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Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists

Four Iranian nuclear scientists—Masoud Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan—were assassinated between 2010 and 2012. Another scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, was wounded in an attempted murder.[1][2] Two of the killings were carried out with magnetic bombs attached to the targets' cars; Darioush Rezaeinejad was shot dead, and Masoud Alimohammadi was killed in a motorcycle-bomb explosion.[3] The Iranian government accused Israel of complicity in the killings.[3][4] In 2011 and 2012, Iranian authorities arrested a number of Iranians alleged to have carried out the assassination campaign on behalf of Mossad (the Israeli intelligence service). Western intelligence services and U.S officials reportedly confirmed the Israeli connection.[5][6][7] In June 2012, the Iranian government was confident that it had arrested all the assassins.[4]

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement, but Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon said: "We will act in any way and are not willing to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. We prefer that this be done by means of sanctions, but in the end, Israel should be able to defend itself."[8] The assassination campaign was reportedly terminated in 2013 following diplomatic pressure from the United States, which was attempting to negotiate restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities.[9][10]

According to the private American intelligence agency Stratfor, a fifth Iranian scientist was poisoned by Mossad in 2007.[11][12] However, in 2014 the scientist's sister accused the Iranian government of involvement in her brother's killing.[13]

In January 2015, Iranian authorities said that they had thwarted another attempt by Mossad to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist.[4]

Contents

TimelineEdit

Date Target Place [14] Outcome
15 January 2007[15] Ardeshir Hosseinpour   Died
12 January 2010[16] Masoud Alimohammadi Gheytariah Street, in front of Alimohammadi's house Assassinated
29 November 2010[17] Majid Shahriari Near Artesh Boulevard Assassinated
29 November 2010[18] Fereydoon Abbasi Velenjak, in front of Shahid Beheshti University Survived
23 July 2011[19] Darioush Rezaeinejad In front of his house[20] Assassinated
11 January 2012[3] Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Ketabi Sqare, Golnabi Street Assassinated
3 January 2015[4] Unknown Unknown Thwarted[4]

EventsEdit

15 January 2007Edit

Although it was initially reported that Ardeshir Hosseinpour died of gas poisoning from a faulty heater,[11] later reports indicated foul play.[15][21] According to Stratfor, Hosseinpour died of radiation poisoning.[22]

12 January 2010Edit

At 7:58 am "a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle", parked near Masoud Alimohammadi's car, exploded as he left his home in the Gheytariyeh neighbourhood of northern Tehran to go to a university.[16] Windows of houses around the scientist's home were shattered by the force of the blast, and two people were reportedly injured. According to the BBC, the jolt made neighbors think that an earthquake had struck.[16]

The assassination was reportedly carried out by Majid Jamali Fashi,[23][24][25] who said in his televised confession[3] (confirmed as genuine by Western intelligence officials)[24] that he had been trained by Mossad in Tel Aviv. "I woke up at 4 and made a call, the plan had not changed. I parked the motorbike near the tree," Fashi said in his confession. Alimohammadi's wife said, "I heard the explosion just when I closed the door."[18]

According to Maziyar Ebrahimi, a perpetrator code-named Amiryal (Persian: "امیریل"‎‎), three teams were involved in the Alimohammadi assassination. "Some of them were on their cars watching the situation and covering the area and I was in my car in a further place from the incident place waiting to take them away after the explosion was done," Ebrahimi reportedly said under interrogation.[18] " ... They told me that he was getting out of the parking lot and I pressed the remote button when I saw him, and moved toward the car waiting for me in the alley. Then we moved away," said Arash Kerhadkish (code-named Farshid, Behzad and Aran) under interrogation reported by the Mehr News Agency.[18]

29 November 2010Edit

 
Majid Shahriari, one of the assassinated scientists

Unidentified assailants on motorcycles launched bomb attacks killing Majid Shahriari, a professor at Shahid Beheshti University.[17] The terrorists had attached a bomb to the professor's car, detonating it from a distance.[26]

