Thursday, August 25, 2016


Who Assassinated Iran's Nuclear Scientist?

Policemen gather evidence at a bomb blast site in Tehran, which killed nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on January 11.
Policemen gather evidence at a bomb blast site in Tehran, which killed nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on January 11.
When motorcycle bombers assassinated an Iranian nuclear scientist on January 11, they left behind no clues of who they were. But does the type of operation itself give any hints? RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel spoke with Shahshank Joshi, an analyst with the Royal United Services Institute in London.

RFE/RL: The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan looked frighteningly easy. Two men on a motorcycle slapped a magnetic bomb on Roshan's car and as they sped away it exploded, killing him and the driver. But how difficult is it, in fact, to carry out an operation like this?

Shahshank Joshi: From the point of view of acquiring the target himself, I think that would have been relatively simple. We know most Western intelligence services and many Arab and even of course the Israeli intelligence service has a network of agents inside the Iranian nuclear program.

They've had almost a decade to build these up, many of these will have been cultivated outside of Iran, so it's not very hard to find the name of a relatively junior 32-year-old deputy head of procurement at a facility like Natanz. That's not the hard part.
Defense and security analyst Shashank JoshiDefense and security analyst Shashank Joshi
Defense and security analyst Shashank Joshi
Defense and security analyst Shashank Joshi

I think the complexity of this operation lies in the actual implementation. Because unlike many assassinations, which require car bombs [and] particularly indiscriminate forms of killing, this was both reasonably discriminate -- it was very carefully targeted, very carefully timed -- and, of course, the assailants escaped, as they have done in almost every past such assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

And on top of all of that, the actual weapon used was a magnetic bomb, which contributed to the very careful blast that left passengers dead but others outside the vehicle unharmed."

RFE/RL: As you say, the type of bomb seems carefully chosen for the job. Does that give any hint about who was behind the assassination?

Joshi: We don't know enough about the explosives used. We don't know if they were particularly shaped charges or what the explosive content was, or any of those details and the Iranians are not likely to release them.
This is the textbook method by which an intelligence service would mount a covert operation.”

But the particular point of this is that it could be used in heavy traffic, by a motorcycle-based assailant to simply stick to the car and then move away very fast indeed without any real danger that the bomb would kill large numbers of pedestrians or outside civilians.

After the West -- the Western countries, the P5 countries [i.e. the five permanent members of the UN Security Council], and Germany -- have worked so hard to build this international coalition of sanctions against Iran, would they jeopardize that or would they provoke Iran even further at a time when they are trying to work very hard to get Iran back to the negotiating table?

The suggestion, therefore, is that either this was a group not involved with those sanctions or a state that was impatient with those sanctions and didn't think they would work anyway.

RFE/RL: In the wake of the assassination, some media have pointed to reports of the Israeli intelligence agency being active in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, saying this might offer hints of who organized the attack and who carried it out. What do you make of those suggestions?

Joshi: It's possible that the suggestions of a Kurdistan link are instances of disinformation designed to throw people off the trail. In this kind of murky world of assassinations and covert actions one can never discount that possibility.
Mostafa Ahmadi-RoshanMostafa Ahmadi-Roshan
Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan
Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan

But the suggestion being made is not that these are Iranian Kurds but that they are Iranian exiles living in Iraqi Kurdistan, that recruitment was undertaken there, and that the individuals who planted the bomb were hired from that area because of their grievances against the Iranian state.

And of course this is the textbook method by which an intelligence service would mount a covert operation.

The traditional rule is that one doesn't use nationals of one's own country; you always recruit those from the country of your target or those from a third country.

So, it's a possibility I think we should consider seriously but we need some more evidence before we can really draw a firm link.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Christen al-Iman from: San Diego, CA.
January 12, 2012 17:49
The likely candidates for such activities are of course the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA. This recent assassination will not seriously hamper the R&D progress of Iran's nuclear aspirations, only foment further animosity towards Israel and the United States and a probable escalation of a limited military conflict in the Arabian Sea between the U.S.'s 5th Fleet and the Iranian Naval vessels. And this particular "conflict" is certainly something seen on the horizon, it will take place.

by: Geedavey from: United States
January 12, 2012 17:59
Seems to me the last time this happened, there was talk of dissident elements in Iran being possibly involved. The article should mention that possibility again here.

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: Your House
January 12, 2012 18:34
Getting Iran back to the negotiating table only works to their advantage. They need time to finish, we provide it through wishful thinking.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
January 12, 2012 21:18
Us and them:So good old Dim found out the answer to da question-its good old western wishful thinking that murdered the hapless iranian!!!Hip hip hurray for american and israeli wishful thinkers,long may they live and make the world a safer place to live!!!Happy to see you`ve found a new house to live in,Dim,if ya need dough to pay the rent for your old house,we`d be happy to oblige,mate.Yours,etc.
In Response

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: Back in my house
January 12, 2012 22:34
This is rich, being lectured on the near east by a Kurd of all people.
So in all that mish-mash of words, what is your point Camel, because I don't think you comprehend what I was alluding to.
Perhaps you can calm down with the "!!!" and write an answer we can understand. I speak Farsi as well if that makes it easier for you.

by: Ben
January 13, 2012 12:14
The terrible fact discovered: the bomb was constracted to kill just the passengers not the hundred of innosent passers by as Moslims usually do!!! It`s the evidence against the murderous West.
Peaceful state bathing in oil energy seeks the peaceful Atom!

by: Paolo from: Iran
January 14, 2012 17:45
Our Iranian government will do anything to try and pass the blame for their problems to include MURDERING one of their own. Blaming Israel, USA, Britain, and Turkey for the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan is just another sad attempt on the part of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to deny that their oppressive regime is slowing coming to an end. We all are not that stupid as you! Set my people free!

by: JC from: FL
January 29, 2012 16:27
Maybe this guy was a mole and the Iran government did the job. Explains how these assassins just disappeared. Now Iran blames others and the people have a united cause to hate the west.

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