Iranian Physics Professor Assassinated
Interpreting the internal machinations of Iranian politics these days is a hazardous occupation. Today, a noted physics professor in Teheran was murdered by a bomb outside his home:
A remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle killed an Iranian physics professor outside his home in north Tehran on Tuesday, state media reported. The reports blamed the United States and Israel for the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. One state broadcaster, IRIB, quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that “in the initial investigation, signs of the triangle of wickedness by the Zionist regime, America and their hired agents are visible in the terrorist act” against the scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi.
The regime’s assignment of blame seemed dubious at best. First, Mohammadi did not work on Iran’s nuclear program and thus performed no function that could harm Israel’s interests. Second, the Israelis have shown no capability to perform such a complicated operation inside Iran. Third, the professor was a former Revolutionary Guard who had turned away from his past years before, and recently signed statements endorsing the Iranian reform movement:
There were some indications that he might have been taking a more active role in the opposition that sprang up after the flawed presidential election last June. Mr. Ali Mohammadi was among 240 university professors who signed a letter before the election expressing support for the main opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi.
Muhammad Sahimi further explains why Mohammadi might’ve been considered a special thorn in the side of the regime:
According to a statement that was issued by a group of physics students at the University of Tehran, Professor Ali-Mohammadi was one of the leading academics who stormed the University Chancellor’s office to demand an investigation into the June 15 attack on the university when several students were murdered and many more were injured.
Several other students have stated that Professor Ali-Mohammadi had organized debates on the national crisis at the University of Tehran. He had apparently told his students that “they” [the hardliners] had ordered him to put an end to such activities, but that he was going to press on despite their demands. The last of such debates had occurred on January 5, in which he had urged students to come up with a scientific and practical solution to the Iranian crisis. All of his speeches have reportedly been recorded and can be used as evidence to refute the hardliner’s propaganda that he was one of them.
A source in Tehran told the author that Professor Ali-Mohammadi had worked with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on several projects in the past. This source said that given Professor Ali-Mohammadi’s extensive knowledge of the IRGC’s activities and his recent new-found support for the reformists and Mousavi would have made him a potential target for the IRGC.
…Because it is likely that Professor Ali-Mohammadi was well informed about many IRGC projects, and a prominent academic supporter of the reformists…his murder would send a message to others, particularly academics. If the hardliners were behind the murder, it would be a signal that they have started a campaign of assassination to silence the opposition.
Another characteristic of the hardliners is that they never forgive anyone who deserts them and joins the opposition. The deserters are usually dealt with much more harshly than bona fide members of the opposition. This only adds to the suspicion that the hardliners may have had something to do with Professor Ali-Mohammadi’s murder.
Prof. Sahimi also describes him among other qualities as supremely kind, which would provide one additional justification for the regime’s hatred.
Another ominous sign of the desperation of the regime is the report that Mehdi Karroubi’s armored car was fired upon by government thugs a few days ago. This too marks a new escalation in the game of chicken between the government and its opponents. The regime ratchets up the terror and waits to see the result. If the outcry is minimal it proceeds to ever more draconian tactics. The question is how far are they willing to go. Clearly, they have contemplated arresting the senior leadership. But would they be willing to kill them outright? First, you kill a relatively little guy to test the waters, then go after bigger fry.
19 thoughts on “Iranian Physics Professor Assassinated – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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“Second, the Israelis have shown no capability to perform such a complicated operation inside Iran.”
Richard, You disappoint.
Ronen Bergman (The Secret War with Iran) chronicled at least 100 ‘operations’ that Israel/ Mossad performed in Iran in the years since the Revolution. Jeffrey Feltman testified before a State Department committee last year that US and Israeli operatives are active in Iran (C-Span archives).
As for your argument that the victim was not a nuclear scientist, therefore of no value to Israel, balderdash squared.
As Ian Lustick said at your December conference in Seattle, it’s not the Iran’s nukes, as such, that bothers Israel. Read Friedman’s column in NYT, rubbing Jewish genius in the face of non-Jews, to reveal the real threat Iran poses to Israel: Iranian prestige, accomplishment, and prosperity annoy the bejabbers out of Israel; that’s why Israel is pulling out all the stops to cripple Iran economically (Stuart Levey’s assigned task, paid for by US taxpayers).
“it’s not the Iran’s nukes, as such, that bothers Israel.”
Very true, and in any case if that WERE what bothered Israel, then Israel shouldn’t be bothered at all since Iran HAS no nukes.
