Iran Begins Uranium Enrichment at Qom Tuesday, Enrichment Scientist at Natanz Assassinated Wednesday

Fars News photo of the aftermath of the bomb that killed Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton railed Tuesday against Iran’s beginning of operations at its Qom uranium enrichment facility, which is buried deep within a mountain to protect it from bunker-buster bombs. Less than 24 hours later, the Deputy Director of the Natanz enrichment facility was assassinated when a bomb attached to his car exploded in northern Tehran. Iran is blaming Israel,citing similarities of this attack with two previous attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, attacks in which Iran says the US also was complicit.

Despite the fact that Iran’s new uranium enrichment plant at Qom is designed to enrich uranium to only 20%, well short of the 90%+ that is needed for nuclear weapons, the US response to the start of operations there paints it as a highly provocative act:

“This step once again demonstrates the Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its responsibilities and that the country’s growing isolation is self-inflicted,” Clinton said in a statement.

/snip/

“The circumstances surrounding this latest action are especially troubling,” Clinton said.

“There is no plausible justification for this production. Such enrichment brings Iran a significant step closer to having the capability to produce weapons-grade highly enriched uranium.”

Clinton rejected Iran’s assertion that it needed to enrich uranium to produce fuel for a medical research reactor, saying Western powers had offered alternatives means of obtaining such fuel but their offers had been rejected by Tehran.

Remarkably, Clinton also called for Iran to return to the “P5+1” talks, apparently having missed Iran’s Foreign Minister stating last week that Iran is ready to return to these critical talks aimed at diffusing the tension over Iran’s nuclear technology.

It appears that the US is having a bit of trouble with message management over its actions in relation to Iran. Over at Moon of Alabama, b reports on an embarrassing incident yesterday in which transcription from a “senior administration official” in the Washington Post got a bit too candid and had to be revised. The initial version of the story stated that “The goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse“, but the story has been changed toThe Obama administration sees economic sanctions against Iran as building public discontent that will help compel the government to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program”. Oops!

It will be harder to edit the message inherent in today’s actions in Iran if the US was involved. Less than 24 hours after the announcement of the start of operations at the Qom enrichment facility, a high-ranking scientist at the Natanz enrichment facility was assassinated:

Iran said one of its nuclear scientists was killed on Wednesday by a magnet bomb fixed to his car by a motorcyclist and blamed Israel for the attack, intensifying diplomatic tensions the West over Tehran’s nuclear program.

More details come from Fars:

An Iranian university professor and deputy director at Natanz enrichment facility was killed in a terrorist bomb blast in a Northern Tehran neighborhood on Wednesday morning.

The magnetic bomb which was planted by an unknown motorcyclist under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a professor at Tehran’s technical university, also wounded two other Iranian nationals in Seyed Khandan neighborhood in Northern Tehran.

Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was a graduate of oil industry university and a deputy director of Natanz uranium enrichment facility for commercial affairs.

The Reuters article gives us the dates of previous assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists:

Two daylight bomb attacks on the same day in Tehran in November 2010 killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another. Physics lecturer Masoud Ali Mohammadi was killed in January 2010, when a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded near his car in Tehran.

Recall that the US is known to be carrying out covert actions in Iran:

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror.” He added, “The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray”—between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not—“but now it’s a shade of mush.”

Just as he has been happy to maintain and even extend Bush administration policies on indefinite detention, it appears that President Obama is happy to maintain the mushy state of oversight for actions inside Iran. Isn’t it amazing that in a battle that is often described as being one for hearts and minds, we use secret pieces of paper to make it legal to engage in the very same tactics we claim to be fighting?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
20 replies
  1. nomolos says:

    The truth is that Israel will not be satisfied until it can create a war so that they may sell more arms and kill more ‘non-jews’. Why this country is in the thrall of Israel is beyond common sense or reason.

  2. jdmckay says:

    Well, thing about making stuff up is, after doing it for a while… and then ignoring the consequences by making up more stuff…

    It just takes a bit of practice… “birth pangs of democracy” and such, but in perfecting this craft, it really gets easier. Seems to me I recall someone in W’s admin saying just that, they were “creating our own reality” at the beginning of this GWOT.

    Rather incredible that one little illusion, built upon and nurtured, can metastasize over 1/2 century seemingly w/out interruption, carrying so many people along for the ride.

    Brings to mind a Stephen Wright one liner…

    I think I’m experiencing amnesia and deja-vu at the same time… I’ve forgotten this before.

    Oh well…

    I’ve lived in Albuquerque about 7 years. Generally, in early January, we have daytime temps around 30 degrees. This year, I’m wearing light pants and T-shirts, we’re hitting 50+ degrees. Much wider abnormalities like this across north America… the Dakotas seeing 60+.

