Like the three scientists before him, the assassination of nuclear specialist
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on Wednesday in Tehran represented just another day in the
ongoing shadow war between Iran and the Western world.
As Iran continues
to advance its nuclear program it is safe to assume – as IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz hinted Tuesday – that such unnatural events and explosions
will themselves advance.
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At this stage in Iran’s nuclear program, there
are generally two main goals in assassinating a scientist.
First, it is
likely that Roshan’s assassins believed his elimination would have a significant
impact on Iran’s nuclear program to the point where it could prevent the regime
from moving forward toward a bomb. The Iranians said Roshan served as a deputy
director of the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility.
It is not
unimaginable that his field of expertise was rare. It is also possible that
Roshan was one of the members of the so-called “weapons group,” a small team of
scientists carefully tracked by Western intelligence agencies that will
ultimately be tasked with building Iran’s first nuclear weapon if and when
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes the decision.
The second goal
might be to attempt to instill fear in other scientists, as well as in the Iranian leadership, and make them believe that they, too, can be
assassinated. This is meant to create a deterrent and to signal to the mullahs
that the West means business.
From an intelligence perspective, the
latest assassination was impressive, especially considering that it was the
fourth against an Iranian scientist in two years. It also came on the heels of a
number of mysterious explosions throughout Iran, one of which killed a top
Revolutionary Guard Corps missile forces general in November.
If the same
intelligence organization is behind all the attacks, it means it has established
an extensive and extremely sophisticated operational infrastructure on Iranian
soil without being detected. There have been reports over the years that the
Mossad and the CIA have been working together with the MEK (People’s
Mujahedeen), a group that has fought for years to bring down the
The main question, though, is whether the assassinations and
sabotage can succeed in stopping the Iranians from getting the
According to Israeli and American intelligence assessments, the
Iranians have mastered all the necessary technology required to build such a
weapon. All it needs now is to make the decision to go ahead. With that in mind,
it is difficult to imagine that a slew of assassinations will succeed in
stopping the Iranians forever.
That, however, might not be the goal. What
could be in the minds of those ordering the assassinations is to delay the
Iranian program for as long as possible, with the objective of providing a
window of opportunity for diplomacy and/or sanctions to kick in and have a