Der Spiegel reported on Monday that the Mossad was behind the assassination of Darioush Rezaie, an Iranian nuclear scientist who was murdered on July 23.

The German news magazine quoted an unnamed Israeli intelligence source as saying that the move was the first act of the new head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo.

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Rezaie, who was fatally shot by a motorcyclist, is the fourth known Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed since 2010. Der Spiegel noted that each of the other three, Masood Ali Mohammadi (January 2010), Majid Schahriari and Feridun Abbasi (November 2010), was killed by either motorcycle riding gunmen or motorcycle bombs.

An International Atomic Energy Agency investigation showed that Rezaie held a Ph.D. in physics and was working on developing a nuclear switch used for detonating nuclear weapons, according to the Der Spiegel report.

The German magazine wrote that while Iran accuses the United States and Israel of hiring hitmen to carry out various attacks inside Iran, Washington denies any involvement and Israel is silently ambiguous. However, a purported smile on the face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak when refusing to speculate on the killing gave the Der Spiegel reporter who wrote the story reason to believe he was hiding something.

Although Israel maintains a strict policy of ambiguity when it comes to Mossad operations, the Israeli spy agency was widely believed to have been involved in creating and planting the Stuxnet computer virus, which crippled Iranian nuclear research facilities during the summer of 2010. 

According to the Der Spiegel article, the Mossad and Israel Air Force (IAF) are competing for both the privilege and the funding to attack the Iranian nuclear program. Each claims that the other is incapable of effectively delaying, let alone destroying Iran's ability to attain nuclear weapons.

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