The Hits Keep on Comin'
The London Times is claiming confirmation of what must be one of the world's worst-kept secrets: Israeli intelligence (read: the Mossad) was behind last week's assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist:
The Mossad worked for months to stage the assassination of its latest Iranian nuclear scientist target last Wednesday, The London Timesreported Sunday.
Quoting unnamed Israeli sources, thesaid that well-trained team of agents working in Iran set up the bomb attack on Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan, a scientist at the Natanz nuclear facility. He also was involved in missile development.
It said that agents followed Roshan’s movements from a “safe house” and also staked out Iran’s intelligence headquarters in Tehran, where unusual activity the morning of the assassination almost forced an abortion of the strike.
Iran apparently took steps to protect Roshan, whose bodyguard checked his Peugeot 405 vehicle for explosives before driving.
The motorcycle used in the attack was hidden in a, and after Roshan and his driver entered the vehicle around 8 a.m., the Mossad agents gave the order to carry out the operation, the Times stated.
The masked motorcyclist attached the magnetic bomb to the car, and it exploded exactly nine seconds later, mortally wounding Roshan and his driver.
For what it's worth, Time is out with a similar report, claiming the Mossad has trained and paid assassins to carry out a string of hits against scientists and officials connected with Iran's WMD program. Those assassinations, coupled with last year's Stuxnet computer virus attack, have reportedly had a crippling effect on Tehran's nuclear efforts, delaying final development of an atomic weapon.
The latest operation sent chills through certain Iranian circles. Through its so-called "secret war," the Mossad has demonstrated the ability to penetrate the highest levels of Tehran's nuclear program, targeting key scientists and administrators. Indeed, the attack that eliminated Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan and his driver must be particularly disturbing for the late scientist's colleagues and Iranian security officials. Members of the Mossad team clearly had detailed knowledge of Roshan's travel habits and vulnerable points along his route. The message couldn't be more clear: if you're an important figure in Iran's nuclear program, the Israelis have the ability to locate and target you, even if you have a security detail.
Still, we haven't heard of any Iranian scientists dropping out of the program, and the Tehran regime remains determined to get a bomb. And that's the real bottom line in this scenario. While these targeted assassinations are stunning examples of the covert operational art, they cannot completely derail Iran's nuclear efforts. Roshan will be replaced, and Iran's bomb-building efforts will lurch forward. The delays brought about by killing a particular scientist or engineer may be measured in just days or weeks.
Meanwhile, there is no consensus in the west for effective, long-term solutions that might include military action. Additionally, the Obama Administration is doing all it can to dissuade Israel from launching an airstrike that might cripple or destroy key Iranian nuclear facilities. It was announced over the weekend that General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel in the coming days to meet with his IDF counterpart. The tone of the discussions will reportedly be "frank." In other words, we're leaning heavily on the Israelis to forego a preemptive attack, hoping that a new round of sanctions will do the trick.
General Dempsey is an able man, and the upcoming visit will affirm what he already knows: Israeli patience has it limits. In the interim, the Mossad will keep chipping away at Iran's nuclear program, eliminating key figures in an effort to buy time until the U.S. decides to act, or Israel decides to act on its own.