TEHRAN – On January 11th, two assailants on a motorcycle pull up along side a car, attach a magnetic bomb, and speed away. BOOM! That bomb killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, as well as his driver. Roshan was the director of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility in central Iran. He specialized in making polymeric membranes to separate gases during the enrichment process. Roshan was the fourth Iranian scientist to be killed under similar circumstances in the past two years alone. Coincidence?
Who would have the motive and capability to pull of these highly sophisticated assassinations? Of course the usual suspects come to mind: Arnold, Tom Cruise, or maybe Chuck. Iranian government officials immediately condemned the attack, blaming the U.S., U.K., and Israel in particular. A former U.S. official said the magnetic-bomb attack bore the hallmarks of an Israeli hit.
“I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following news of the attack. “We believe there has to be an understanding between Iran, its neighbors and the international community that finds a way forward for it to end its provocative behavior, end its search for nuclear weapons and rejoin the international community…”
Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., called for international condemnation of the attacks. "There is firm evidence that certain foreign quarters are behind such assassinations,” wrote Khazaee to the U.N. Secretary General. “As has been claimed by these circles, such terrorist acts have been carried out as part of the efforts to disrupt Iran's peaceful nuclear program, under the false assumption that diplomacy alone would not be enough for that purpose."
Former CIA agent Mike Baker doubted direct U.S. involvement in the attack during a recent interview on Fox News Channel. Baker cited that such an operation could take 30 agents on the ground in Tehran to support, and that such a risky undertaking was unlikely.
It is difficult to ignore that such a covert act fits well within the Obama Administration’s strategy of increased dependence on Special Operations Forces, and less on large-scale conventional ground forces. Having killed several high value targets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by way of small, surgical drone and troop strikes—President Obama has shown a preference towards smaller, more covert missions. If these attacks truly are part of a U.S. strategy, it could indicate that Iranian scientists are closer to a nuclear weapon than previously believed.
The debate surrounding how best to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been gaining more attention, as the rogue nation’s leadership remains unapologetically defiant. There is much disagreement in political and military circles as to just how close Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. During a recent Republican presidential debate, Representatives Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and Ron Paul (R-TX) had a fiery exchange over their differences in interpretation regarding an IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities. Some in Washington and within the Pentagon believe Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, while others remain skeptical. Politicians remain hesitant to raddle their sabers in front of a war-weary American electorate that is still distrustful of warnings reminiscent of a not-so-old tale of WMD’s somewhere in Iraq…