"I attached the bomb to the right front door and moved away quickly," said Arash Kerhadkish, who was convicted of assassinating Shahriari. One member of the assassination team was knocked from his motorcycle by the force of the blast. " ... The motorcycle fell down and one of the riders was injured. We helped him," said Maryam Izadi, a convicted member of the team, under interrogation. Shariari's wife, Ghasemi, was a passenger in the car and was injured in the explosion.[18]

In a simultaneous bomb attack Fereydoon Abbasi, a professor at Shahid Beheshti University (where Shahriari also taught), and his wife were injured.[17] " ... I had a meeting with Dr. Shahriari at the early morning ... The bomb was attached to my car at 7:42. We were around the university square and I heard the sound of something colliding with my car and looked back and saw a motorbike. I concluded that that thing colliding with car was a bomb. I stopped at once and told my wife to get out ... " According to his wife, Abbasi sustained facial and hand injuries.[18]

23 July 2011Edit

Darioush Rezaeinejad was shot five times and killed by unknown motorcycle-riding gunmen in front of his home while he was with his wife after they picked up their daughter from kindergarten.[7][19] The attack was described as "the first public operation by new Mossad chief Tamir Pardo," according to an Israeli intelligence source in Der Spiegel.[19][27] Rezaeinejad's wife, Shohreh Pirani, was also wounded in the attack.[28] "... I got off quickly and followed the shooter. After running several meters, I realized that they were shooting at me. I fell down and heard the motorcycle go away," she said.[18]

11 January 2012Edit

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated with "a magnetized explosive" attached to the side of his car on his way to work on the second anniversary of Masoud Alimohammadi's murder at 8:30 am in Shahid Golnabi Street, Seyed Khandan, eastern Tehran.[29] Ahmadi Roshan was "a victim of Israel's Mossad," according to Western intelligence sources.[3] "In this location, we reached the car and attached the bomb to the car and the bomb exploded near the white fence," said Arash Kerhadkish under interrogation reported by the Mehr News Agency.[18]

January 2015Edit

In January 2015, Iranian authorities said that they had thwarted another Mossad attempt to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist.[4]

ResponsibilityEdit

While the assassinations were being carried out, there was speculation about the identity of their perpetrators. Although the Israeli Mossad intelligence service was seen as the most likely candidate, other suspects included Iranian opposition groups such as the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), intelligence operatives from Arab countries opposed to the Iranian regime, and the United States.[6][30][31]

Iran blamed Israel and the U.S. for the assassinations.[3] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton categorically denied any U.S. role in the killings, a denial called "plausible" by analysts given the reported lack of U.S. intelligence assets in Iran.[31] Israel neither confirmed nor denied its role in the killings.[9][10]

In early 2011 Majid Fashi confessed to the killing of Masoud Alimohammadi on Iranian state television, saying that he had trained for the operation at a Mossad facility near Tel Aviv. Fashi was executed in May 2012. That month, Iranian authorities announced the arrest of another 14 Iranians – eight men and six women – described as an Israeli-trained terror cell responsible for five of the attacks on Iranian scientists.[5] Iran's IRTV Channel 1 broadcast a half-hour documentary, Terror Club, which included "the televised confessions of the 12 suspects allegedly involved in the killings of Ali-Mohammadi, Shahriari, Rezaeinejad, and Roshan, and the attempted killing of Abbasi."[3][32][33] According to Time, Western intelligence officials confirmed the cracking of two Mossad-backed espionage rings by Iranian intelligence.[5] Officials in the Obama administration also reportedly confirmed Israeli involvement.[6][7] According to Dan Raviv, Mossad officials were "pissed off and shocked" to see their intelligence assets paraded on Iranian television.[34] After the arrests, Iran said it was confident it had arrested all those responsible for the attacks.[4] Time said that Iran attempted to retaliate against Israel for the assassinations by launching up to 20 hastily-organized attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions around the world in 2012, none of which were successful.[5]

