A Murder in Tehran

Reuters makes a good point that Iran is having difficulty getting the international community to condemn the terrorist attacks against its scientists, which over time have left four of them dead in bombings.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a professor at Tehran’s technical university, was killed yesterday. Behdast was aged 32 and had been a chemistry major at the Oil Industry University. He then became deputy director of commerce at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Isfahan. Thus, some of these scientists were clearly connected to Iran’s civilian nuclear energy establishment. At least one was just a theoretical physicist whose work had no bearing on the practical side of nuclear engineering.

On January 11, 2010, another Iranian university nuclear scientist, Mas’ud Ali Mohammadi was assassinated by a similar bombing.

If four US nuclear scientists were (God forbid) blown up at Las Alamos one after another, I think we all know that there would be hell to pay.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (i.e. illegal assassinations) told Reuters that the attacks on nuclear scientists were indeed worrying, extrajudicial, and executions.

But Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said in a statement to Reuters the Wednesday assassination seemed to reflect a “worrying trend of extrajudicial executions of nuclear scientists in Iran.” But he put the onus on Iranian authorities to solve the murder mystery.

Iran wants the UN General Assembly to condemn the bombings. The UNGA unanimously condemned Iran for an alleged plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in Washington, though the evidence for that scheme was extremely weak. As Reuters points out, diplomats are particularly upset by assassination plots against . . . diplomats.

Readers have been asking me who I thought was behind the attacks. Well, it is a murder mystery, so we should look at the classical trinity: means, motive and opportunity.

The means in yesterday’s attack on was a sticky bomb, i.e. one placed on Behdast’s car by magnets by a motorcyclist.

The motive was to damage Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The opportunity belonged to someone who could be in Iran, could monitor Behdast’s movements without suspicion, and who could drive a motorcycle around the Iranian capital (and therefore someone whose papers were in order in case the police or other security forces stopped him).

The countries most eager to stop the Iranian program are Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So they are the ones with motive.

The means, a sticky bomb, is commonly used by radical militias in Iraq.

The opportunity belonged to an Iranian who could move freely and had his papers in order. Of course, such a person could be recruited as an agent by almost any espionage organization. An MEK double agent inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps would be useful.

If you put this all together, you can come to a speculation. The circumstantial evidence would point to a member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People’s Jihadis) terrorist organization. The MEK is known to have been involved in espionage on the Iranian nuclear program, and it wants to overthrow the current government in favor of a Marxist-Islamic regime, working with Israeli intelligence. Mossad does targeted assassinations, as in Dubai. The MEK has a history of pulling off bombings in Iran. One, in 1981, killed over 80 members of the revolution’s political elite, including the prime minister. The MEK is based in part in Iraq and so could acquire sticky bombs easily. It is known to have an operational alliance with Israeli and American intelligence. And that this bombing occurred on an anniversary of a previous one also suggests a terrorist group for which the date is symbolic.

I underline that this conclusion is circumstantial and purely the result of an intellectual exercise, i.e., of speculation. I’m not making an accusation and have no proof of this conclusion. But it is more likely the solution to the mystery than that Thai ninjas or Argentine gauchos did the deed.

Journalist Richard Silverstein says he has a reliable Israeli source who affirms that the bombings are a joint production of Mossad and the MEK. But since his source in anonymous, it is hard for others to judge the solidness of this source.

Anyway, the scientists so far killed have not been proven in a court of law to have done anything wrong at all, and so they have been murdered in cold blood for political purposes, which is the definition of terrorism. Western leaders who accuse Iran of being the world’s major purveyor of terrorism (a stupid allegation) would have to, if they were honest and consistent, speak out against these grisly murders in Iran (which also killed innocent bystanders).

Jim Lobe cannily argues that the assassins were trying to scuttle further negotiations between Iran and the UN Security Council members plus Germany, which we know from Wikileaks are favored by President Ahmadinejad. Strengthening Tehran’s hard liners and even provoking Iran to do something rash would benefit those who want a US-Iran war. Lobe does not say so,but that would be the Netanyahu government in Israel, the US Israel lobbies, and the MEK.

23 Responses

  1. It is a sad day for science around the world.

    I feel that a conversation about Camp Ashraf would be applicable here: how international bodies and specific governments are attempting to liberate this group of extremists; the dilemma their situation presents to international law; how their (MEK’s) methods have mirrored terrorist actions in the past and your deduction seems to indicate that they still do (only now backed by larger powers).

    • MEK doesn’t mirror terrorist actions they have engaged in terrorism.

      There are also ‘specific’ presidential candidates attempting to “liberate this group” and take them off the terrorist list.

      • Hi D,
        I agree “mirror” was a misnomer: an MEK-article, written with some weighty intellect, would make that clear (more so than a comment from the peanut-gallery,-meaning myself of course). I am not sure that any candidate post-election (including Obama-via-Clinton) will keep the designation for the MEK as they are too useful to Washington, which is very unfortunate.

