.

Tehran is an armed camp. There are security forces, check points, men with weapons and cell phones, and countless informers, all over the place. If a citizen makes a phone call that is the least bit suspect to the regime, that citizen is located, on average, in less than half an hour, and sometimes in a few minutes. Several Iranian officials and scientists involved in the nuclear project have been blown up in the last two years, and the killers have always gotten clean away. Indeed, the latest assassins killed their man just a few feet from the headquarters buildings of the Intelligence Ministry. That’s quite an accomplishment. If agents of a foreign intelligence service are doing it, they’re better than Tom Cruise’s fictional operatives in the Mission: Impossible movies.

But it might be CIA, Mossad or MI6, despite the daunting security situation in Tehran. Maybe they ARE better than anything Hollywood can imagine. What would be the motive? Here, the “experts” are pretty much unanimous: the motive is to disrupt the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Over the years, plenty of non-Western nuclear physicists have turned up dead, some in the Middle East, some in our part of the world (France, for example).

And here the picture gets a bit foggier, because the Iranian victims don’t really fit that picture.

My friend Potkin Azarmehr, a thoughtful British-Iranian who blogs in London, has been writing about these events for years, and he makes a lot of sense (to repeat, I don’t know who did it and neither does Potkin. He’s just thinking out loud). He points out a few details about the four targets of bombing attacks in Tehran prior to the latest assassination:

  • The first was an academic with no apparent connection to the nuclear project. He was a political activist who supported the Green Movement, the main group in opposition to the regime. He attended international meetings, and was a member of a group that included Israelis. He was blown up by a significant quantity of explosives, not a sticky bomb. The explosives were planted in or on a motorcycle parked outside the victim’s house;
  • The second was apolitical, was also a theoretical physicist, and belonged to the same international scientific organization (including Israelis) as the first. He was killed by a sticky bomb;
  • On the very same day, another physicist was attacked. He was also a political activist, a regime supporter, and a member of the revolutionary guards. Unlike the first two, he was certainly an active participant in the nuclear program, as shown by the fact that his name was on official sanctions lists. The news stories spoke of a bomb, but the photographs of the crime scene don’t show evidence of an explosion (they do show some bullet holes in his car). There’s another big difference: he wasn’t killed. Shortly after the event, he was promoted to head the nuclear program. To which Potkin asks a good question:

If these assassinations were the work of highly sophisticated Western/Israeli sent hit squads, how is it that a theoretical research physicist not on the sanctions list is eliminated so efficiently but the more obvious target who is clearly connected to the nuclear program and is on the sanctions list, is not even hurt.

Potkin suspects the first guy was killed by the regime, and the second attack was staged so that the regime could blame foreign espionage agents.

The fourth case was the oddest of all, a university student who was gunned down in front of his house, where he’d just returned after collecting his young daughter from kindergarten. He wasn’t a nuclear anything, he was studying electrical engineering,. working for a Master’s degree. There is an Iranian nuclear physicist with a similar name (and his picture was published all over the Iranian press), but that man — who might well have been a logical victim for anyone targeting key people in the nuclear project — was out of the country. The victim was not a shadowy figure, he had a Facebook page on which he spoke warmly of a well-known dissident singer.

Was it a case of mistaken identity? Did Mossad, CIA or MI6 confuse the two names? There are such events in the long history of clandestine actions, after all. Let’s just call it an open question. A mystery. Whatever it was, It hardly fits the picture of a diabolically knowledgeable and omnipotent Israeli intelligence service.

The latest victim was a chemist, not a physicist, and his main connection to the nuclear program was administrative, not technical: he worked in the purchasing office for the Natanz operation. He was important enough to have been interviewed by IAEA inspectors, and after his death, Iranian leaders alleged that the IAEA people had passed on classified information to the assassins. But this isn’t very convincing; administrative officers are a dime a dozen, after all. Blow up one, you get a dozen applicants for the position. More mysteries.

Nonetheless, scads of writers are quite sure that the Jews did it. The latest smelly fish from this well known stew comes from Foreign Policy magazine, a popular and often useful source of “expert” thinking about foreign policy and national security. It’s called “false flag,” written by Mark Perry, whose world view is not very charitable toward Israel, which the story accuses of having recruited Balouchis several years ago under false pretenses — claiming that Mossad agents were Americans.

The Israelis almost never comment on intelligence matters, but in this case they issued a very strong denial, calling it “absolute nonsense.” There’s even more nonsense, which Mr. Perry and his Foreign Policy editors happily passed on to their readers. In the midst of this story, the author quotes a “recently retired (American) intelligence officer: “We don’t do bang and boom…and we don’t do political assassinations.”

I wonder if Foreign Policy editors ever heard of the Predator program, the fleet of CIA-run drones that kill Taliban and al Qaeda throughout the Middle East, or, for that matter, the very political assassination of Osama bin Laden.

One might suspect that this story is the work of CIA disinformers, hard at work to deny, and even undermine, what most reliable reporters have described as a very close and productive relationship between the intelligence and military communities of the United States and Israel. Or maybe it’s just another intelligence failure, of which there has been no shortage in recent years.

Where does that leave us? Let’s go back to basics: who could operate in the midst of the armed camp that is Tehran, and might also have a motive for killing these five unfortunate souls? There’s a lot of killing in Iran, and the overwhelming majority of murders are carried out by the regime, and the victims are Iranian citizens from all walks of life. From this standpoint, the regime is the most likely perpetrator. Regime killers could also operate freely throughout the capital, and that also “explains” why there were never calls for information about the assassins. Why ask, when you know their identities, and approved the operation?

What about motive? Look at the last case. What does the regime say about the victim? That he spoke to IAEA investigators (I’m told that the conversation took place outside Iran). The regime doesn’t like that at all, they are very suspicious of their own people (and rightly so!), put very stringent limitations on foreign travel, and monitor the communications of everyone involved in important activities like weapons programs. In the padded cell of paranoiacs around the supreme leader, strong suspicion of disloyalty is probably enough to get a person on one hit list or another, and the regime has every reason to “send a message” to others involved in such activities: one false step and you’re dead.

Again, I don’t know who did it, but the rush to judgment by so many pundits smacks of political passion rather than cool analysis. And I’m struck by the uncritical expertise that would have us believe the Jews can do anything, even operate at will in the center of their most formidable enemy’s capital city. That one’s right out of the old antisemitic scrolls: whenever anything happens — anytime, anywhere — that upsets you, just blame the Jews. They can do anything, anywhere.

If only it were true. I’d be flying my private jet to my little island off the coast of Sicily…


Iran Iran Human Rights