Indeed. And I do not see any sufficient reason why anyone else would want him dead.
How many of these operations were successful? 100 operations over a period of 31 years is not, in of itself, highly impressive.
Nor did Richard argue that the physicist was not a nuclear scientist. Rather, he pointed out that the man was not involved in the nuclear program of Iran, which raises the issue of why Mossad would go to the trouble of carrying out a dangerous operation to kill an irrelevant figure.
I find it more likely that some group within the Iranian regime killed him.
This is a collective judgment on Israeli character with no facts offered in support, ignoring more likely motives (such as the obvious view that Israel, perhaps incorrectly, views a stronger Iran as a potential, particularly hostile rival).
I should also have added in my response I have no idea how Bergman defines an “operation.” I have heard of no assassinations perpetrated against Iranians by the Mossad. And certainly none in recent yrs. Such an operation would be extremely complicated for a foreign intelligence agency to carry out.
An assassination is harder to come by than a defection, but where there’s a will there’s a way, it’s easier to organise one in Damascus than Tehran (Imad Mughniyah) but kanal, how about multiple agencies? you somehow forget the rascals in the CIA, i wish i could be as naive as you.
revisited Bergman; “over 100 operations” was an overestimate.
Nevertheless, this commenter is not impressed with the defenses that “100 operations in 31 years is not impressive.” Is there no value placed on living at peace with all one’s neighbors? Avigail Abarbenal’s analysis, that Israel has made itself crazy paranoid, is finding more and more validation.
As for how Bergman defines and “operation” and whether Mossad assassinated Iranians, here’s Bergman, discussing “Operation Body Heat,” the years-long Israeli campaign to find Ron Arad:
(Arad was an Israeli airman who crashed while on a bombing run over Lebanon in 1986. “…due to a series of mistakes made by the air force and its 669 Rescue Unit, he was left behind and taken prisoner by the relatively moderate Shi’ite militia, Amal. Almost nothing is known about what happened to him after that, except that he probably [emphasis added] fell into the hands of the Iranians.”
At one point in the intensive search for Arad, an operative who claimed to know that Arad was, indeed, in Iranian hands, was subjected to polygraph testing to verify his claim. The record shows that he “passed” the polygraphs, but later internal information emerged stating that the results of the polygraph were ‘fixed’ by the person who had taken credit, and received high praise from Rabin himself, for the information that is still not verified.
Bergman writes: “The failure to solve the disappearance is considered one of the most stinging intelligence defeats suffered by Israel in the struggle against Iran and Hezbollah. It is impossible to comprehend the nature of the intelligence war between Iran and the West without knowing about Operation Body Heat…. The search took on proportions and importance far beyond the fate of a single person, leading to high-level kidnappings and assassinations.”
After several elaborate but unsuccessful Israeli attempts to find Arad, including a “false flag” operation involving an Iranian dupe; the involvement of CIA, Russia, German, French, and Italian agencies, Mossad was instructed to kidnap a leader of the Amal militia and torture information out of him, while Israel “put pressure on Iran to give up Arad.”
Iran persistently denied that Arad was in their custody.
Eventually, Iran decided to use the situation for their own purposes: Iran made public demands that Israel release four Iranian diplomats captured by Israel in Beirut in 1982. Israel denied that it held the four, and developed information that the Iranian diplomats were captured, tortured, killed by Phalange, and their bodies dumped in lime pits.
Regarding the Dirani kidnapping (and interrogation under torture) Bergman writes: “Major General Uri Saguy, the head of Military Intelligence, said…’we asked ourselves…if we had the capability of carrying out such a complex operation. We knew that we had activated most of the very impressive intelligence-gathering capabilities possessed by the state of Israel…”
Even so, the information obtained from Dirhani was of dubious value.
Israel had kidnapped a senior Hizbollah cleric in 1989 and was still holding him in 1994, attempting to force from him information about Arad. At least thirteen other Lebanese were kidnapped and held captive by Israel, as possible ransom for the missing Arad.
In 1992, Mossad “prepared to kidnap the secretary general of Hizballah, Mussawi, as a bargaining chip.” Israeli drones monitoring the snatch site relayed information that too many bodyguards surrounded Mussawi; Mossad changed its plans from kidnapping to assassination. Although hovering Israeli helicopters knew that Mussawi’s wife and 6-year old son were in the car with him, the order was given to kill them.
“Bessan:Read Friedman’s column in NYT…Iranian prestige, accomplishment, and prosperity annoy the bejabbers out of Israel; that’s why Israel is..”