  2. Because of the constant drip of propaganda against Iran there is very little sympathy for the scientist murdered by this act of terrorism.

    To make my point…I would swear that Scott Pelley had a slight grin on his face while reading the story on last nights CBS NEWS. Of course, being the faithful neocon news reader he is, he concluded the story by saying…”And as heard on this broadcast last night, Iran is less than one year away from having a nuclear bomb.”

    As in the run up to the Iraq war, opinions to the contrary are not allowed.

  3. I was just at SMU today, and I discovered to my chagrin that I missed your lecture in October. I’m a huge fan of yours and Informed Comment. I am a member of the Islamic Association of North Texas, and I have turned my imam onto Informed Comment as well as the seminary students that he teaches.

    link to youtube.com

  4. No No no the world has it all wrong. These deaths are not at all connected by international politics.
    What connects them is the growing womens rights movement in Iran.
    What these men all have in common is not only that they were scientists but that they were all stepping out on their wives.
    Iranian women are just not going to stand for that anymore.
    These bombings send a clear message. The woman of Iran will get their justice one way or another. They will stop at nothing not even learning the arts of bomb making to keep thier men in line.

  5. Now on to a more pertinate subject. Iran says that it could easily block the straits of Hormuz. They US uses mega resources building nuclear powered Aircraft Carriers and Amphibious Assault Task Forces to be able to keep these straits open. Yet why is it never asked by the Wall Street Journal or The Times or the Post or Forbes why so much oil must past through the straights in the first place. Why have no oil pipelines simply been built to bypass the straits? Why were these pipelines not built 30 years ago?
    No instead the US builds the worlds most expensive and deceptive welfare program commonly known as the Department of Defense. And threatens to murder God knows how many people if it is not bowed down to and worshiped.

  6. What can ordinary people, who spend their days just struggling, against the predations of metastatic kleptocracy and the drive of their own native tribalisms and learned or imposed loyalties and hatreds, to make a living and provide for their families, do to rein in the jackals and hyenas and giant tapeworms that constitute the team rosters of the Great Game Players? Those relatively few who see the opportunities to create chaos and conflict so very clearly, and whose genius is figuring out ways to instigate and agitate by acts that erode the “security” they pretend to offer? People who have so much more in common with each other, across the arbitrary lines of borders and ethnicity and co-religion, than they do with the plow-horses and milk cows that create the wealth they covet?

    Says the War Department:

    terrorism — The unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce
    governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other
    ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political.

    link to dtic.mil

    I guess it all turns on what’s the definition of “unlawful.”

    • “Terrorism” is a term of political rhetoric, as you imply. You’ll find different definitions by the FBI, State, etc, etc.

      What they have in common is their intention of de-legitimizing potential adversary to their omnipotence. “Non-State” crops-up alot in these definitions, seeing as how that handily separates out those who have no “right” to exercise violence from those who can be retaliated against by an aircraft carrier. This gets back to the classic definition of a “legitimate State” (power?) as one who has a monopoly on the use of force/violence.

      Trouble here is when we have an Iran, who hence must become a “State-Sponsor of Terrorism.” But then, Rummy’s “Shock & Awe” was nothing if not State Terrorism designed to intimidate, albeit in a (whoops!) undeclared war, which was practically the same thing as declared, so that was NOT Terrorism. Get it? This all gets kinda confusing, I know, but that’s just part and parcel of trying to make lies make sense. It’s what requires so much from people like SOS Clinton. (Truth has a certain elegance to it, although so does a really well-crafted lie. groan…..why can’t things be simple?)

      Then we get Wikileaks, or Anonymous, who are nothing if not terrorizing me and the status quo. And I don’t particularly like the look on your face either. Come to mention it, I don’t find it particularly comforting how much power you now have with nothing more than an average education, a second-hand laptop, and a degree of commitment (that shouldn’t be minimized, given that drone I’ve got hovering 1000″ over your dreary little apt)).

      The center of gravity now, as ever, has always been with ideas. The difference is how they can be proliferated with modern technology, so we have the raw ideas and their presentation (art, in a word), and the technology to get past the forces arrayed to squelch these ideas (ie, against Wikileaks). There is a pure intellectual dimension as well as one of technology.

      And the bottom line, is that the oligarchs have to work with the same realities, the most important of which is deploying the power of rhetoric, and “Terrorism,” as a concept, is the most blatant example. The only defense for those who would resist is education, in the sense of being able to see through matters by being able to think critically, which is not the same thing as “education,” which now is more akin to simple job-training. Unless you’re a lawyer who has really thought things thru.

