How Israel Tried to Destroy Iran's Nuclear Program: Assassinate the Scientists

June 2, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: iranIsraelIDFNukeNuclearassassination

How Israel Tried to Destroy Iran's Nuclear Program: Assassinate the Scientists

Did it work? 

Approaching eight o’clock on the morning of January 12, 2010 Professor Massoud Alimohammadi walked to his car parked next to his house in North Tehran, passing a small motorbike on the side of the road. The fifty-one-year-old elementary particle physicist was a leading Iranian theorist on quantum-field states, and known to his friends as a political moderate.

As the professor’s open his car door, the person who had been observing him pressed a button on a remote control. The bike suddenly exploded with such force that all the windows on Masoud’s four-story apartment building were shattered. Massoud was killed instantly, and two nearby bystanders injured. The triggerman, ostensibly a man named Arash Kerhadkish, strolled over to a car waiting nearby and was driven away.

Initially, some speculated that Iranian hardliners sanctioned the killing of a reformist professor. However, anonymous Iranian and Western intelligence sources eventually told a different story: the professor was an important figure in a nuclear-research program run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

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Nine months later, on the morning of November 29, a quantum physicist named Majid Shahriari was driving through Tehran with his wife, Dr. Bejhat Ghasemi, in the passenger seat when several motorbikes road up beside him near Artesh Boulevard. While one rider hemmed in Shahriari’s car, another rider (believed to be Arash Kerhadkish), attached a package of C4 explosive to the door beside Shahriari, then drove back and triggered a detonator. The explosion killed Shahriari, injured his wife and colleague, and even knocked over one of the motorbike-mounted hitmen, wounding the hitman.

At nearly the same time, another motorbike assassin rammed the car of Sharhiari’s colleague, Professor Fereydoon Abassi, a prominent leader of Iran’s nuclear-research program as he awaited Sharhiari for an appointment at Shahid Beheshti University. He and his wife jumped out of the car just before the bike exploded, seriously injuring Abassi in the face and the hand.

Eight months later on July 23, 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad and his wife drove to pick up their daughter Armita up from kindergarten. At 4 p.m., the thirty-five-year-old postgrad in electrical engineering deposited his wife and child on the curb and was returning to his vehicle to park the car when two bearded motorcyclists pulled up next him and opened fire with nine-millimeter pistols. Rezaeinejad was shot five times in the arm, neck and chest. His wife, Shoreh Pirani, attempted to pursue the attackers, but they shot her too. The engineer died shortly after being hospitalized at Resalat Hospital. Shoreh recovered, and later told an interviewer that her five-year-old daughter continued to draw pictures of the moment of her father’s death.

Darioush’s wife would also state in a later interview that the engineer had been a member of the Iranian nuclear program and had received anonymous threats prior to his death. Tehran blamed the United States and Israel for the killing. The United States denied the charge, while Israeli government social-media accounts suggestively expressed that it did not condemn the killings, whoever might have perpetrated them.

Six months later on January 11, 2012—nearly the anniversary of Alimohammadi’s killing—Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an expert on uranium enrichment, was the next to fall victim while driving to work through Eastern Tehran in his Peugeot 405. Deputy director of the Natanz facility, he had been photographed with Mohamed Ahmadinejad, who was president at the time. Supposedly, he was tailed by multiple assassins, including the ubiquitous Kerhadkish. One of those assassins attached a magnetic mine to Roshan’s car, which detonated and killed him, but spared the life of his wife, who was sitting beside him.

Iranian counter-intelligence operatives in the Ministry Of Intelligence and Surveillance apparently were at work, however. In 2011, reportedly thanks to a tip from a third country, MOIS picked up a twenty-four-year old aspiring kick-boxer named Majid Jamali Fashi, who claimed to have dropped of the explosive motorbike that killed Alimohammadi. Fashi confessed on public television to receiving training and a payment of $120,000 from Mossad (Institute), the Israeli spy agency connected to dozens of assassinations over the years, including German rocket scientists , Olympic terrorist plotters, and the Canadian Gerald Bull, developer of the of the Iraqi Project Babylon “super gun.”

In May 2012, Fashi was hung—and Tehran announced it had captured eight male and six female Iranian nationals involved in the killings. Iranian media subsequently aired a half-hour documentary dramatizing their confessions. The nationals were reportedly drawn from sympathizers or members of the MEK (Mujahedin of Iran), a violent opposition group to the government Tehran. In this account, the agents had received forty-five days of training in Israel, and then operated in multi-cell teams that had meticulously spied on their victims to determine their routines and then executed the hits based on instructions from Israeli handlers.