The 14 Words

Monday, 7 October 2013

Just who has been killing Iran's nuclear scientists?

The timing of the latest shot in a covert war invites questions about the role of proxies


What to make of the latest alleged assassination in Iran of a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards just as Iran and the US move towards negotiations? Is it a last-minute attempt by Israel or the Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) to sabotage talks – or at least to show that they are still players in the decades-long struggle between the government in Tehran and its many antagonists?

The first account on an Iranian website stated that Mojtaba Ahmadi, the head of Iranian cyber warfare, had been found shot in the head outside Tehran. The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement denying that he had been assassinated, but admitted there had been a "horrific incident" which it was investigating. The killing appeared to be the latest in a string of killings, since 2007, in which five Iranians associated with the country's nuclear programme have been murdered in professional attacks. Men on motorcycles operating on the basis of good intelligence have stuck magnetically attachable bombs to their victims' cars.

The timing of Ahmadi's assassination looks suspicious, coming a few days after the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations and later spoke to President Barack Obama by telephone. Not everybody on either side is happy: the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammed Ali Jafari, even stated openly that, while he agreed with Rouhani's UN speech, 
"he should have turned down a telephone conversation until after the American government had shown its sincerity towards Iran".
Jafari may be worried that Washington believes it has Iran on the run because of the devastating impact of economic sanctions.


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