Was it a case of mistaken identity? Did Mossad, CIA or MI6 confuse the two names? There are such events in the long history of clandestine actions, after all. Let’s just call it an open question. A mystery. Whatever it was, It hardly fits the picture of a diabolically knowledgeable and omnipotent Israeli intelligence service.
The latest victim was a chemist, not a physicist, and his main connection to the nuclear program was administrative, not technical: he worked in the purchasing office for the Natanz operation. He was important enough to have been interviewed by IAEA inspectors, and after his death, Iranian leaders alleged that the IAEA people had passed on classified information to the assassins. But this isn’t very convincing; administrative officers are a dime a dozen, after all. Blow up one, you get a dozen applicants for the position. More mysteries.
Nonetheless, scads of writers are quite sure that the Jews did it. The latest smelly fish from this well known stew comes from Foreign Policy magazine, a popular and often useful source of “expert” thinking about foreign policy and national security. It’s called “false flag,” written by Mark Perry, whose world view is not very charitable toward Israel, which the story accuses of having recruited Balouchis several years ago under false pretenses — claiming that Mossad agents were Americans.
The Israelis almost never comment on intelligence matters, but in this case they issued a very strong denial, calling it “absolute nonsense.” There’s even more nonsense, which Mr. Perry and his Foreign Policy editors happily passed on to their readers. In the midst of this story, the author quotes a “recently retired (American) intelligence officer: “We don’t do bang and boom…and we don’t do political assassinations.”
I wonder if Foreign Policy editors ever heard of the Predator program, the fleet of CIA-run drones that kill Taliban and al Qaeda throughout the Middle East, or, for that matter, the very political assassination of Osama bin Laden.
One might suspect that this story is the work of CIA disinformers, hard at work to deny, and even undermine, what most reliable reporters have described as a very close and productive relationship between the intelligence and military communities of the United States and Israel. Or maybe it’s just another intelligence failure, of which there has been no shortage in recent years.
Where does that leave us? Let’s go back to basics: who could operate in the midst of the armed camp that is Tehran, and might also have a motive for killing these five unfortunate souls? There’s a lot of killing in Iran, and the overwhelming majority of murders are carried out by the regime, and the victims are Iranian citizens from all walks of life. From this standpoint, the regime is the most likely perpetrator. Regime killers could also operate freely throughout the capital, and that also “explains” why there were never calls for information about the assassins. Why ask, when you know their identities, and approved the operation?
What about motive? Look at the last case. What does the regime say about the victim? That he spoke to IAEA investigators (I’m told that the conversation took place outside Iran). The regime doesn’t like that at all, they are very suspicious of their own people (and rightly so!), put very stringent limitations on foreign travel, and monitor the communications of everyone involved in important activities like weapons programs. In the padded cell of paranoiacs around the supreme leader, strong suspicion of disloyalty is probably enough to get a person on one hit list or another, and the regime has every reason to “send a message” to others involved in such activities: one false step and you’re dead.
Again, I don’t know who did it, but the rush to judgment by so many pundits smacks of political passion rather than cool analysis. And I’m struck by the uncritical expertise that would have us believe the Jews can do anything, even operate at will in the center of their most formidable enemy’s capital city. That one’s right out of the old antisemitic scrolls: whenever anything happens — anytime, anywhere — that upsets you, just blame the Jews. They can do anything, anywhere.
If only it were true. I’d be flying my private jet to my little island off the coast of Sicily…