Report: Mossad wipes Iranian nuclear scientist off the map

I doubt it’s true, but I liked my headline so much that I had to link it.

There’s another report out today about the alleged secret shambles that is Iran’s nuclear program. The Guardian had this story last week and now the Times is saying the same thing:

The many setbacks and outright failures of Tehran’s experimental program suggest that its bluster may outstrip its technical expertise. And the problems help explain American intelligence estimates that Iran is at least four years away from producing a nuclear weapon…

What the Iranians are not talking about, experts with access to the atomic agency’s information say, is that their experimental effort to make centrifuges work has struggled to achieve even limited success and appears to have been put on the back burner so the country’s leaders can declare that they are moving to the next stage…

To enrich uranium on an industrial scale, the machines must spin at very high speeds for months on end. But the latest report of the atomic agency, issued in November, said the primitive machines of the Iran’s pilot plant ran only intermittently, to enrich small amounts of uranium. And the Iranians succeeded in setting up just two of the planned six groupings of 164 centrifuges at the pilot plant…

The dimensions of Iran’s technical woes are suggested by its delayed schedules. Tehran originally planned to have all six cascades of its experimental plant operating by 2003, and to begin installing centrifuges in the industrial halls in 2005.

And yet:

The Iranians appear to have sped ahead. In interviews, diplomats and nuclear officials said recent inspector reports of rapid centrifuge mobilization and installation at Natanz show that Tehran had worked hard for the past year, even as it engaged in increasingly harsh language that some experts took as a cover for technical failings.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently suggested that the Iranian strides amounted to something of a bargaining chip that might be traded away to head off a larger confrontation.

Maybe it’s a feint to create diplomatic leverage, maybe it’s an ostentatious scare tactic to invite a western attack, or maybe it’s an earnest effort to build a bomb. Exit question: Since no one seems to have any idea, why even continue to blog this story?

Update: All right, here’s a real exit question to which I already know everyone’s answer: Should scientists be fair game for assassination?