Iranian nuclear scientists targeted in bomb attacks, one dead

posted at 12:15 pm on November 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Fresh off the revelation that Iran’s Sunni neighbors urged the US to attack Iran and decapitate its regime, two bombs targeting scientists in Iran’s nuclear program killed one and wounded another today in separate but apparently linked blasts.  These attacks follow earlier apparent assassinations that killed two other researchers in their nuclear program.  The Iranians, however, have chosen not to blame its neighbors but instead put the blame on Israel:

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another injured in separate attacks in Tehran today.

The scientists were targeted in two different locations by men riding motorcycles who attached bombs to their car windows as they drove to work.

One device killed Dr Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the Tehran University, and wounded his wife.

The second blast seriously wounded nuclear physicist Dr Fereidoun Abbasi. His wife was also injured. …

State television swiftly blamed Israel for the attacks.

It certainly could have been Israel.  It could also have been Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or perhaps even Iraq, which would find itself under the Iranian thumb more quickly than anyone if Tehran gets a nuke.  For that matter, it could be an opposition group within Iran wanting to get out from under the mullah’s thumb now.  The chances of the Obama administration doing it are probably microscopic, however, especially with the Executive Order forbidding assassinations still in effect.

In fact, this might be an Agatha Christie whodunit.  I’d love to think that the climax would be similar to Murder on the Orient Express, but I suspect that the actual plotters aren’t sharing information or control of the plot.

Is this an effective way to stop the program?  Stuxnet is probably more effective in the short run, especially since Iran likely has dozens or hundreds of researchers to replace those killed.  In that sense, this seems a little desperate, a last-ditch option intended to not only create a gap in expertise but also to convince those on the bench to refrain from filling the shoes of the deceased.  This option is less destructive than a military attack on nuclear sites, which has been the course apparently urged by Arab regimes in the area, with much less collateral damage and deaths, but it doesn’t strike at the real problem — the mullahs and their nuclear ambitions to control Southwest Asia and the oil resources it contains — at least not directly.


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Jason Bourne did it!

blatantblue on November 29, 2010 at 12:18 PM

Booosh did it…

rich801 on November 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM

What a way to go…a bomb stuck on your window while you are driving.

Mord on November 29, 2010 at 12:22 PM

It certainly could have been Israel. It could also have been Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or perhaps even Iraq, which would find itself under the Iranian thumb more quickly than anyone if Tehran gets a nuke.

considering the wikileaks expose’, all possibilities are on the table and the leaks may have tipped the hand of any of those countries’ intel agents that were trailing these individuals. Call it damage control by causing more damage?? who knows but some interesting cloak ‘n’ dagger, that’s for sure.

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Mission Impossible.

portlandon on November 29, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Collective effort.

anXdem on November 29, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Terrorism inside a terorist state. Call it a training exercise.

Electrongod on November 29, 2010 at 12:24 PM

any agents who were watching these scientists were probably executing the “mission compromised” option that they were to execute if it were found out that their country (Saudi, Iraq, Israel) was found to be ‘on the record’ with regards to damaging the Iranian nuclear program.

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:25 PM

It is probably designed to make ‘replacement scientists’ think twice about becoming replacements.

jeanie on November 29, 2010 at 12:27 PM

It’s about freakin’ time…

tommylotto on November 29, 2010 at 12:28 PM

It is probably designed to make ‘replacement scientists’ think twice about becoming replacements.

jeanie on November 29, 2010 at 12:27 PM

I was thinking something like this. Could it have been sent as a warning to possible “leakers”, a bit of internal damage control?

LastRick on November 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Cheney.

Dingbat63 on November 29, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Stuxnet is even more clever than we imagined.

mankai on November 29, 2010 at 12:31 PM

It would not surprise me in the least if the Israelis and the Arabs are cooperating to throw a monkey wrench into the Iranian nuclear project.

The Arabs know, that the Iranians are in fact crazy enough to nuke Israel, that they are not rational actors. They also know that Israel will trigger the “sampson option” and nuke them as well as retaliate against Iran.

