In reporting on the recent assassination of Iranian electrical engineering graduate student, Darioush Rezaeinejad, I’ve noted the possibility of the Lillehammer-like mistake by which the Mossad may’ve killed the wrong man. The reason is that at first the news media reported the victim was nuclear physicist, Dariush Rezaei-Ochbolagh. Then it reported the murdered man was Rezaeinejad. Prof. Muhammad Sahimi informs me that the general consensus is the real victim was Rezaeinejad, the PhD candidate and not Rezaei-Ochbolagh, the nuclear physicist.
Yossi Melman, one of Israel’s best known security correspondents all but declares that if they killed Rezaeinejad, they got the wrong man. It wouldn’t be the first time. The most notorious such failure of course, was during the Mossad’s liquidation campaign against the authors of the Munich massacre. They targeted a Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchiki, instead of Ali Hassan Salameh, the chief of operations for Black September. Most of the assassination team was captured and tried for murder, a major blow to the agency’s reputation.
Melman notes a similar possible outcome of the Iranian hit:
…If the murdered man was an engineering student rather than a nuclear scientist, there is no doubt that it was a serious mistake. And if so, it will undermine a tactic that has been viewed as a means of “punishing” Iran and those involved in its nuclear program.
This is because it will likely force the responsible organization to either halt the assassinations entirely or suspend them for a time. The organization will have to conduct investigations to determine what went wrong, and perhaps even fire those responsible for the failure.
…The difference between success and failure in the latest killing is like the difference between the failed Mossad operations in Lillehammer and Amman [the botched assassination of Khaled Meshal] and the successful action attributed to the Mossad in Malta.
Melman apparently hasn’t taken into account that the engineering student, though not directly involved in Iran’s nuclear program, may’ve engaged in research that could be used by that program. Rezaeinejad’s PhD dissertation dealt with the development of electrical switches, one of whose uses would be to detonate a nuclear bomb. But this assassination stands apart from the previous ones in that it previously the Mossad attacked targets with senior academic status. The latest victim is a PhD student. It makes very little sense to target such a figure unless you could argue his work had such merit that it could single-handedly propel the Iranian nuclear program to full weaponization. Given the fact that Rezaeinejad’s dissertation abstract and other research were published and publicly available, that idea seems far-fetched.
All of which takes us back to the Melman suggestion that Mossad got the wrong man. The fact that their names are similar, that they did research in related fields, might infer a grave mistake like the one at Lillehammer. If this is correct, then the fact that the deed is the first assassination carried out during the tenure of the new Mossad director, Tamir Pardo, would be a major mark against him.
I’m gratified to hear the Haaretz journalist report that there are those inside Israel’s intelligence community who argue, as I have, against the efficacy of such an assassination program:
…There has been a heated debate in the inner circles of the intelligence community, and also outside it, about just how effective these assassination campaigns are and whether they achieve their goals.
…If it turns out that the wrong man was killed in Tehran, this argument will heat up again.
At most, they can delay a program, since I’m certain redundancy is built into the Iranian academic program in order to mitigate such personnel losses. And a mistake such as killing the wrong man can quickly evaporate any benefit offered. Besides, killing three or four scientists over a year or two seems like a real hit or miss proposition. How much harm can it really cause to the nuclear program? As Melman writes:
…It seems very doubtful that assassinations – even if they hit the right targets and succeed in sowing fear among the scientists – will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Melman closes his story by noting that if Iran’s Supreme Leader wants a bomb, then that’s what he’s eventually going to get. All of which, once again, leads me to question Israel’s “strategy” if you can call it that. What is its goal? And can it achieve it using these methods?
If you want to stop Iran from getting the bomb, you can’t do it with the current tactics whether they include assassination, computer worms, sabotage, etc. The only strategy, I repeat, is negotiation. Negotiation of course is not a panacea since Iran is a wily negotiator, not one to give away its cards easily. But really there is no other choice.
Gene Schulman says
Sure there’s another choice. I just hope it’s not the one taken. Actually, a third and better choice would be to just do nothing. Iran may not even be seeking to build a bomb.
Richard you are fully right, only solution is negotiation, but and there is a big but because israel will never accept that. Looking back in israels history regarding negotiations (or lack of them) stems from the fact that they never compromise. Its either, “go with us or get killed”-type of mentality.
Another vital impact would be if the world community started to apprach the nuclear issue on a more just and legal issue. Its just plain stupid to think that Iran will end its nuclear program taking in regard that Israel but also Pakistan, India etc have nukes and get no sanctions what so ever not to mention that Iran is a threatened country and the nukes might be the only thing shielding off an attack. I think van Creveld put it simply in this videoclip:
Iran just acting like any other state would do.
All these killings are of course a work by israeli intel. Just remember how they murdered iraqi scientists etc when they wanted to build missiles? Wasnt even Tzipi Livini one of the assasins back then?
why do they hate us????
[ps. the fact of the matter is, Iranians do not hate Jews; zionists, however, hate Iran. Why?]
