Back in December 2010, I wrote an article for Asia Despatch website on the assassination of scientists in Iran’s nuclear industry. In October 2013, I note the killing of yet another person working in this field, Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, found in a wooded area near Karjai, Tehran. According to the Telegraph “five Iranian nuclear scientists and the head of the country’s ballistic missile programme have been killed since 2007. The regime has accused Israel’s external intelligence agency Mossad of carrying out these assassinations.”
According to local police the attack on Ahmadi was a motorbike, related assassin, involving two men. In January last year, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemist and Deputy Director at the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, was also assassinated along with his driver, Reza Ghashghaee, with a magnetic explosive device targeting his car during Tehran’s rush hour. An earlier killing I reported on, that of Majid Shahriar used a bomb delivered by motorbike and planted on a car. Prior to that there was a similar motorbike assault injuring nuclear scientist, Fereidom Abassai and before that Masoud Ali- Mohammadi, a quantum mechanics and field theory specialist based at Tehran University killed using the same method of attack.
Living with the fear of becoming another targeted killing appears to go with the job in Iran. In light of this latest murder, I thought I would revisit my previous article from December 17th, 2010
Iran/Israel: Nuclear fall-out
In the same week that Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks revealed in a classified diplomatic cable that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme, two more nuclear scientists came under attack in Tehran. Assassins on motorbikes rode up to the car of Majid Shahriar part of the nuclear engineering facility at the Shahid Beheshti University in the capital killing him and wounding his wife. Fereidom Abassi, a nuclear physicist from the same university was also targeted and received injuries in a similar incident, his wife who was accompanying him was also hurt. Both men were respected figures in the field of nuclear research.
Shariari was known to have designed the new generation of theoretical nuclear reactors. Abassi, once a member of the Revolutionary Guard specialised in nuclear isotope separation. The semi-official Fars news agency described the two professors as members of the pro-government Basiji militia. Shahriari is now being hailed as a martyr by the Iranian press. Earlier this year in January, Masoud Ali- Mohammadi, a quantum mechanics and field theory specialist based at Tehran University was also assassinated by a remote controlled bomb attached to the side of a motorbike.
Mashreghnews.ir reported: “Dr Fereydoun Abbasi’s name was mentioned in UN security council 1737 resolution as a person linked to Iran’s nuclear activities and this shows they [Americans and Israelis] were planning to assassinate him from [a] long time ago.” According to Iran Daily, the Iran Royal Association, a terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for the murder of Ali-Mohammadi, carried out by their “Tondar” Commandos. The group are seeking to restablish the Pahlavi reign in Iran however the country’s foreign minister stated that there were traces of US and Israeli involvement.
The Guardian newspaper stated that “Iran maintains that its atomic programme is designed to supply power stations rather than to build nuclear warheads. A fresh round of talks with the five permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany, is due to begin on 5 December.” The CIA had something of an “intelligence coup” recently in relation to their efforts to spy on and undermine Iran’s nuclear programme when ABC News reported that an award winning nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri (who mysteriously disappeared last year) had defected and resettled in the US. King Abdullah warned (in the cables released by WikiLeaks) that if Iran developed nuclear weapons, other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, would develop nuclear weapons as well. The Washington Square News disclosed, “the cables also reveal that Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, stated in July 2009 that there was only a six-18-month window in which stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons might still be viable.” Robert Gates, the US defense secretary, pointed out that the failure of diplomacy would lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quick to blame western governments and the Zionist regime for the attacks on the two scientists. He also admitted that the country’s nuclear programme had been disrupted recently by malicious computer software. A worm known as Stuxnet had apparently been responsible for attacking its centrifuges at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Experts claimed that the programme, which is precisely calibrated to send nuclear centrifuges wildly out of control, was probably developed by technicians working for a government. Haaretz contends, “the Iranians are not alone in assuming Mossad (now headed by newly appointed Tamir Pardo) is responsible for the attacks. Commentators worldwide think so too.” It is hardly surprising then that those connected to the Nuclear Industry in Iran fear for their lives as there have been four attempts to assassinate in less than four years. In 2007, another nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, apparently died from gas poisoning, there was speculation here too of Israeli involvement.
According to Ali Afoneh, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute, “there is too much unknown right now. The attacks could be a concerted effort to retard Iran’s nuclear progress, or they could be meant to hype Iran’s own “terror threat” and provide an excuse to crack down on domestic opposition. The only certainty is that the life expectancy of Iranian nuclear physicists is falling rapidly, and is now almost as low as that of Iran’s civil-rights activists, journalists, and public intellectuals.”
Israel has raised international controversy before in the nuclear field over the treatment of one of its own, Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear physician who was jailed for 18 years for disclosing the top secret inner workings of Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant to a British Newspaper, the Sunday Times. He was released but recently sentenced to a further 3 months for violating the terms of his release. Al Jazeera reported he was led away shouting after being sentenced, “shame on you Israel, and the stupid Shin Bet (internal security wing) and Mossad spies who are returning me to jail after 24 years in which I have spoken the truth”.
One wonders whether WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange might also be at risk of future imprisonment for disclosing such sensitive diplomatic exchanges which includes amongst other things secret accounts of the world’s nuclear anxieties. There is a certain irony perhaps that earlier this year it was reported by several newspapers that WikiLeaks had moved quickly to relocate its servers to a Cold-war era nuclear shelter 30m beneath the ground in the city of Stockholm, one wonders will that be enough to protect its precious data.
The following poem was written by Mordechai Vanunu about his life experience.
I’M YOUR SPY
I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic,
They said, Do this, do that, don’t look left
don’t read the text. Don’t look at the whole
are only responsible for this one bolt. For this
This is your only concern. Don’t bother
with what is above you.
Don’t try to think for us. Go on, drive. Keep
going. On, on.
So they thought, the big ones, the smart ones,
There is nothing to fear. Not to worry.
Everything is ticking just fine.
Our little clerk is a diligent worker. He’s a
He’s a little man.
Little men’s ears don’t hear, their eyes
We have heads, they don’t
Answer them, said he to himself, said the
the man with a head of his own. Who is in
charge? Who knows
where this train is going?
Where is their head? I too have a head.
Why do I see the whole engine.
Why do I see the precipice —
is there a driver on this train?
The clerk driver technician mechanic
He stepped back and saw — what a monster.
Can’t believe it. Rubbed his eyes and — yes,
it’s there all right. I’m all right. I do see
the monster. I’m part of the system.
I signed this form. Only now I am reading the
rest of it.
This bolt is part of a bomb. This bolt is me.
did I fail to see, and how do the others go on
fitting bolts. Who else knows?
Who has seen? Who has heard — The
emperor really is naked.
I see him. Why me? It’s not for me. It’s too big.
Rise and cry out. Rise and tell the people.
I, the bolt, the technician, mechanic —
You are the secret agent of the people. You are
the eyes of the nation.
Agent-spy, tell us what you’ve seen. Tell us
what the insiders, the clever ones, have
hidden from us.
Without you, there is only the precipice.
I have no choice. I’m a little man, a citizen,
one of the people,
but I’ll do what I have to. I’ve heard the voice
of my conscience
and there is nowhere to hide.
The world is small, small for Big Brother.
I’m your mission. I’m doing my duty. Take
it from me.
Come and see for yourselves. Lighten my
burden. Stop the train.
Get off the train. The next stop — nuclear
disaster. The next book,
the next machine. No. There is no such thing.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.