No one except, the craziest mullahs, wants to live in a nuclear wasteland.

Rebar on November 29, 2010 at 12:33 PM

I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think this was Mossad.

I think CIA + Iranian dissidents.

pseudonominus on November 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM

That Stuxnet post AP had up yesterday was very interesting. Whoever did that certainly had “smart power” and is to be commended. A mini-manhattan project descriptive comes to mind but the Manhattan Project created something where there was nothing whereas Stuxnet was a new twist on an old theme–computer viruses.

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Mission Impossible.

portlandon on November 29, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Actually, I was thinking the more recent version with Tom Cruise. “Red light, Green light!

wearyman on November 29, 2010 at 12:36 PM

We’ll have to wait for the next Fredrick Forsythe novel to find out what is really going down here…

moc23 on November 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Nice to know there are still people in the world who are willing to stand up and take action.

jake-the-goose on November 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Maybe it’s just me, but given the choice I’d be lobbing bombs at the actual nuclear facilities.

CantCureStupid on November 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Whoops…

Khun Joe on November 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I think CIA + Iranian dissidents.

pseudonominus on November 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM

Few arabs like Iran with nukes either.

the_nile on November 29, 2010 at 12:41 PM

maybe the dominoes are beginning to fall and countries are realizing that the likelihood of Iran “getting the bomb” are increasing by the day as is the capability to deliver them via missiles from the Norks/China.

Stuxnet delayed the inevitable and so is the targeted offing of a few scientists. Time is not on our side. The Iranian Death Star is nearing operational capability and they want to team up with the Norks.

Iran, Russia, China, Norks etc are going to be the new Axis powers and the rest of us are going to have to deal with them one way or another.

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:42 PM

I’m going with new Iranian street gang member initiation like in L.A.where they have to kill someone to get in.

docflash on November 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM

If Stuxnet can plant a bomb on someone’s car, I’m thinking I really need to upgrade my laptop antivirus.

Spybot, help me out here.

Bishop on November 29, 2010 at 12:46 PM

I’m going with new Iranian street gang member initiation like in L.A.where they have to kill someone to get in.

docflash on November 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Ali Baba and the 40 Window Bomb Killaz

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Why it was the Joooos, of course. Don’t they control everything?

TugboatPhil on November 29, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Mord on November 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Hmm indeed. Stuxnet Phase II.

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 12:50 PM

Rove, you Magnificent Bastard…

Bruno Strozek on November 29, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Help Wanted: Nuclear Scientist to work in beautiful Iran. Please apply online. Please? Anyone? Hello?

JetBoy on November 29, 2010 at 12:54 PM

hhhhmmmmmm.

Mord on November 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Stuxnet has become self aware and it’s defending itself…

the_nile on November 29, 2010 at 1:01 PM

Help Wanted: Nuclear Scientist to work in beautiful Iran. Please apply online. Please? Anyone? Hello?

JetBoy on November 29, 2010 at 12:54 PM

posted under: “Shovel Ready Projects”

ted c on November 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM

hhhhmmmmmm.

Mord on November 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Stuxnet strikes back. OR….

Perhaps this guy was (or both guys were) the source of information used to design Stuxnet, and the Mullahs wanted to save face, rather than admit they had a sabateur on the inside. The possibilities are endless, theory-wise.

iurockhead on November 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Stuxnet can do WHAT? Help me Malwarebytes, you’re my only hope!

Sekhmet on November 29, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the man [Shahriari] killed was involved in a major project with the country’s nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics. Some Iranian media reported that the wounded scientist was a laser expert at Iran’s Defense Ministry and one of the country’s few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

Shahriari was a member of a regional scientific program known as Sesame, which includes Israel as a member, according to the project’s website. He succeeded Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, an Iranian scientist who also died in an attack, the Tehran-based Asre-Iran website, which is close to the government, said today. Ali-Mohammadi, a professor of elementary particle physics, was killed in January by a bomb planted outside his home in Tehran.

Shahriari cooperated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Salehi, a vice president who heads the organization. “He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects, which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation,” Salehi said, according to IRNA, without giving any details on the project. Salehi also said the killed scientist was one of his own students.

So, I’ve come up with 2 possibilities:

1. A Western nation who’s trying to cripple Iran’s nuclear program has intensified their efforts.

OR

2. Iran’s found the source of their Stuxnet worm infiltration and an easy to to remove them while placing blame on others.

(Remember, one of the centrifuge coverters is manufactured by an Iranian company not previously known to the IAEA.)

Miss_Anthrope on November 29, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Who’s the likely suspect?

Oh, COME ON!!

JohnGalt23 on November 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM

The scientist that was killed: Prof. Majid Shahriari, who died when his car was attacked in North Tehran Monday, Nov. 29, headed the team Iran established for combating the Stuxnet virus rampaging through its nuclear and military networks. His wife was injured. The scientist’s death deals a major blow to Iran’s herculean efforts to purge its nuclear and military control systems of the destructive worm since it went on the offensive six months ago.

hhhhmmmmmm.

Mord on November 29, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Hmmmm, is right. I’m now leaning more to #1 in my previous comment.

Miss_Anthrope on November 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Could be Iranians getting rid of leakers who helped with Stuxnet…?

d1carter on November 29, 2010 at 1:11 PM

I love how “Israel did it” is Iran’s “Booosh!”

search4truth on November 29, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Oh yeah! How does that feel IRAN!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsUW8JcnzZs

faol on November 29, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Better start strip-searching Native-American women over 60 before this thing gets out of hand.

mankai on November 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM

The Iranians tried to turn off Stuxnet, bad move.

If the guard dogs at Natanz start barking furiously at the big plodding guy who just walked through the front door, watch out.

Bishop on November 29, 2010 at 1:23 PM

It has its uses and I bet it’s more effective than you think. Aside from limiting career paths in Iran, it demonstrates the regime can’t protect people potentially eliminating additional career opportunities. The fact that there many entities with motive instills fear throughout the government, “Am I safe? How far up does this conspiracy go? Who’s trying to make political hay out of this?”etc.etc. The regime alienates itself further.

cartooner on November 29, 2010 at 1:24 PM

or perhaps even Iraq, which would find itself under the Iranian thumb more quickly than anyone if Tehran gets a nuke.

Ed, you’re thinking from the perspective of a Sunni Iraqi. Now that is also the view of the Sunni Saudis (Americas bestest Muslim Allie!) and perhaps that is the reason for your perception. I suspect the majority of Iraqs Shia feel less nervous about their spiritual brothers in Iran.

It all looks pretty crude and ham handed compared to stuxnet so I will also pick a Muslim culprit. Probably Iran itself, bumping off suspects and blaming da jooos. A twofer.

BL@KBIRD on November 29, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Just wondering out loud here…What would happen if a NorK nuclear scientist or two were killed by car bombs?

JetBoy on November 29, 2010 at 2:00 PM

“Just wondering out loud here…What would happen if a NorK nuclear scientist or two were killed by car bombs?” -JetBoy

I was wondering….what if Iran accused some US scientists of working on banned biological weapons, with having any evidence whatsoever, and starting blowing up those scientists on the streets of the US?

dave742 on November 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM

JetBoy on November 29, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Wouldn’t they have to have cars first?

Wolftech on November 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Wouldn’t they have to have cars first?

Wolftech on November 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM

That answers that! Nevermind, then.

JetBoy on November 29, 2010 at 2:11 PM

In fact, this might be an Agatha Christie whodunit. I’d love to think that the climax would be similar to Murder on the Orient Express, but I suspect that the actual plotters aren’t sharing information or control of the plot.

Where is Assange when you really need him!

Paul-Cincy on November 29, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Mahmoud Morrissey suggesting that the Shia fundamentalist government of Iraq could have bombed their Shia theocratic brethren in Iran.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

Mister Ghost on November 29, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Sounds like we need to send the TSA over there to frisk some terrorists…..

search4truth on November 29, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Perhaps the scientists weren’t meeting their goals? What would be surprising about a regime with a history of suspect aircraft ‘crashes’, that conveniently removed top secular leadership, suddenly finding a new way to motivate their nuclear weapons development team?