    • I thought by now this should be abundantly clear to all: whether an action is “unlawful” and whether something is “terrorism” is largely a function of who commits it. The label “Terrorism”, as it is now applied, simply refers to “any action committed by someone who happens to identify themselves as a Muslim (irrespective of their nationality) against Israeli/US interests”. By definition, the U.S. and Israel can never commit “Terrorism”.

    • Given that Mr. Obama seems to take special delight in ordering targeted assassinations, it’s a reasonable speculation that he might have had something to do with it..

      • I assume you’re referring to the air strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.

        As it turns out, there actually is a difference between military strikes against combatants fighting against you in a war, and assassinating the citizens of a country with whom no state of war exists.

  7. That Iran would want nuclear weapons is understandable as is that Israel would want to disrupt that development. Killing a few scientists is not enough per se, but it does heat up the mix and increase the probability of war with America, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UK. The actual issue of nukes is moot. No state would resort unless in extremis. The unlikely solution is disarmament. Unlikely because the nuclear powers will probably clutch their weapons close as a non-nuclear Armageddon of global climate change assaults us. But, for now, in the short term it is enough to destabilize the situation. Let loose the dogs of war.

  8. The opportunity belonged to an Iranian who could move freely and had his papers in order.

    Or someone who could pass himself off as such.

    I don’t know anything about the Saudi intelligence services.

    I know that the post-Porter Goss CIA’s human/clandestine operation is a shell of its former self. I know that the CIA has been killing al Qaeda terrorists, and that they haven’t been using close-in, covert ops like this to do it. The damage the Bush administration did to the CIA is one of the reasons why the US is relying so much on drones and special forces teams. They couldn’t have gotten somebody close to Awlaki if they tried.

    I know that the Mossad carries out close-in assassinations of Palestinian and Hezbollah targets with some regularity, inserting their own people into Arab communities, or turning locals.

    Let’s just say that I know which square I’d put my chips on.

  9. Israel is trying to provoke Iran into initiating actions, military or covert, against Israel or the international community that would provide an excuse to launch a war against Iran.

    That is an old Iraeli trick. Israel provoked Syria repeatedly before the ’67 War.

    Haaretz tells us : ‘Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was quoted as telling a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a “critical year” for Iran – in part because of “things that happen to it unnaturally.”‘

  10. Israel and its US goons are hoping that Iran will do something that would serve as a convenient casus belli for war. They make no secret about it. Patrick Clawsen, the director of the Iran Security Initiative at AIPAC’s WINEP, said this recently:

    “It’s a lot better to have a fight” … adding: “Better to enter World War II after Pearl Harbor, and World War I after the sinking of the Lusitania.”

    (Credit: link to moonofalabama.org)

    If Iran does not oblige, then a false flag operation might just do the trick. The zio-supremacists want this war bad in order to “secure the realm” for their Apartheid state, regardless of the cost in terms of US blood and treasure.

  11. Killing of Iranian Nuclear Scientist an Act of Terror
    When US & Israel kill innocent people in other countries, it is a covert operation, but when Iran or Syria do it, it is an act of terror – what hypocricy.

    Regardless of whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon or not and regardless of whether Ahnedinajad regime is liked by outside world or not, the recent killing of an Iranian scietist is nothing but an act of terror and it should be called as such. Those who committed this act should be treated as international terrorists even if they acted for CIA or Mossad or any other agency.

    Hillary Clinton’s denial in this matter is less than convincing. Her credibility in such matters is low as she did not tell the truth when she said that Raymond Davis, who killed two people in Lahore in broad daylight, was a diplomat. The CIA contractor had in fact entered the country on a business visa and he was suspected of instigating Taliban to carry out bomb blasts in various cities in Pakistan. Had it not been for Senator John Kerry’s diplomacy and invocation of Sharia Law in paying blood money in exchange for his release, Mr. Davis may well have faced the gallows.

    It was not long ago when Israeli agents executed a Palestinian leader in Dubai by using false British passports, a heinous act in itself causing much consternation between British and Israeli Governments.

    The World must roundly condemn all acts of terror regardless of whether they are committed by individuals, religious extremists or by State actors on behalf of CIA, Mossad, ISI, MI5/6 or the Indian intelligence agency Raw.

  12. While we’re speculating: Maybe the People’s Mojahedin are going off on their own. They are now facing liquidation. Maybe they figure it’s time to go for broke. Maryam Rajavi has nothing to lose. Provoking a war would not only take the heat off them, but put them within reach of finally getting what they want–an opportunity to invade Iran, this time with something a bit more powerful than a tin-pot dictator at their back.

    • ‘Palestinian leader in Dubai’ the method used was similar to the Sean Connery movie “The Other Man”.

      Guess, they also watch movies to get their inspiration.

  13. When John Kerry was presidential candidate, the Catholic church refused him communion because of his political position on abortion.

    Will the Catholic church condemn Rick Santorum for calling for, and expressing delight in, the assassination of innocent civilians?

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