Israel assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists

JTA | Feb 18, 2009

LONDON (JTA) — Israel is assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists as part of a covert war against the Islamic Republic’s weapons program, according to a British newspaper.

The Daily Telegraph cited U.S. intelligence claims that Israel is using hit men, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime’s illicit weapons project.

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“The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran’s research program without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war,” an intelligence analyst told the the newspaper.

The newspaper quoted a former CIA officer on Iran who said, “Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such a way that they don’t realize what’s happening. You are never going to stop it.”

“The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don’t want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It’s a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks.”

The Telegraph also quotes Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the private U.S. intelligence company with strong government security connections, who claims that the strategy was to take out key people.

“With cooperation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear program and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain,” she said.

Bhalla added, however, that “As U.S.-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result.”

Israel has been rumored to be involved in the mysterious death of key Iranian nuclear scientists, including Ardeshire Hassanpour, who died in 2007 of “gas poisoning.”

The Telegraph also quoted another European intelligence official who said that “Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past.”

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