DANEgerus on November 29, 2010 at 3:14 PM

While there are several candidates to replace those who have been eliminated, they are not as capable (otherwise they’d have been chosen in the first place), and the remaining ones will be less inclined to join the program having witnessed what happened to their colleagues.

Is it “pointless” to remove them one by one like that? If only there was a magic button which when pressed, they’d all just disappear into thin air. But until that button is invented, you have to do the dirty work the only way available, while in parallel trying all available methods of subversion and sabotage.

As for whodunit, it could’ve been anyone. European agencies, American agencies, Arab agencies… anyone.

As we’ve seen in the last few days, nations’ public and private stances are very different indeed. The weasels of Europe may only be weasels in public.

AlexB on November 29, 2010 at 3:26 PM

America is packed with grannie gropers. it can’t happen here.

seven on November 29, 2010 at 3:29 PM

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Iranian government did it. It appears from what I read on Stuxnet, that the authors had some inside information. Perhaps these two scientists were though to be part of that?

sadatoni on November 29, 2010 at 3:32 PM

First time I read this, my impression was that the Iranian government was involved. They’ve got a history of shooting their own people, what’s a couple of nuclear scientists?

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks and no arrests have been made, Iranian officials said. But they prompted a stern warning by the normally cool-headed head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, who described Shahriari as a former student.

.. prompted a stern warning … these folks kill people for breakfast and they issue a “stern warning” … yeah, it was the Basij.

J_Crater on November 29, 2010 at 3:37 PM

This was not the regime. They have no need to blow someone up in the street. They are an all-powerful lawless dictatorship, they can pick someone up in the middle of the night and disappear them. That’s more terrifying to the targets than blowing them up.

I say an internal anti-regime group possibly with funding from an arab country.

slickwillie2001 on November 29, 2010 at 3:54 PM

2 is a good start. Including their wives is also has a solid deterrent effect on rest.

Finally some good news.

pedestrian on November 29, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Including their wives is also has a solid deterrent effect on rest.

This is exactly what a terrorist would say, you know.

People. These scientists are working on nuclear power plants, and were killed for it. Why are you proud of this?

dave742 on November 29, 2010 at 5:59 PM

dave742 on November 29, 2010 at 5:59 PM

You do know that ‘power plant’ is just a front for weapons development, right? Of course you don’t. You are a libtard. A species of moron well know to ignore facts that don’t fit into their world views. Hopefully it will lead to their extinction without taking the rest of us with them.

Wolftech on November 29, 2010 at 6:28 PM

ignore facts that don’t fit into their world views

Can you please help me and name one “fact” that suggests that Iran’s nuclear power program is a front for nuclear weapons development?

dave742 on November 29, 2010 at 7:04 PM

Me? I am with Dave here, I think E.L.F. did it to protect the kitties.

Remember folks, when you deny Iran a nuclear program, God kills a kitten. Please think of the kittens.

JP1986UM on November 29, 2010 at 7:37 PM

Can you please help me and name one “fact” that suggests that Iran’s nuclear power program is a front for nuclear weapons development?

dave742 on November 29, 2010 at 7:04 PM

Um lets see…. They are Muslim you know.

faol on November 29, 2010 at 9:26 PM

do.you.want.to.play.a.game?

Yellowdog12 on November 29, 2010 at 10:33 PM

OH NOEZ THE POOR NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS

*yawn*

R. Waher on November 30, 2010 at 3:35 AM

It certainly could have been Israel. It could also have been Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or perhaps even Iraq, which would find itself under the Iranian thumb more quickly than anyone if Tehran gets a nuke.

Let us not forget, the random fundamentalist that decides that Allah does not approve of nukes. Or that the bomb was meant for someone else, say a rival for the affection of a goat.

Slowburn on November 30, 2010 at 2:12 PM