Iran's Nuclear Program: Scientists Attacked, Documents Wiki-Leaked

By Andrew Moseman | November 30, 2010 5:50 pm

Nuclear IranBetween murders and leaked documents, there’s disarray and intrigue all around Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.

Yesterday, two prominent nuclear scientists in Iran were attacked in car bombings.

According to [Iranian new service] Fars, scientists Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi were parking their cars in separate locations near the university campus about 7:45 a.m. local time when they were attacked.Witnesses said each car was approached by a group of men on motorcycles, who attached explosives to the vehicles and detonated them seconds later, the news agency reported. Shahriari was killed instantly. Abbasi was wounded. Both men were with their wives, who were also wounded. [Washington Post]

Unsurprisingly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly pointed the finger of blame at the West and Israel. Both of the targeted scientists are reportedly connected to the Iranian nuclear program, which the government maintains is for the purpose of energy, but the United States and other nations oppose out of fear of an Iranian bomb.

Abbasi-Davani, whose handful of publications on neutron physics are mainly in Iranian journals, is a key figure in Iran’s nuclear programme. He is reported to be a scientist at the country’s defence ministry, and a member of Iran’s revolutionary guards since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He was also named as being among “Persons involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities” in the 2007 UN Security Council Resolution 1747, which imposed sanctions on Iran over its refusal to stop enrichment of uranium. [Nature]

Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the country’s nuclear energy program, told the Washington Post that Shahriari was also involved in a major nuclear energy project in Iran, but wouldn’t say which one.

All this follows the admission by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Stuxnet computer virus, which appeared specifically designed to target his country’s nuclear facilities, did in fact disrupt Iranian centrifuges.

Iran has previously denied the Stuxnet worm, which experts say is calibrated to destroy centrifuges, had caused any damage, saying they uncovered it before it could have any effect. But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said it “managed to create problems for a limited number of our centrifuges.” Speaking to a press conference Monday, he said the problems were resolved. [CBS News]

If all that weren’t enough, then there is WikiLeaks. The massive release of classified documents that has dominated the news this week includes cables from the King of Saudi Arabia extolling the United States to strike against the Iranian program and “cut off the head of the snake.” Middle Eastern nations Jordan and Bahrain also called for action to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates privately said Iran could take the region into war.

In a conversation with a US diplomat, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain “argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their [Iran’s] nuclear programme, by whatever means necessary. That programme must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” Zeid Rifai, then president of the Jordanian senate, told a senior US official: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter.” [The Guardian]

WikiLeaks itself is still under a massive denial-of-service attack.

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology
  • nick

    Wikileaks neeeds to bit-torrent it’s archives. Then no amount of DDoSing will stop that juggernaut.

    It’s kinda sad, in our society we regard lying and liars as bad, and will crucify you in a court of law for doing so (well, depending on how well connected and/or politically important you may be). But when someone exposes our government as liars by reporting on their lying, we call it a breach of national security and seek to punish those responsible. The hypocrisy is stunning.

  • Jon

    It is not a hypocrisy. WikiLeak’s view is that there should be 100% transparency within the US gov’t. The US gov’t’s view is that there are some files that need to be out of site for operational security.
    Take this article for example. King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia said that he supports destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities with “whatever means necessary”. Publicly, Saudi Arabia has not voiced their opinion about Iran’s nuclear programs, and because of these wikileaks, King Abdullah’s opinion was released. What are the adverse effects of this? Will Iran launch a pre-emptive strike against Saudi(not likely, but who knows)?

    These wikileaks have revealed the secret opinions of key leaders in the middle east, in an already high-conflict area, and adding more strife to this area could cost lives. And they may cause U.S. lives as well.

    The U.S. gov’t isn’t being hypocritical, it’s trying to maintain operational security.

  • scribbler

    As I see it, the law says that IF Spain wants to allow this woman to own the sun, they can do so but that this in no way obliges anyone else to respect this action. Also, unless Spain takes an active role, like maybe collecting the woman’s tariff or legislates her law suits for damages, her claim is unrecognized.

    Personally, I believe God Owns the whole Universe but He is VERY generous and lets us use it as we please…

  • guineapigdude

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S government and it’s various allies were behind the attack on wiki leaks, it’s been causing problems for governments for to long.
    @ scribbler, you seem to have commented on the wrong page…

  • s

    Wikkileaks would be more credible if they actually stuck to their mission. they don’t seem to care about the regime governments taking us to the brink of war.

    sorry – try as I may, I just can’t accept anything posted there as factual. there are just too many questions and it is just too 1 sided for me to find them credible.

  • Eliza Strickland

    @ scribbler: Surely you meant to comment on this Bad Astronomy post.

  • Brian Too

    Seems to me like the gov’t. is trying to have it both ways: accusing Wikileaks of being irresponsible, risking lives, engaging in criminal acts and so forth. Then at almost the exact same time, claiming that it’s no big deal, international relations will not be impaired, foreign governments are already aware of the contents of the material, etc.

    I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with Wikileaks methods. On the other hand, there’s a whole lot about the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan that I’m not comfortable about either.


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