THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE KILLING OF PERSIAN SCIENTISTS
"TEHRAN, Jan 12 (Reuters) - An Iranian nuclear scientist was blown up in his car by a motorbike hitman, prompting Tehran to blame Israeli and U.S. agents but insist the killing would not derail a nuclear programme that has raised fears of war and threatened world oil supplies. The fifth daylight attack on technical experts in two years, the magnetic bomb delivered a targeted blast to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's car during Wednesday's morning rush-hour. The chemical engineer's driver also died, Iranian media said, and a passer-by was slightly hurt.
Israel, whose military chief said on Tuesday that Iran could expect to suffer more mysterious mishaps, declined comment. The White House, struggling for Chinese and Russian help on economic sanctions, denied any U.S. role and condemned the attack. While Israeli or Western involvement seemed eminently plausible to independent analysts, a role for local Iranian factions or other regional interests engaged in a deadly shadow war of bluff and sabotage could not be ruled out.
The killing, which left debris hanging in trees and body parts on the road, came in a week of heightened tension:
Iran has started an underground uranium enrichment plant and sentenced an American to death for spying; Washington and Europe have stepped up efforts to cripple Iran's oil exports for its refusal to halt work that the West says betrays an ambition to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its aims are entirely peaceful. Tehran has threatened to choke the West's supply of Gulf oil if its exports are hit by sanctions, drawing a U.S. warning that its navy was ready to open fire to prevent any blockade of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which 35 percent of the world's seaborne traded oil passes.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran's threats to close the strait were "provocative and dangerous" and repeated the White House denial of any U.S. involvement in the killing of Ahmadi-Roshan....
Analysts saw the latest assassination, which would have taken no little expertise, as less a reaction to recent events than part of a longer-running, covert effort to thwart Iran's nuclear development programme that has also included suspected computer viruses and mystery explosions. While fears of war have forced up oil prices, the region has seen periods of sabre-rattling and limited bloodshed before without reaching all-out conflict. But a willingness in Israel, which sees an imminent Iranian atom bomb as a threat to its existence, to attack Iranian nuclear sites, with or without U.S. backing, has heightened the sense that a crisis is coming....
In Washington, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this ... We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like what is being reported today."
Israel, which has a history of covert killings abroad, declined comment, though army spokesman Yoav Mordechai wrote on Facebook: "I don't know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I am definitely not shedding any tears."'.
Ramin Mostafavi & Parisa Hafezi, "Iran [Persia] says nuclear scientist killed in car bombing." Reuters. 11 January 2011, in www.reuters.com.
'“I think the assassination of an Iranian citizen is a blatant act of terrorism perpetuated by experts in targeted assassinations, and it has to be categorically denounced,” Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University told The Daily Beast. “These scientists are national treasures. This is an egregious act of violation of many different rights, to infiltrate into a sovereign state and to assassinate its citizens.”
“The United Nations has to intervene. Any civilized country has to intervene. And the [Israelis] claim to be the only democracy in the region?! That’s insane!,” he added....
“I don’t believe a program on such a large scale as Iran’s nuclear program is eliminated or slowed down as a result of the elimination of some individuals,” Gholamhossein Karbaschi, the former Tehran mayor and a close ally of reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi, told The Daily Beast. “It does have a psychological effect, but it will not have an impact in the nuclear program itself. Its psychological effect is not favorable, either, as people hate the perpetrators.”
Omid Memarian, "Why are Iran assassination backfiring, aiding nuclear program". The Daily Beast. 13 January 2012, in www.dailybeast.com.
The assassination of another Persian nuclear scientist on Wednesday past, has brought forth a torrent of claims and counter-claims concerning the legitimacy or not of such activities by a sovereign state which claims to be a legitimate member of the international community of nations. There are arguments, indeed good arguments on both sides of the issue. And while there are seemingly cogent reasons advanced to gainsay this alleged operation (Israeli more likelier than not), those which argue in its favor to my mind appear to have the upper hand. First, there appears to be very little legitimacy to the argument that the operations are hurting or making more difficult the position of the internal Persian opposition. As a well-argued piece in the American bi-monthly Foreign Affairs has noted, there is in effect 'no opposition' to the regime of Mullahs. The opposition such as it existed circa 2009 has in effect disappeared into thin air. As things presently stand, while the regime of Mullahs are hardly popular, there does not appear to be any signs that it will be overthrown in any time in the near future 1. Similarly, the argument that the assassination policy is either immoral or ineffective is also of questionable merit. Viz: as any well-informed historian of international affairs well knows, the assassination policy has a long prior history. From the Romans in antiquity to British attempts circa 1799-1800 to assassinate Bonaparte, such violent coercive 'diplomacy' has been very much par for the course in inter-state interaction 2. As per the argument that the policy is 'ineffective', the answer to that caveat is simply: what is the alternative? Certainly the policy as such is better than endeavoring to launch missile strikes on Persia. Or even a complete naval blockade. So far it would appear that the policy, along with more complex endeavors to slow-down or halt the Persian programme, has indeed had some positive effect. And while not completely successful has indeed retarded the Persian effort. So much so, that the date for Persia to acquire a nuclear capability is still uncertain and no one seems to predict that it will be during the current or next anno domini. At present this 'delaying operation' appears to be the very best that can be expected of Western policy, in addition to the application of oil sanctions. Hopefully, the combination of the two, will suffice to bring the regime of Mullahs to heel.
1. Hooman Majid, "Christmas is no time for an Iranian Revolution. Foreign Affairs. 11 January 2012, in www.foreignaffairs.com.
2. For the historical examples outlined here, see: Elizabeth Sparrow, "The Alien Office, 1792-1806." The Historical Journal. (December 1993), pp. 360-384; John Erhman. The Younger Pitt: the consuming struggle. (1996), pp. 470-471. In addition, see: A. D. Lee, "Abductions and Assassinations: the Clandestine face of Roman Diplomacy in Late Antiquity." The International History Review. (March 2009), pp. 1-23.