Brooks, not Freidman:
If you talk about todays Islamic Republic then just wow, and your depiction of Israel is absurd, another expert on Israel’s psych.
“Richard: First, Mohammadi did not work on Iran’s nuclear program and thus performed no function that could harm Israel’s interests. Second, the Israelis have shown no capability to perform such a complicated operation inside Iran”
Naivete on all accounts, in deceptions you will make war, you think Iran would just announce that the departed was working on the Tehran project? that the reformers wouldn’t try to co-opt him? you said yourself he was in the RG, does the word double agent ring a bell? Iran-Contra? i remember seeing in Israeli press -years after the fact- the photo of Col. North and Amiram Nir z”al in Tehran’s airport circa 1986, sitting on weapons cranes, smiling,.
“If you talk about todays Islamic Republic then just wow, ”
Which “Islamic Republic” would that be, Rafi? And of what significance is the mention of the word “Islamic”?
Let’s see…there’s the Islamic Republic of Indonesia; the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; the Islamic Republic of Yemen; the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Islamic Republic of Iran; the Islamic Republic of Mauritania; the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan…..
The Islamic Republic of Iran, like you didn’t know, do you share the view that Israel is bejabbered by it’s “prestige, accomplishment, and prosperity”? or you think Israel is jealous because the Persians invented chess?.
You are trying to change the subject, focusing on the word Islam.
I’m an English major w. an MA in Comp Lit & I don’t think I’ve ever read the word “bejabbered” anywhere outside Treasure Island. Frankly, I don’t even know what it means & since I won’t ever see the word again I hesitate to take the time to even look it up. Do you think you could try words that haven’t gone out of date in the past 150 yrs.?
Your use of “the Islamic Republic” demanded a response because of the implication that Islam is the issue, not Iran. If you mean Iran, then say Iran. By saying “the Islamic Republic” you are taking the focus off the issue.
The operative phrase is WAS, as in he abandoned it many yrs before which you’d know if you’d read the articles I linked in this post (which you clearly haven’t).
Other than that you’re jabbering & making little sense.
You mentioned it in your own post – quoting Prof. Sahimi – between saying that Iran’s rulers has a beef with kind people (reformist Hasbara) and saying that the complexity of the procedure hints that it wasn’t a outside job, when it is the opposite, the RG could just arrest him, having a show trial or what not, if Iran’s rulers bomb their own capital while pointing fingers outside that is very 1984.
Even the Professor says the hardliners are suspected, opening the door to other usual suspects.
Shirin was mighty kind to you to give you a 4 out of 10 on the hasbara scale. On the intelligence scale you’re even lower. First, I said the assassinated professor was kind because his student said he was (again you’d know that if you’d read the linked articles, which you clearly haven’t). Saying he was kind was not propaganda on behalf of Iranian reformers. It was simply a human statement which you seem to object to when it comes to individuals who are perceived by you as enemies of Israel. The man was murdered. Don’t you have an ounce of humanity within you to empathize with this suffering?
That’s precisely the pt. They could have arrested him but they’ve done that to hundreds of others & it simply hasn’t worked in quelling the opposition. Assassination ratchets up the pressue on the opposition & informs them that the price extracted by the regime for opposition will be much higher than a mere trial or imprisonment. Of COURSE it’s very 1984. Do you think the Guards are country bumpkins. When it comes to terror & repression they learned at the Savak’s knees and then refined the methods.
your twisted logic makes you the world’s first white-haired pretzel. What is with your compulsion to portray Iran’s government in terms straight from an AIPAC TPM? You’re thinking like Likud, which sees mirror-images of itself everywhere.
And yes, Guards DID evolve from ‘country bumpkins’ who defended Iran against Iraq with little more than their bodies and passion. Americans respect the veterans who returned from wars that were essentially adventurism; IRGC defended the Iranian people from a real and vicious onslaught. Why should they not be granted respect as well?
Giandomenico Picco helped to negotiate the truce that ended the Iran-Iraq war. In a speech at the Wilson Center in 2007, Picco acknowledged Iran’s “victim narrative” that the rest of the world, particularly Israel, which profited obscenely from the blood of Iranians and Iraqis, refuses to recognize. Iran, too, has its “never again” narrative, and why wouldn’t it?
