Three apparently unrelated news events were reported on Monday: Iranian nuclear scientists were targeted via two separate bombing attacks in Tehran, leaving one dead and the other wounded; the first of the leaked U.S. State Department documents were published, including many dealing with diplomatic fears over Iran's nuclear program; and Tamir Pardo was appointed head of the Mossad.
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- WikiLeaks Exposé Makes It Clear: Everybody Hates Iran
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Even if these events had some connection, their coincidental timing would clearly be random. Nevertheless, there is something symbolic about this coincidence.
Even as journalists worldwide were raising a storm and warning that the WikiLeaks publication would cause irrevocable damage, the attacks on the Iranian scientists proved that national interests are not influenced by news reports.
Clearly the assassination and attempted assassination were no coincidence. Behind them stands a person or group employing a modus operandi with certain discernible characteristics.
The Iranians are not alone in assuming the Mossad is responsible for the attacks: Commentators worldwide think so, too. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that there have been at least four attempts to assassinate Iranian scientists in less than four years. Additional attempts that have not been reported have presumably been made as well.
The attacks' modus operandi does not suffice by itself to ascertain which organization is behind them. Any criminal gang, let alone an intelligence organization, is capable of carrying out assassinations using motorcyclists hurling explosives or shooting at their targets, and many have in fact done so. So although the Mossad has used this modus operandi in the past - the most famous example being its assassination of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shkaki in Malta in October 1995 - one can hardly say this tactic is exclusive to the Mossad.
But it is clear that Israel, as demonstrated by both its leaders' public statements and the leaked documents, is extremely concerned over Iran's nuclear progress and is making every effort to thwart it. This is a covert operation whose elements are interconnected. Thus an invisible line can be traced from the sale of flawed equipment for the centrifuges at Iran's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz through the Stuxnet computer worm, which some claim impeded operations at this site, to the attacks on the Iranian scientists.
All were intended to convey a deterrent message to Iran's scientific community and scare Iranian scientists into stopping work on their country's nuclear program. The message is directed mainly at researchers employed by the universities, whose nuclear physics and engineering departments and other research facilities serve as a cover for Iran's military nuclear program, according to International Atomic Energy Agency reports.
Alongside the deterrent message delivered by these attacks, the intelligence communities of Israel, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other states are making a comprehensive effort to stall and obstruct Iran's nuclear program. But even the people behind these efforts know there is no certainty of success.
History teaches that a state striving to acquire nuclear weapons will ultimately do so. And North Korea is far from being the only example.