A handful of nuclear scientists were recently assassinated in Iran, presumably by Israeli intelligence.
I have no objection to this personally, though I understand why others, such as Glenn Greenwald, do. I certainly would have a problem with this if the scientists in question were working on peaceful power generation rather than nuclear weapons. Scientists are generally outside the bounds of legitimate warfare. They aren’t soldiers and they aren’t terrorists. The overwhelming majority of scientists everywhere are civilians.
Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency just cleared up some moral ambiguity for us, however. Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast was one of those recently killed. And his wife told Fars News that “Mostafa’s ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel.”
So he wasn’t just constructing something that could theoretically be used as a genocide weapon. He was constructing something that he wanted to use as a genocide weapon. Intent matters, not just in war, but also in the courtrooms of liberal democracies.
If the Israelis were, indeed, the ones who took him out, they were acting in self-defense. It ought to go without saying that the Israelis perceived it that way all along, but it’s worth noting that the slain scientist’s own family and government are now legitimizing that point of view.