IRANIAN NUCLEAR SCIENTIST ‘ASSASSINATED BY MOSSAD’
By Sarah Baxter
Sunday Times (London)
February 4, 2007
WASHINGTON -- A prize-winning Iranian nuclear scientist has died in mysterious circumstances, according to Radio Farda, which is funded by the U.S. State Department and broadcasts to Iran.
An intelligence source suggested that Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, a nuclear physicist, had been assassinated by Mossad, the Israeli security service.
Hassanpour worked at a plant in Isfahan where uranium hexafluoride gas is produced. The gas is needed to enrich uranium in another plant at Natanz which has become the focus of concerns that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
According to Radio Farda, Iranian reports of Hassanpour’s death emerged on January 21 after a delay of six days, giving the cause as “gas poisoning.” The Iranian reports did not say how or where Hassanpour was poisoned but his death was said to have been announced at a conference on nuclear safety.
Rheva Bhalla of Stratfor, the US intelligence company, claimed on Friday that Hassanpour had been targeted by Mossad and that there was “very strong intelligence” to suggest that he had been assassinated by the Israelis, who have repeatedly threatened to prevent Iran acquiring the bomb.
Hassanpour won Iran’s leading military research prize in 2004 and was awarded top prize at the Kharazmi international science festival in Iran last year.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to announce next Sunday -- the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution -- that 3,000 centrifuges have been installed at Natanz, enabling Iran to move closer to industrial scale uranium enrichment.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency say that hundreds of technicians and laborers have been “working feverishly” to assemble equipment at the plant.
> ISRAELI COVERT OPERATIONS IN IRAN
February 2, 2007
http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/geopoldairy.php (subscribers only)
French President Jacques Chirac started quite the uproar with his apparent faux pas made public on Thursday in which he downplayed the Iranian nuclear threat. Chirac says he thought he was speaking off the record when, during an interview with the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and Le Nouvel Observateur, he said an Iranian nuclear weapon would not be much of a threat because "Tehran would be razed to the ground" if it ever tried to deploy such a device.
Chirac's comments (which were quickly retracted) directly undermine the West's stance on Iran -- and they do not reflect the official French position, which was summed up Thursday in a statement from the Élysée Palace that read "France, with the international community, cannot accept the prospect of Iran with a nuclear weapon."
There is a possibility that Chirac is following a strategy to reach out to Iran and bring France to the fore in resolving the nuclear controversy. Private discussions within the Iranian ruling Cabinet reveal that Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov's recent visit to Tehran was successful in Russia’s efforts to mediate between the United States and Iran. With Russia already in the spotlight, Chirac could have been signaling to Tehran with an implicit acceptance of an Iranian nuclear program that France, too, is worthy of a seat at the negotiating table.
But despite the commotion, Chirac's statements are not all that far off the mark. It might be tempting to write off the Iranians or North Koreans as "axis of evil" regimes that are just crazy enough to cook off a nuke, but Tehran -- like all rational actors -- knows the implications and the utility of a nuclear program. A nuclear-capable Iran would primarily use its nuclear program, not to turn Israel into a radioactive wasteland, but for deterrent value to safeguard the clerical regime from possible U.S or Israeli intervention. Israel, however, does not care to gamble on the rationality of the Iranian regime, and does not intend to see an Iranian nuclear weapons program come to fruition.
The Israelis, therefore, have their own ways of dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. A pre-emptive Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities is unlikely in the near future for a number of reasons that we have discussed before, including the time Israel still has before Iran reaches a technologically critical stage in its nuclear development, the strategically dispersed nature of Iran's nuclear sites and the tenuous U.S. position in Iraq. An offensive strike on Iran would still leave wide open the issue of a resolution in Iraq, which would further constrain the U.S. military position in the region.
But while the time for overt military action is likely still in the distance, Israeli covert action against Iran appears to be gaining steam.
The death of a high-level Iranian nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hassanpour, was announced by Radio Farda and Iranian state television Jan. 25 -- a week after his death occurred. The Radio Farda report implicitly related the cause for Hassanpour's death to exposure to radioactive rays, though the details were murky. Stratfor sources close to Israeli intelligence have revealed, however, that Hassanpour was in fact a Mossad target.
