The targeted attacks on qualified Iranian scientists by unidentified elements continue under a suspected covert action programme of Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency, to disrupt Iran's military nuclear programme.
2. The first incident came to notice on February 4,2007, when the Sunday Times of London reported as follows: "A prize-winning Iranian nuclear scientist has died in mysterious circumstances, according to Radio Farda, which is funded by the US State Department and broadcasts to Iran. An intelligence source suggested that Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, a nuclear physicist, had been assassinated by Mossad, the Israeli security service. Hassanpour worked at a plant in Isfahan where uranium hexafluoride gas is produced. The gas is needed to enrich uranium in another plant at Natanz which has become the focus of concerns that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons. According to Radio Farda, Iranian reports of Hassanpour's death emerged on January 21 after a delay of six days, giving the cause as gas poisoning. The Iranian reports did not say how or where Hassanpour was poisoned, but his death was said to have been announced at a conference on nuclear safety."
3. This was followed by an incident of mysterious disappearance of an Iranian scientist who had gone on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia last month. He reportedly did not return to Iran. The Iranian authorities alleged that the US was behind his disappearance. The Saudi authorities denied that any such incident had taken place in their territory. The US did not comment on the Iranian allegation.
4. In a third incident targeting Iranian scientists, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at the Tehran University, is reported to have been killed on January,12,2010, by the remote-controlled explosion of an improvised explosive device attached to an unattended motor-cycle as he was getting into his car outside his house in a posh suburb of Tehran. The Iranian authorities have blamed "mercenaries" in the pay of the Israeli and US intelligence agencies for his death.
5.Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Office, has been quoted as saying: "One can see in preliminary investigations signs of evil by the triangle of the Zionist regime, America and their mercenaries in Iran in this terrorist incident." Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran's chief prosecutor, told the news service of the State-controlled radio: "Given the fact that Massoud Ali Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad services and agents most likely have had a hand in it.On the one hand, US government spy agents kidnap Iranians in third countries and transfer them to America and on the other hand their sellout agents in Iran assassinate a scholarly citizen.
Intelligence and security bodies will try to identify and arrest the perpetrators of this crime and expose their foreign backers." A spokesman of the US State Department has denied the allegations as absurd.
6. Quoting a statement of Basij, the student militia of the University, the official IRNA news agency has alleged that Mohammadi's name figured in a list prepared by Western Governments of Iranian scientists connected with the nuclear programme for whom visas should be refused as part of the sanctions against Iran for refusing to give up its nuclear enrichment programme. The news agency said: ""Dr Massoud Ali Mohammadi, whose name was on the list of sanctioned individuals ... was one of the outstanding professors of Tehran University's physics faculty." Other reports have claimed that Mohammadi's name had appeared on a list of academics backing Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi for the disputed June 12, 2009, presidential election, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. Allegations of irregularities in the elections have led to widespread and continuing unreest by the opponents of Ahmadinejad.
7. in my article of February 5,2007, ( http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/common/uploaded_files/paper2121.html ) ,I had drawn attention to the Psywar campaign against Iran initiated by the Bush Administration and the Israeli agencies. This Psywar campaign apparently continues under the Obama Administration too with discreet support to the opposition elements after the disputed elections through Radio and TV stations of the Iranian exiles in the West and through the Internet. However, this continuing Psywar campaign shows no signs of making Iran change its policies and be more responsive to Western demands.
8. For the first time in many months, Gen. David Petraeus, the chief of the US Central Command, made detailed comments on the possibility of military options against Iran in a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour on January 11,2010. Relevant extracts from the interview are annexed. His comments seem to be part of the stepped up Psywar.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
EXTRACTS FROM THE COMMENTS OF GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS
AMANPOUR: Again, the noise is growing about a potential strike, a potential military strike by Israel on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Do you think it's possible to do it?
PETRAEUS: Well, I won't talk about the military capabilities of -- of one of our close allies, in this case, Israel. Certainly, there has been a good bit published about what Israel could and perhaps could not do. And I think, also, there has been quite a bit written about the implications of this and the second- and third- and fourth-order effects of it.
AMANPOUR: In terms of an actual physical capability, could Iran's nuclear facilities be bombed, in terms of effectively, because there are a lot of tunnels people are talking about?
PETRAEUS: They certainly can be bombed. The -- the level of effect would vary with who it is that carries it out, what ordnance they have, and what capability they can bring to bear.
AMANPOUR: What is the difference now, in terms of Iran's physical infrastructure, compared to, for instance, what Israel did back in 1980 or '81 against the Osirak reactor in Iraq or, indeed, against the Syrian reactor a couple of years ago?
PETRAEUS: Well, I think it's well known that Iran has gone to considerable lengths to harden, to put underground, to use tunnels and so forth, to -- to reduce the vulnerability of its various nuclear facilities.
AMANPOUR: What are the drawbacks to military action there?
PETRAEUS: Well, in a sense, the -- the consequences of this, really - - you know, they're just very, very difficult to calculate. We have done quite a bit of thinking about this, as you would expect. That's what we get paid to do. It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various "what ifs" and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies. And we generally try not to be irresponsible.
As you think through this, of course, the disruptions to the global economy, the challenges to infrastructure in that particular very, very important region, again, important to the whole world, not just to those countries themselves, threats against various U.S. forces -- of course, we've got some 230,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed in the Central Command area of responsibility and so forth.
But, again, we have done quite a bit of thinking about this. We have done quite a bit of contingency planning. And, again, that's what we get paid to do, and -- and that's what we've sought to do.
AMANPOUR: Is there sort of a deadline on whether you implement that planning?
PETRAEUS: We don't -- we don't see a deadline. There's a variety of different timelines out there that folks have -- have discussed. We think there's a period of time, certainly, before all this might come to a head, if you will. There's certainly more room for the P5-plus-one to engage, perhaps, in a bit -- bit more diplomacy and then certainly to explore heightened economic sanctions and -- and so forth."