Assassinations Boosting Nuclear Program

Killing nuclear scientists pushes people to side with military regime


Assassinations Boosting Nuclear Program
by Omid Memarian

The suspected assassination of yet another scientist linked to Iran’s nuclear program is renewing questions over whether such attempts will slow enrichment efforts, or push Iranian leaders to more aggressively pursue their nuclear ambitions.

But how is all this playing out in Iran?

On Wednesday, a Tehran bomb blast killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who served as deputy director of commercial affairs at the Natanz nuclear facility. According to official Iranian media, a man on a motorcycle stuck a magnetic bomb to Roshan’s car as the 32-year-old was leaving his home. Two men who were accompanying Roshan were also injured in the blast. It marks the seventh attempt on the lives of Iran’s nuclear-program employees and the sixth death.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “categorically denied any U.S. involvement in any act of violence in Iran. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” stated Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Iranian officials immediately pointed the finger at the U.S. and Israel. Just two months ago, when a deadly explosion at an Iranian missile complex caused the death of a top Iran commander and 16 others, a number of analysts did not rule out the possibility of foreign involvement and sabotage.

“Today on the nuclear energy scene, [the] U.S. and Zionism have chosen the lowest methods of blind assassination of our nuclear scientists, and think that with assassinating these scientists and making them martyrs they can prevent our nuclear advancement,” Rostam Ghasemi, Iran’s oil minister and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Thursday. “The martyrdom of our nuclear scientists leads to further commitment of our people and scientists to the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“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.

In the U.S., killing Iranian scientists in order to slow down Iran’s nuclear program has been a strategy advocated by a number of Republican presidential candidates.

At a campaign event in October, Rick Santorum endorsed the idea. “On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has also approved of the killing of Iranian scientists. But how might it affect Iran’s nuclear program?

“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.”

“However way you look at terror, people hate it, no matter where in the world it happens, especially if an innocent young individual suffers this fate. This is what people oppose vehemently,” Karbaschi added.

A journalist in Tehran told The Daily Beast under the condition of anonymity that he was shocked when he heard news of the assassination. “When I talk to people, they feel insulted that a foreign state would come and murder an Iranian citizen to cheers and nods from others,” he said. “These assassinations are a great gift to the Iranian government and military, who can now push their agendas forward with them. The Iranian government could not be helped any better; it can now present its nuclear program as legitimate and to cry foul.”

Mohsen Sazegara, an influential opposition figure based in Washington who has advocated civil disobedience against the Iranian government, said that although American, British, and Israeli authorities deny any involvement in these operations, Tehran considers sabotage and the assassinations acts of Western intelligence services and Israel’s Mossad. He said such incidents are very telling about Iran.

“Observing all of this, more than anything else, Iranian people see the Iranian intelligence apparatus’s weakness,” said Sazegara. “The same Intelligence Ministry and [Revolutionary Guards] that on a daily basis arrest and suppress workers, teachers, students, journalists, and different groups of the society, are incapable of protecting top-secret facilities and their employees.”

First published in

Omid Memarian is columnist whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. He was a World Peace Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2007-2009 and the 2005 recipient of the 'Human Rights Defender Award', the highest honor bestowed by Human Rights Watch.


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Anahid Hojjati

Bavafa jan, this is not the case

by Anahid Hojjati on


 You wrote the following:"

Farmarz Jaan:  Perhaps you were not in Iran when Saddam attacked Iran.  The regime was not  loved by any imagination then and was far weaker then now, yet Iranian people joined by masses to protect and defend the country against foreign adversary.   It is of no surprise if they show their support against any foreign attack, which this is a good case of it, this time again. "

This is not the case. I can only guess you wrote the above because at that time there were many political parties against IRI but remember that level of freedom at that time was much higher. At that time, IRI had not done most of its crimes and its level of public support was much higher than now. You might call regime weaker back then because it was not yet militarized to anywhere near present level. However,  its level of public support was higher which is why people gathered behind it against Saddam.


Mehrdad Jaan

by Faramarz on

There are three things that I can say with some degree of certainty about this assassination.

One, the victim was a Basiji operative with serious connections to the Regime. Two, the assassins were Iranians and three; it was done by magnetic bomb attached to the car’s door. Everything else is speculation. Remember your own reaction to the used-car salesman plot, “We have to wait and see the evidence.”

This could have been done by several different entities including Mossad agents, Kurdish people, MEK and just homegrown opposition to the Regime that have seen their relatives tortured and killed by Basij.

As for comparison to Saddam, this is nothing like that. There are no scud missiles, chemical warfare or electrocuting people.

p.s. Why is it that the evil Saddam and his Sunni henchmen have become the darling of the Iran-loving, reform-minded folks because the US military toppled him. They all blamed the west for arming him, and they all blamed the west for brutally removing him.

You can’t have it both ways. The train have left the station and you better get on-board.


I don't trust Memarian

by vildemose on

I don't trust Memarian work. He is a khatami/reformer supporter.

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Ari jaan: Perhaps you have not been following IC for a while….

by Bavafa on

Some of our IC members have proven to have a much deeper understanding of the Iranian people than those whose live in Iran or their profession is to gather news in Iran.

  Farmarz Jaan:  Perhaps you were not in Iran when Saddam attacked Iran.  The regime was not  loved by any imagination then and was far weaker then now, yet Iranian people joined by masses to protect and defend the country against foreign adversary.   It is of no surprise if they show their support against any foreign attack, which this is a good case of it, this time again.


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory 


Ari Siletz

From a journaist in Tehran

by Ari Siletz on

The author, Omid Memarian, didn't base this article on guesswork or wishful bias. He actually contacted knowledgeable people in Iran and asked for reactions to this event. In this case Memarian asked a jouranlist in Tehran--someone who is a local and whose profession requires him to be in touch with the people.

The journalist is quoted as saying:

“When I talk to people, they feel insulted that a foreign state would
come and murder an Iranian citizen to cheers and nods from other...,”

I would use Memarian's data to inform my opinion about Iranian people's reaction to the assassinatin. 


Assassinations Boosting Behesht-e-Zahra Business

by Faramarz on


Iranians are skeptical people and when faced with this kind of news, their first reaction is that it is the work of the Regime.

Also, the nuclear program is no longer a source of pride for the Iranian nation but rather a reminder of the wasteful behavior of the Regime with our natural resources, the sanctions and the isolations of the Iranians.

The Iranian people will either join the fight or sit on the sideline and watch as the Regime gets crushed economically, politically and otherwise.

This Regime doesn't have much support among the Iranians, if it did, it would not have behaved the way it has. 

G. Rahmanian

Iranians Siding With The Murderous Regime?

by G. Rahmanian on

The idea that people will side with the regime as a result of these assassinations is anachronistic and based on the false assumption that Iranians have forgiven regime's brutalities of the past three decades. The Islamist regime is hated by the great majority of Iranians and it would take more than the killing of a few pro-regime scientists for people to even sympathize with the regime let alone siding with it.