Analysis: Delaying tactics

Eliminating the brains behind Tehran’s nuclear program gives more time for diplomacy and sanctions to kick in.

January 12, 2012 04:34
2 minute read.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear site

Iran president mahmoud Ahmadinejad Natanz 521 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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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.

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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 regime.

The main question, though, is whether the assassinations and sabotage can succeed in stopping the Iranians from getting the bomb.

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 desired effect.

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