    Good to know the purveyors of these same terror myths have “comforted” the masses with “knowledge” that GW’ing is a “hoax.”

    It’s almost like life here in our techno society is one, big, extrapolating KOAN, and nobody knows it yet.

  3. Benjamin Franklin says:

    What about the Stuxnet destroyed centrifuges? Apparently, the Israelis and many of the usual suspects on ME war drums want this war…..badly

  4. PeasantParty says:

    Didn’t Panetta just say about two weeks ago on the public airwaves that Iran DOES NOT HAVE a nuclear weapon? I’m positive he did. I’ll go try to find the link.

  5. Benjamin Franklin says:

    @Jim White:

    Thanks for the link on Duqu. It just seems odd Iran was able to re-constitute the centrifuges so quickly, and Duqu seems a more like an octopus compared to Stuxnet with regard to capabilities. The link (MofA) was interesting because I had no idea ‘Green’ was virtually dead, and the majority of the public seems to think
    weaponry is not the goal. It would be ironic if the regime was telling the truth, which, for credibility testing, is much like Saddam and his WMD’s.

  6. Bill says:

    Even the Israelis don’t think Iran is building a bomb, just acquiring, as Panetta put it, nuclear capability. That was one of the many fascinating tidbits to come out in a recent Israeli simulation:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/israel-iran-bomb/story-e6frg6so-1226241018976

    In their report, the Israeli authors, INSS fellows Yoel Guzansky and Yonatan Lerner, wrote: “Iran is closer than ever to the juncture at which its leaders will need to decide whether to stay in a relatively comfortable position on the verge of nuclear capability or, alternatively, to break through to the bomb. Iran has an interest in postponing the decision whether to cross the threshold to a later stage. Nevertheless, a series of regional and international developments is likely to cause Iran to decide to accelerate its nuclear development and to break through toward nuclear weapons.”

    The authors basically acknowledge Iran doesn’t need a bomb, doesn’t want a bomb, and doesn’t want to be in position where it needs a bomb. Iran will have to be pushed by “regional and international developments” to build one. In the process, they also conclude that Israel can live with an Iranian bomb, and in fact their situation ends with Israel in a substantially stronger position than before Iran has the bomb (their simulation ends with Israel entering NATO, Turkey leaving, Iran isolated, and Russia closer to Europe. The only downside is that Saudi moves toward its own nuclear program, but the US could easy delay or prevent that from going too far).

    I’m surprised no one has picked up the conclusions of this simulation yet.

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone delve into this report yet.

  7. Quanto says:

    My take on the situation is there seems to be two agendas at play and the US is being played like a cheap fiddle. The Israelis don’t want Iran to have nukes because then they might have to negotiate honestly. It’s easy to be the biggest bully in the room with a 800 lb. gorilla on a leash (nukes) and another in your back pocket (US) but level the playing field and Israel might find itself with no ace up its sleeve.

    The other is oil, or better put the price of oil. As long as the sabre rattling keeps going on the price of oil keeps going up, and who’s to benefit the most… Wall Street. If Israel were to attack Iran and Iran mined the Strait of Hormuz to stop the main flow of oil Wall Street stands to make Millions if not Billions, so between AIPAC and Wall Street pulling all the strings and Congress the lapdog for both the situation can only get worse.

  8. rugger9 says:

    So the useful question is: who will profit from such a war? The oil companies have already jacked up gas prices due to the turmoil to add to he already-obscene profits. If the AIPAC chickenhawks are able to put our kids’ lives at stake while they profit from it, directly or indirectly, via the inevitable use of contractors, so much the better in their view. I’m pretty sure Bibi needs this to stay in office as a wag-the-dog scenario, and is assuming that the RW Wurlitzer will pressure Obama into protecting Israel from the consequences of what Bibi wants.

    The Iranians aren’t stupid, they see how hands-off we became once the DPRK and Pakistan had nukes, the precedent has been set.

  9. Benjamin Franklin says:

    @Quanto:

    Oil is most certainly in play. Leverage fear of Iran to extort Saudi’s to keep petrodollars as the only acceptable currency.

  10. Quanto says:

    @Benjamin Franklin:
    To me this is the biggest factor in all of the kabuki going on. With Iran selling oil on its Iran oil bourse in anything but US dollars the world might figure out that the US dollar won’t even make good toilet tissue.

    I would love to be in the room when China tells Geithner to go pound sand over sanctions to Iran.

  11. rugger9 says:

    @Quanto: #15
    Don’t forget the Russians. It’s why a real resolution with teeth will fail, because a UNSC veto from either one of these governments will doom the resolution. In addition the T-bills held by the Chinese used to finance the wars [thanks a lot, Shrub] can be used to leverage our departure.

    It goes back to who will profit. If we’re taken down a couple more pegs, the Chinese and Russians will move in to fill the void.

Comments are closed.