A nuclear physicist was assassinated in Tehran on Tuesday by a remotely controlled bomb, Iranian news outlets reported. The reports made thinly veiled suggestions the attack could have been carried out by the United Sates or Israel. The physicist's murder comes amid increasing speculation that Iran has been making nuclear weapons and ahead of a meeting this week by major powers on whether to impose further sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran's state-run Press TV described Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a lecturer at Tehran University, as a "staunch supporter" of the 1979 Islamic revolution –and thus the current regime. It said a booby-trapped motorbike exploded near his home and that police were investigating the "terrorist case."
Press TV correspondent Amir Mehdi Kazemi, reporting from the scene of the assassination, quoted security officials as saying that the equipment and system of the bomb used in the attack had been related to a number of foreign intelligence agencies, particularly Israel's Mossad.
The reporting said the attack follows the June disappearance of another Iranian nuclear scientist and that authorities believe he was detained by the US. "It seems the kidnap and assassination of Iranian scientists is on the agenda of the United States," it added.
Terror attacks against officials in remote areas of Iran are not uncommon, but they are extremely rare inside the capital, says The Wall Street Journal. It was not clear whether Dr. Ali-Mohammadi had any involvement in Iran's nuclear program.
On Monday, Iranian media outlets said the country has voluntarily put its uranium enrichment on hold as a goodwill gesture, reports Israel's Haaretz, adding that those reports could not be confirmed.
Meanwhile, with or without connection to these reports, U.S. government officials have said that there was still a chance of striking a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
The possible deal, according to the Washington based newspaper Politico, would be based on the proposal formed late last September and early October in talks in Geneva and Vienna, between Iran and Western powers. The agreement may still go through, even though the deadline which U.S. President Barack Obama set for nuclear talks with Iran, the end of 2009, has expired.
Washington and the UN have been trying unsuccessfully to get Iran to stop uranium enrichment, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes. And while the White House has signaled it prefers dialogue with Iran, it is wary of appearing weak – especially as Israel grows increasingly concerned about its own security after Tehran's successful December missile test.
Recently, Washington settled on a policy of pressing Iran on human rights, The Christian Science Monitor reports, instead of declaring outright support for opposition activists whom Iran cracked down on in the wake of disputed elections last summer. At the end of this week it will go a step further, joining talks on new sanctions against Iran with the so-called P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Agence France-Presse. The first five are the permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.
Press TV, reporting on the meeting, said the US was trying to "coerce the UN Security Council to pressure Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program."
However, as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor