Because we wouldn’t want to upset our new friends in Tehran by slowing down their nuclear weapons program, right?

Dan Raviv, writing for CBS News reports:

Recently, as I sought to update a book I co-wrote about the history of Israel’s intelligence agencies, sources close to them revealed that they felt pressure from the Obama Administration – more than a hint – to stop carrying out assassinations inside Iran.

Although Israel has never acknowledged it, the country’s famed espionage agency – the Mossad – ran an assassination campaign for several years aimed at Iran’s top nuclear scientists. The purpose was to slow the progress made by Iran, which Israel feels certain is aimed at developing nuclear weapons; and to deter trained and educated Iranians from joining their country’s nuclear program.

At least five Iranian scientists were murdered, most of them by bombs planted on their cars as they drove to work in the morning. Remarkably, the Israeli assassins were never caught – obviously having long-established safe houses inside Iran – although several Iranians who may have helped the Mossad were arrested and executed.

In addition to strong signals from the Obama Administration that the U.S. did not want Israel to continue the assassinations, Mossad officials concluded that the campaign had gotten too dangerous. They did not want their best combatants – Israel’s term for its most talented and experienced spies – captured and hanged.

President Obama – much to the discomfort of Israeli officials – is pursuing negotiations with Iran. The United States is one of the P5+1 nations, continuing to talk with the Iranians about rolling back some of their nuclear potential.

Sources told us that Netanyahu has now ordered the Mossad to focus on hunting – inside Iran and elsewhere – for evidence that the Iranians are cheating on the commitments they made in their interim agreement with the P5+1 last November.

For comparison purposes, suppose the Japanese had assassinated Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos? The bomb almost certainly would have been built anyway, although given Oppenheimer’s talents, probably not in the same time frame.

But that’s because America had a long bench — a bevy of talented, brilliant physicists, any one of which might have stepped in and finished the project if Oppenheimer had been killed. Iran has a very thin bench, and it could be that some of their scientific personnel are virtually irreplaceable. If you’re looking for a weakness in your enemy that can be exploited, killing a scientist that might bring a halt to the nuclear weapons project for even just a few months would seem to fill the bill.

Apparently, Israel thought the return on the assassination program wasn’t worth the risk of exposing key personnel. But I find it curious that the US would urge Israel to forgo the use of a recognized weapon of war when their survival is at stake.