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.