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By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 13, 2009


The recent assassination of a high level Iranian nuclear researcher should raise flags for everyone keeping watch on Iran.

To recap: Professor Massoud Mohammadi was blown to smithereens outside his Teheran home by an explosive device strapped to a motorcycle. Two cars and two motorcycles were destroyed and a whole slew of homes had their glass windows blown out. Massoud Mohammadi was a significant player in the development of the Iranian nuclear program.

Naturally, all fingers are pointing at Israel.

In the past Israel has utilized the same explosive devices against terrorist leaders all over the world. So to suspect Israel makes perfect sense.

But ... This was overkill in the most literal sense of the word.

This explosion was so powerful and out of control it was designed to kill, maim and damage in a wide circumference around the bomb. This was not the work of a Western intelligence force, it was not even the work of a Western assassin. Israel has perfected the art of destroying their target and their target only - a car and the people in the car, nothing else at all. Israel goes the extra mile to make sure the damage is restricted and does not injure people or property around the explosion site.

This explosion was the work of others, it was not the work of Israel and neither was it the work of the United States.

So whose work was it, whose signature is on this assassination?

There is a long list of people, parties and organizations that would benefit from the death of Mohammadi, a long list of people who could have planned or hired a team to blow up Massoud Mohammadi.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Israel, the United States or another Western agency hired locals to organize and perpetrate this attack - but it is not likely, Israel and the US have different types of assets in Iran and France and Germany have better contacts in Iran.

This kind of operation requires hands-off supervision. Whoever ordered the assassination of Mohammadi gave a carte blanche to the killer, granting permission to kill in as wide an arc as possible. That type of blessing does not come easily in the intelligence agency halls of Washington, DC, Jerusalem, Berlin, London or Paris. This type of operation does not smell like Moscow or Beijing. It smells much more like the operations ordered by Middle East agencies, like agencies that want to stop Iranian nuclear research cold in its tracks.

Attacks against very specific Iranian scientists can grind all of Iran's nuclear development to a halt. Even a single attack against one scientist can slow down the process. Frightening others in the scientific community, upsetting them and making them nervous, makes them less productive and slows down the pace of their work.

So who did it? If I were to venture a guess I would say that the countries with the most to gain from Mohammadi's death are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other, smaller, countries in the region. That these countries are angry about Iran's nuclear development is well known. A nuclear Iran makes them sit on edge, petrified that a nuclear Iran will cause the downfall of their personal regimes and destabilize the entire region.

Regional leaders have much more to lose if Iran becomes a nuclear power than anyone else in the world. Iran would have absolute reign over the region. The Persians, a non-Arab nation, Shiites a minority in the sea of Sunni Islam, would take charge. This explosion was probably a local operation, perhaps even an anti-government operation.

Massoud Mohammadi is dead. Iran's nuclear community will feel the loss. The rest of the world just bought a little bit of time.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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