Bassam, it’s probably connected to the fact that Israel is invariably refered to as the “Zionist entity” instead of calling us Israel. That kinda says something about what they think of us.
Considering the status quo in Israel, is it not the “Zionist entity”? If Zionism is such a good thing then why would you consider that description derogatory and take offense? After all it’s not like they’re referring to it as the Nazi entity; unless of course you feel Zionist has negative connotations. Are you not proud of Zionism?
Palestinians have suffered a grave violation of their rights over the years. Why should ANYONE, let alone Iran, pander to and mollycoddle the Zionist state anyway when Israel is actually an Apartheid State. Iran should be using the term “apartheid state” to be really accurate.
Why legitimize a pariah? Israel has a choice to abide by International Law, to return to 67 borders, to do right by refugees and allow for a Palestinian state or to give Palestinians FULL RIGHTS in one state. That is the only road to legitimacy. Until then “Zionist entity” is a slap on the wrist and Apartheid State is how we should all refer to Israel.
The reason “Zionist entity” offends you is because Zionism has evolved into something ugly and you know it and we all see it.
free man says
Zionists do not hate Iranians, nor does Israelis (which is a different thing from Zionists).
Where did you come to this way of thinking ?
In fact Zionists appreciate the Iranian people.
It was Iran authorities who cut relations with Israel after the revolution and not vice versa.
Before the revolution, there were close ties between the countries. In fact some of your friends may be living in buildings my father had build in Bandar-Abas and Bandar-Bushir.
“nor does Israelis (which is a different thing from Zionists”
“In fact Zionists appreciate the Iranian people.”
First of all, if Israelis aren’t Zionists, I don’t know who is! Secondly, when you point hundreds of nuclear weapons in the direction of Iran, this is NOT “appreciation”; this is hostility. Israelis…err Zionists from time to time pander to the Iranian people for the sake of manipulation only.
Secondly, if Iranians cut ties with Zionists or Israelis it’s partly because Israel was involved in installing the Shah and training SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal SS that killed and tortured many Iranians.
Israelis, Zionists can’t be trusted to behave in good faith without meddling, spying and creating division. Proof of Zionist bad faith is carrying out extra-judicial assassinations inside a SOVEREIGN country and supporting terrorist insurgents in that SOVEREIGN country!
free man says
The Savak was a terrible organization, but not so different than the current Iranian secrete police.
Blaming Israel for every sick F**K organization in the ME is a stupid game that only leads to not being responsible for your own actions.
As for your accuzation, this is something that not you nor I know anything about, but it keeps building your blind hate to people you never knew. Open your eyes, the real world is very different than the people who fill you with that blind hate want you to believe.
Attributing “hatred” to anyone whose opinions you don’t agree with is a very typical Fox News/Bill O’Reilly tactic.
Richard Silverstein says
Talk about Israel collaborating w. sick F(^k organizations, wait till you see the post I’m going to write tonight.
As for blind hate: there is so much of it emanating from Israel that Kalea can’t really be blamed for mirroring it & shipping it right back to you.
Actually it was the Israelis who cut off relations with Iran first. Read Trita Parsi’s book.
I came to this “way of thinking” after reading “Iranophobia, The Logic of an Israeli Obsession,” by Haggai Ram, a professor at BenGurion University, and from reading essays by Avigail Abarbanel, Israeli-born psychologist who writes that Israelis are “orgasmic” to wage war on Iran.
According to Ronen Bergman, what troubled Israel about the Revolution is that Israel no longer had intelligence agents deep within Iran’s government, military, and finance structure. And Israel was so friendly that Israelis committed a great act of perfidy — an Israeli supplied and piloted the plane on which the shah escaped. Israelis commandeered other planes to load with Persian rugs and other treasure, including an attempt to remove from Iran rare animals. Some friends.
I’m aware of the deep “friendship” that existed between Israelis and the shah’s regime — Ronen Bergman details how Israelis milked the Iranian cash cow throughout the era of the shah, and even after the Revolution, Israel sold (malfunctioning) weapons to Iran as Iraq waged war on Iran — “let them keep killing each other, as long as the revenue flows” was the attitude Bergman quoted one Israeli defense official as saying.
“The only strategy, I repeat, is negotiation.”
Negotiation with Israel, as the Palestinians have learned the hard way, leads nowhere.
Israel is in default. Israel has covert illegal nuclear weapons and Israel has an obligation pending. To fulfill that obligation is to show good faith. When Israel stops running from that obligation and hiding behind the U.S. in order to escape that obligation and does right by the Palestinians; and comes clean on its own weapons and the motives for those weapons it will access the power to negotiate and make demands.
Why should Iran negotiate with an entity that has nuclear weapons pointed at it and that violates International Law repeatedly with regards to the rights of millions of Palestinians?
I just want to add something regarding the murder of Iranian scientists. These are human beings with families, parents, wives and children left without a father executed by Israel’s extra-judicial death penalty in violation of International Law and sovereignty. These murders represent an act of war.