Israel has never publicly confirmed or denied responsibility for the assassinations, and Israeli officials have expressed readiness to employ all necessary means in the nation's defence.[4][35] Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya'alon said in an interview with Der Spiegel, "Ultimately it is very clear, one way or another, Iran's military nuclear programme must be stopped ... We will act in any way and are not willing to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. We prefer that this be done by means of sanctions, but in the end, Israel should be able to defend itself." Ya'alon added that he was not responsible "for the life expectancy of Iranian scientists."[8]

The assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists reportedly ended in 2013 following pressure on Israel from the Obama administration to stop the attacks during negotiations with Iran to restrict its nuclear programme.[34][9][10] Mossad officials also reportedly concluded that the attacks were "too dangerous" for valuable intelligence operatives in Iran.[34] The organisation has since reportedly instructed its Iranian spy network to concentrate on finding evidence of Iranian breaches of its nuclear-restriction agreements.[34]

Although Israel is considered responsible for the 2010–2012 assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists, uncertainty surrounds the 2007 death of Iranian scientist Ardeshir Hosseinpour. Hosseinpour was reported by Iranian authorities to have died from gas poisoning caused by a faulty heater,[11] but a six-day delay in their announcement raised suspicions outside Iran. According to Stratfor, Hosseinpour was assassinated by Mossad using radiation poisoning; Iranian officials denied this, calling their scientists "safe."[11] In 2014 Hosseinpour's sister, Mahboobeh, accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of killing him for his alleged refusal to work on Iran's nuclear-enrichment program. Mahboobeh said that she obtained the information from Ardeshir's widow.[36][37][22]

ReactionsEdit

 
Memorial to the assassinated Iranian scientists

The U.S. government condemned the assassinations without implicating any party.[13] However, some American politicians took a different view. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich supported "taking out [Iranian] scientists," and presidential candidate Rick Santorum called the killings "a wonderful thing."[13]

Israel Defense Forces spokesman General Yoav Mordechai said that he had "no idea who targeted [Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan] but I certainly don't shed a tear."[13] Mehdi Hasan wrote in The Guardian, "These 'men on motorbikes' have been described as 'assassins'. But assassination is just a more-polite word for murder ... How many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of ... fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?"[1]

Historian Michael Burleigh compared the assassinations to the Allied bombing of Nazi V2 rocket sites during World War II, noting that the bombers "were not unduly concerned whether scientists and engineers were killed too, nor foreign slave labourers, provided the V2s ceased raining down on London." According to Burleigh, scientists are not abstract researchers; there are "real world" consequences of their actions, and he "shall not shed any tears whenever one of these [Iranian] scientists encounters one of the unforgiving men on motorbikes ... Except that if Israel ventures down this road, I cannot think of much of an argument to prevent Iran following them, and then anyone else who decides to follow."[31]

