An United States intelligence and security expert says it’s unlikely the US was involved in this week’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Iran has blamed both the US and Israel.
Iranian news reports say Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed on his way to work in Tehran. A motorcyclist attached a bomb to his car.
Dr Joseph Fitsanakis is an Iran watcher, and coordinator of the Security and Intelligence Studies programme at King College in Tennessee. He’s told Suzanne Hill that the assassination is probably the work of Israel’s spy service.
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS: The assassination fits the character of the Mossad, going back all the way to 1960s with Operation Damocles when the Israelis actually went so far as assassinating German scientists working with Egypt in Egypt’s nuclear program.
Some people mention that there are other agencies that have similar operational character like the Russians, for instance, the Russian secret services but the Russians are allies of Iran.
The Chinese have been mentioned as well but, again, even though they’re pretty capable, they don’t have that type of operational character.
SUZANNE HILL: When we talk about operational character, are you referring only to Mossad’s predisposition to assassinate as we assume they have or are you referring to other things to do with the assassination itself in which we can see hallmarks of Mossad?
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS: I think both. In particular, assassination operations are very, very risky. They’re very complex, involve a large number of individuals, they’re very carefully planned.
In a country like Iran, if something were to go wrong, that could risk a major regional war and even though there are many regional countries that are highly suspicious of Iran’s nuclear intentions, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq et cetera, most observers would say that Israel is the only country in the region that would be so concerned as to go to war, to cause a major regional war with this issue.
So the risk of the operation fits the traditional character of the Mossad and also the wider geopolitical interests of Israel.
SUZANNE HILL: Iran also pointed the finger at the United States and the United States was quick to deny that. Should we believe the American denials of any involvement in this whatsoever?
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS: Both the State Department and the White House immediately condemned the assassination and were quick to say they had nothing to do with it.
I personally believe, not necessarily the condemnation, but certainly the denial. And the reason for this is Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, he’s the American/Iranian citizen, the former marine who was arrested back in August in Iran on charges of espionage and was put on trial last week, and was sentenced to death.
Observers in the region and here in America would point out that whoever conducted this operation that killed the Iranian scientist pretty much sealed the fate of Hekmati. It’s more than likely now that Hekmati is going to be put to death.
And so we assume that Hekmati was in fact a CIA asset, that would mean the CIA, by choosing to kill the Iranian scientist, pretty much discarded an asset, which you don’t do that if you’re an agency like the CIA because your entire operations depend on recruiting assets.
And by discarding an asset so publicly, so readily, you discourage other recruits that may want to come forward.
If Hekmati was not a CIA asset, that would mean America is perhaps willing I guess to risk a very high-profile killing, a revenge killing of one of its citizens in response to the assassination of the Iranian scientists.
BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr Joseph Fitsanakis from King College with Suzanne Hill.
Suzanne Hill reported this story on Friday, January 13, 2012