If Israel killed the wrong man this is indeed tragic for his family, but murdering Iranian civilians, thumbing it’s nose at Iranian sovereignty is BARBARIC.
What would Israelis do if someone was murdering their scientists working on their covert nuclear weapons and chemical weapons?
Iran has shown unbelievable restraint. This proves that Iran is ready to avoid aggression and war at all costs, unlike Israel that is repeatedly picking a fight and inciting a violent response to then cry “victim” and drag the rest of the world into war.
The Nudnik says
Do you believe the nonsense you are spewing ?
Iranian Defense Minister wanted by Argentina visits Bolivia
How many people the Iranian saints killed there ? all had families, parents, wives, husbands and children by Iran Extra-judicial death penalty in violation of Internationale Law and sovereignty. These murders represent an act of war.
Sorry but the evidence connecting Iran to the bombings in Argentina is nonexistent — which is why the British denied Argentina’s extradition request for the former Iranian ambassador to Argentina who was later found in the UK, completing a PhD in tourism studies. In fact the British judges noted that the extradition request provided no evidence linking the Iranians to the bombings.
The Nudnik says
And what evidence you have connecting Israel to the killing in Iran ?
I dont and didn’t say I did. In fact I think this is the MEK, who are knocking off low-level nuclear students and the Western media portrays them as being “involved” in Iran’s nuclear program in order to claim that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat which is being ‘dealt with’ — when in fact it is neither. There has never been any evidence of any nuclear weapons program in Iran. Remember, in 2008, Iran and the IAEA created a list of outstanding issues that had to be resolved, and by Feb 2008, everything on that list was in fact resolved with zero evidence of a weapons program. But just a week before the IAEA report to that effect was issued, the US presented the “alleged studies” claims (obtained from the so-called “Laptop of death”) which are widely considered to be forgeries. Even though the IAEA has itself said repeatedly that it has no independent evidence about those alleged studies, and that there is no diversion of nuclear material for those studies, that is pretty much the sum and substance of the accusation against Iran…and yet Iran is not allowed to see this evidence that it is expected to refute since the US has prohibited the IAEA from sharing it with Iran. In effect not only is it demanded that Iran prove a negative, but it being asked to prove that it could not theoretically one day in the indefinite future potentially use a civilian nuclear program to make bombs. Nonsense and rubbish! The entire nuclear issue is pretextual, and a convenient cover for regime change poilices, which is why the US has repeatedly deliberately ignored and/or deflected Iranian compromise offers that would have addressed any real concern about weapons proliferation (as noted by ElBaradei himself – the most recent example is the Turk/Brazilian deal that the US killed.)
Sorry I had a typo about the date. IRan and the IAEA made a list of outstanding issues in Aug 2007, called the “Modalities Agreement”
By Feb of the next year, 2008, every issue on that list had been resolved.
Richard Silverstein says
You mean other than Melman, one of Israel’s best-connected security correspondents, virtually conceding it? And Barak’s Cheshire grin when asked to deny it?
This may be somewhat off-topic, but I’ve just stumbled onto your important piece, Richard, included in today’s TRUTHOUT, “Senior Israeli, US Intelligence Figures Warn of Israeli Attack Against Iran”. Here’s link to it:
Congratulations on a precise and significant statement.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks. I’ve been waiting for it to be published.
Israel cannot stand for IRan to be successful, stable and secure. This would mean the end of Israel. In the post-cold war era, Israel is of little value to the US (if it was of any value at all, ever) and so any potential improvement of US-Iran ties are deemed to come at a cost to israel’s strategic value to the US. This is the real reason why Israel agitates for a US-Iran war. Read Trita Parsi’s book.
Remember, when Nixon went to China, he had to kick Taiwan to the curb. If Obama goes to Iran, there is a risk that the US would kick Israel to the curb. The pro-Taiwanese lobby was not strong enough to limit Nixon, but AIPAC has thus far proven successful in preventing a US-Iran rapprochement.
And that, my friends, is the real threat that Iran poses to Israel – not nukes, not terrorists etc. but that Iran could rise to be not only the dominant force in the Mideast but a US ally, in which case who needs Israel?
Sam Smith says
I don’t think an Iran that smuggles weapons into Iraq to kill American soldiers and harbors Al-Qaeda operatives is exactly a candidate for rapprochement. And Tehran doesn’t want such rapprochement – it would remove one of the key propaganda tools the regime has over its population.
Richard Silverstein says
Don’t believe everything you read about Iran especially when it comes in thinly sourced stories. One thing you can always rely on in the hasbarist community is credulousness when it comes to Iran. They’ll believe any & everything bad they can get their hands on.
Sam Smith says
Forensic evidence of the Iranian origin of weapons used in Iraq is not “thinly sourced.”
Richard Silverstein says
The Al-Qaeda connection is.
Adam Neira says
Iran has confirmed that the man was working in the nuclear field.
Richard Silverstein says
Iran has done nothing of the sort. Haaretz CLAIMS that the Iranians have confirmed this when they have not. Pls. don’t regurgitate the headlines w/o offering any proof that yr claims are correct.