Editorial |

Israel's Targeted Killings of Iranian Experts Are Pointless

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Iranian women lift portraits of Revolutionary Guards colonel Sayyad Khodai during his funeral procession in Tehran, last month.
Iranian women lift portraits of Revolutionary Guards colonel Sayyad Khodai during his funeral procession in Tehran, last month.Credit: ATTA KENARE / AFP

After a number of assassinations that have been attributed to Israel – of scientists, engineers, “fathers” of Iran’s nuclear program and various other Iranian experts – it is vital to weigh the benefit versus the harm of these targeted killings. If the goal is to impede Iran’s nuclear program, it can be said for certain that this program is not dependent on one expert or a group of experts, even if they are nuclear physics geniuses.

Iran has managed to develop a sophisticated, advanced program with the help of a broad infrastructure that includes scientists, technicians, stolen or acquired knowledge, unlimited funding and assistance from supportive states such as North Korea, Pakistan, China and Russia as well as private companies in European countries. Anyone who believes that the “surgical” murder of a scientist will deter Iran is peddling a lie and saying, in effect, that the Iranian nuclear threat is a giant balloon that can be deflated with a single pinprick, or a bomb attached to a scientist’s car.

If Israel’s goal is to show intelligence supremacy that enables it to find and assassinate a target in the heart of Tehran, this policy is puzzling: The demonstration of intelligence capability cannot by itself achieve a tactical or strategic goal. Moreover, Israel has already revealed Iran’s nuclear capabilities and plans, and thanks to this information it has been able to mobilize the countries of the world to fight against Iran and its nuclear program.

If Israel seeks to convince the U.S. administration that it will continue to fight Iran alone even if a new nuclear agreement is signed – or, alternatively, if it is carrying out the assassinations attributed to it in order to thwart the West’s negotiations with Iran – then its initiatives are unnecessary and harmful. Iran’s decision whether or not to rejoin the nuclear deal depends on domestic considerations related to political power struggles that have nothing to do with assassinations.

At the same time, U.S. administration officials have made it clear that the killings are pointless and will not dissuade them from trying to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. In this regard, one can only laugh at the notion that these assassinations could encourage, much less bring about, regime change in Iran. In fact, the assassinations that Israel carries out in a foreign country, even if that country is Iran, make it look like a neighborhood bully: a state that is driven by political struggles and whose government seeks to deflect criticism with the help of pointless intelligence antics, thereby endangering its citizens. These citizens deserve a convincing explanation as to why and how these killings serve Israel’s interest.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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