Israel behind assassinations of Iran nuclear scientists, Ya'alon hints

Defense minister gave interview to the German daily 'Der Spiegel'.

A policeman walks past the car belonging to Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan at a blast site outside a university in northern Tehran January 11, 2012.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A policeman walks past the car belonging to Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan at a blast site outside a university in northern Tehran January 11, 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel's defense minister hinted on Friday that the Jewish state's intelligence services were behind the rash of killings of Iranian nuclear scientists.
In an interview with the German-language Der Spiegel, Moshe Ya'alon said that he bore no responsibility "for the life expectancy of Iranian scientists."
"Ultimately it is very clear, one way or another, Iran’s military nuclear program must be stopped,” Ya’alon said. “We will act in any way and are not willing to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. We prefer that this be done by means of sanctions, but in the end, Israel should be able to defend itself."
Ya'alon told Der Spiegel that he believed historians would one day look back on the Iran nuclear agreement as an instance in which Western politicians sought to "kick the can down the road" by preferring to avoid dealing with the issue.
The defense minister compared the nuclear deal to other examples in which Western leaders sought the path of reconciliation in an attempt to find a solution, only to discover that they paid a hefty price afterward - a reference to the Munich agreement between Britain and Germany just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
In the interview with Der Spiegel, Ya'alon repeated his stance that the nuclear negotiations between the world powers and Iran were "a historic mistake."
The defense minister maintained that the agreement with Iran would enable it to remain a "nuclear threshold state" that would be permitted to enrich uranium within a decade.
Ya'alon said that the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran would provide the Islamic Republic with a windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can more easily "export the revolution."
That means more money to Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shi'ites in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Ya'alon said.
The defense minister lamented the fact that the agreement did not address "missiles that endanger Israel and parts of Europe."
He told Der Spiegel that the only effective strategy against Iran would be to leave the regime with a choice - either it acquires nuclear weapons or it is permitted to survive.
Earlier this year, a senior Iranian security official said that the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps thwarted a Mossad assassination attempt against one of its nuclear scientists.
“In the last two years, the Zionist enemy was trying hard to assassinate an Iranian nuclear scientist, but the timely presence of the IRGC security forces thwarted the terrorist operation,” Col. Ya’qoub Baqeri, the deputy chief liaison officer of the Flight Guards Corps, told the country’s Fars News Agency.
The Revolutionary Guards is “duty-bound to protect the lives of the country’s nuclear scientists,” said Baqeri.
According to a report by CBS News last year, the Obama administration pressured Israel to stop carrying out assassinations inside Iran against the country’s nuclear scientists.
Israel has never admitted to carrying out such killings. At least five scientists have been killed, mostly by car bombs. Mossad officials concluded that the assassination campaign became too dangerous for its spies, said the report. This came amidst Washington’s attempt to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.
Meanwhile, Baqeri also told Fars that Iranian air marshals from the IRGC have foiled Islamic State plots to hijack Iranian passenger planes in recent years.
“The ISIL [Islamic State] and other Salafi groups sought to hit a blow to our country this way, but fortunately, they couldn’t put their plots into practice,” Baqeri said.