The Iran Iraq War happened in 1988. So you want me to accord respect the RG because they defended Iran fr. an Iraqi military adventurer 20 yrs ago. OK, I concede that those who fought against Saddam deserve credit for holding him off. Then what? Does that mean they’re good guys now? Are you for real? Killing unarmed young people protesting for freedom is heroic or defensible? Raping prisoners & assassinating defenseless relatives of reformist leaders is kosher? Really.
Israel still harks back to Massada to celebrate the death-rather-than-capitulation of of those warriors of nearly 2000 years ago, and, at the time of the 50th anniversary of founding of Israel, a commemorative series in Atlantic magazine began with the declaration: “The Zionist movement dates from AD 70….”. Twenty years does not seem a long stretch.
“Then what? Does that mean they’re good guys now? Are you for real?”
Are you for rational? Firstly, what firm information do you have that IRGC was responsible for killing unarmed young people protesting for “freedom?” How much firm evidence do we really have about who did what to whom?
Second, if it is granted that, indeed, IRGC was responsible for death of “unarmed young people,” who has such clean hands that he/she can cast the first stone? Not US, not Israel, not UK. Is the entire world getting panties in a wad to impose sanctions of US, Israel, and UK for the vile acts of their respective militaries? Are the business relationships of IDF, US Army/Navy/AirForce, and of UK military being constrained and sanctioned? NO? Why not? Are THEIR bad acts “heroic or defensible” or are they rewarded with pensions, preference for second-dip government jobs and third-dip defense contracts?
“Raping prisoners & assassinating defenseless relatives of reformist leaders is kosher?”
1. Again, you are using the unsubstantiated claim of your argument — that Iranian govt assassinated Mohammadi — as the premise for your argument that IRGC is evil (or at least — or worse– not “kosher” because it killed Mohammadi — pretzel logic! Ya gots ta prove it with facts, Richard, before you can use it as evidence to prove another argument.
2. Returning to my original contention that the assassination has Mossad MO stamped on it: Mossad trained SAVAK in torture and assassinations; Mossad carried out torture and assassinations against Iranians, either first-hand or through proxies, during the reign of Pahlavi, during the lifetime of Khomeini, and, according to Ronen Bergman, throughout the “30 year Clandestine Struggle” of Israel against Iran.
Furthermore, according to on-the-record testimony of Jeffrey Feltman, former US Ambass. to Lebanon, in Feb. 2008, Israel and US sponsor/fund NGOs to infiltrate and destabilize Iranian society. It’s not a stretch to harbor the whiff of a suspicion that Israel and/or US was involved in Mohammadi’s assassination, either directly or through paid or suborned proxies such as MEK or PKK.
It would be extremely stupid for Iran to kill one of its own, proud intellectual class; Iran is many things, but generally not that stupid.
It would be equally stupid for Mossad or US to commit the assassination, but Mossad has never shirked at stupid, and the US frequently does not recognize stupid until it blows up in its collective face.
My chips are on Mossad/US.
I find it hard to believe that we’ve come across an apologist or fellow traveler of the Revolutionary Guards. Who killed them then? Who had an interest in killing these people? People in Iran can identity RGs when they see them in crowds firing guns at them. I trust them far more than you who lives wherever you do outside Iran.
I can’t believe I’m reading precisely the same argument hasbarists use to attack me, who allegedly should be more concerned about the evil perpetrated by every country other than Israel. No one here excuses the sins of the parties you mention. But the truth is that Iran’s current regime is a bunch of thugs & the majority of Iranians believe this or something close to it & I for one will not pull punches because you say no one has given the U.S. or UK their just desserts.
No, virtually the entire history of the RG substantiates the argument that they are trief going almost all the way back to the Revolution itself. Who killed those 3,000 young people who Ayatollah Montazeri protested against killing after the Revolution? Who killed the Iranian demonstrators in June & recently? We know. Iranians know. Even Khamenei & Ahmadinejad know because they ordered them to do it or at least acquiesced in the massacre. The prior history of the RG is what makes it likely they are the culprits behind this assassination. What’s more, Iranians themselves believe this. I’d trust Muhammad Sahimi’s sense of things far more than yours unless you’d like to prove you have better sources than he.
It’s quite a stretch which is why the preponderance of sentiment from real Iran experts is that this wasn’t what happened. Could it have happened the way you claim? Yes. Is it likely given the other theories? No.
It was extremely stupid for the regime to steal the election & attempt to repress legitimate dissent against the outcome. But they did–extremely stupidly. Are you arguing that Ahmadinejad & Khamenei’s actions since June have been anything other than extremely stupid???