The assassinations have reportedly had a "chilling impact" on the Iranian scientific community, making it "more difficult for the regime to recruit anyone [for] national-security research efforts".[7] Paul Koring wrote that the assassinations, regardless of their effectiveness, "left a real trail of grief". Koring cited Shorheh Pirani, the widow of Darioush Rezaeinejad, who was gunned down in front of his wife and five-year-old daughter. A year after the assassination, he wrote that Armita "still draws pictures of her father. In them, she and her mother always have their mouths open in terrified screams. 'Every day', Mrs Pirani said, 'she makes that painting.'"[7] Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei condemned the attacks, saying that they aimed to hinder the Iranian scientific movement.[38]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Hasan, Mehdi (12 January 2012). "Iran's nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Meikle, James (12 January 2012). "Iran: timeline of attacks". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Vick, Karl; Klein, Aaron J. (13 January 2012). "Who Assassinated an Iranian Nuclear Scientist? Israel Isn't Telling". Time. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Staff writers (4 January 2015). "Iran 'thwarts Mossad attempt to assassinate nuclear scientist'". Russia Today. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Vick, Kar (13 February 2013). "Spy Fail: Why Iran Is Losing Its Covert War with Israel". Time. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Cockburn, Patrick (6 October 2013). "Just who has been killing Iran's nuclear scientists?". The Independent. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Koring, Paul (18 June 2012). "The undeclared war on Iran's nuclear program". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Staff writers. "Israel behind assassinations of Iran nuclear scientists, Ya'alon hints". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Buchanan, Rose Troup (8 August 2015). "Israeli defence minister says he is 'not responsible' for lives of Iranian nuclear scientists following historic US-Iran deal". Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c "Israel to Resume Assassinations of Iranian Nuclear Scientists?". ArutzSheva. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Tehran denies reports on scientist's "assassination"". Xinhua News Agency. 5 February 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2007. 
  12. ^ Borger, Julia; Kamali Dehghan, Saeed (5 December 2010). "Covert war against Iran's nuclear aims takes chilling turn". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2016. 
  13. ^ a b c d Levs, Josh (11 January 2012). "Who's killing Iranian nuclear scientists?". CNN. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Terror table of Iranian nuclear scientists within last two years". Hamshahri Online. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Friedson, Felice (30 September 2014). "Iranian Nuclear Physicist Killed by Revolutionary Guard, Not Israel: Sister". The Media Line. Archived from the original on 30 September 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c Cowell, Alan (12 January 2010). "Blast Kills Physics Professor in Tehran". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c Staff writers (29 November 2010). "Iranian nuclear scientist killed in motorbike attack". BBC News. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h "Broadcast of the details of the terror operations". Mehr News Agency (in Persian). 5 August 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  19. ^ a b c "Israel behind killing of Iranian scientist - report". DAWN.COM. 2 August 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  20. ^ "Precise details of assassination of Rezaeinejad". Mashregnews (in Persian). Retrieved 13 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Iranian nuclear physicist killed by Revolutionary Guard, not Israel, relative claims". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  22. ^ a b "Iran accused of assassinating its own nuclear scientist". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  23. ^ "Iran death penalty for 'Israeli spy' Majid Jamali Fashi". 28 August 2011 – via www.bbc.com. 
  24. ^ a b Vick, Karl. "Mossad Cutting Back on Covert Operations Inside Iran, Officials Say". Time. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  25. ^ "Iran hangs 'Mossad spy' Majid Jamali Fashi for killing scientist". The Independent. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
  26. ^ Yong, William; Worth, Robert F. (29 November 2010). "Bombings Hit Atomic Experts in Iran Streets". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  27. ^ "Der Spiegel: Mossad behind Iran hit". Ynetnews. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  28. ^ "Iran: Scientist shot dead in Tehran". 23 July 2011 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  29. ^ Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (11 January 2012). "Iran nuclear scientist killed in Tehran motorbike bomb attack". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  30. ^ Staff writers (9 February 2012). "Israel's Mossad Trained Assassins of Iran Nuclear Scientists, Report Says". Haaretz. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  31. ^ a b c Burleigh, Michael (12 January 2012). "An informal addition to the laws of physics – don’t work for Iran". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  32. ^ Torbati, Yeganeh (6 August 2012). "Iran airs "confessions" in killings of nuclear scientists". Reuters. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  33. ^ Staff writers (22 February 2013). "Iran: Guarantee Rights of ‘Terror’ Suspects". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  34. ^ a b c d Raviv, Dan (1 March 2014). "U.S. pushing Israel to stop assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists". CBS News. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  35. ^ Staff writers (1 April 2015). "Iran accuses Israel of killing nuclear scientists". i24news. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  36. ^ Haaretz (2 October 2014). "Sister of Murdered Iranian Nuclear Scientist Blames Revolutionary Guards – Not Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  37. ^ Friedson, Felice. "Israel didn't assassinate Iranian physicist in 2007 — Revolutionary Guard did, sister says". National Post. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  38. ^ "10 sentences by Supreme leader of Iran regarding the Nuclear martyrs". Khamenei. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2016.