Hassanpour is believed to have been one of Iran's most prized nuclear scientists. Some reports claim he was named the best scientist in the military field in Iran in 2003, that he directed and founded the center for nuclear electromagnetic studies since 2005, and that he co-founded the Nuclear Technology Center in Isfahan, where Iran's uranium-conversion facilities are located.
Decapitating a hostile nuclear program by taking out key human assets is a tactic that has proven its effectiveness over the years, particularly in the case of Iraq. In the months leading up to the 1981 Israeli airstrike on Iraq's Osirak reactor -- which was believed to be on the verge of producing plutonium for a weapons program -- at least three Iraqi nuclear scientists died under mysterious circumstances.
Yahya al-Meshad, a key figure in Iraq's nuclear program, traveled to Paris in 1980 to test fuel for the reactor; he was soon stabbed to death and was discovered by a hotel maid in his room the next morning. A prostitute who went by the name Marie Express reportedly saw the scientist the night before he died. She was then killed in a hit-and-run accident by an unknown driver who got away. After al-Meshad's death, two more Iraqi scientists were killed separately -- both by poisoning -- and a number of workers at Osirak began receiving threatening letters from a shadowy organization called the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution -- likely a Mossad front to enhance the workers' paranoia and hinder Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions.
Mossad's latest covert assassination campaign falls in line with Israel's psychological warfare strategy to undermine Iran's confidence in pursuing its nuclear agenda. The longer the Iranians are forced to second-guess Israel's intent to launch a pre-emptive strike, the more pliable Iran becomes in negotiating with the United States toward a political agreement on Iraq.
Tehran wants, ideally, to secure a Shiite buffer zone in Iraq while also reaching the point of no return in its nuclear program; but the Iranian regime must move carefully on the nuclear issue to avoid inviting airstrikes on its soil. Israel and the United States are betting for now that Iran's concerns over Iraq will override its pursuit of nuclear power -- which, however, leaves Tehran in a prime position to use the nuclear controversy as a major bargaining tool in extracting concessions from the United States over Iraq. But things do not always go as planned, and Israel appears to be setting the stage for Plan B.
TEHRAN DENIES REPORTS ON IRANIAN SCIENTIST’S ‘ASSASSINATION’ BY ISRAEL’S SECURITY SERVICE
People’s Daily Online
February 5, 2007
Tehran has denied recent reports that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been "assassinated" by Israeli security service Mossad, local Fars news agency reported on Sunday.
Ardeshire Hassanpour, a 44-year-old Iranian nuclear physicist, had been "suffocated by fumes from a faulty gas fire in sleep," Fars quoted an unidentified "informed source" as saying, denying his "assassination" by Mossad as some reports said.
The source added that Hassanpour had been a Shiraz University professor and was in no way connected to Iran's Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) in the country's central city of Isfahan.
British newspaper The Sunday Times reported on Sunday that the prize-winning Iranian nuclear scientist has died in mysterious circumstances and an intelligence source suggested that he had been assassinated by Mossad.
Quoting Radio Farda, which is funded by the U.S. State Department and broadcasts to Iran, the British newspaper said Hassanpour worked at a plant in Isfahan where uranium hexafluoride gas is produced.
The report added that Iran announced his death on Jan. 21 after a delay of six days, giving the cause as "gas poisoning."
Hassanpour won Iran's leading military research prize in 2004 and was awarded top prize at the Kharazmi international science festival in Iran last year.
Rheva Bhalla of Stratfor, the U.S. intelligence company, claimed on Friday that Hassanpour had been targeted by Mossad and that there was "very strong intelligence" to suggest that he had been assassinated by the Israelis.
But in the Fars report, the Iranian source strongly denied the theory, saying that the Israeli intelligence agency "is basically incapable of running operations inside Iran."
"Such reports are released to serve propaganda purposes," he said, adding that "Iran's nuclear scientists are continuing their efforts to master civilian nuclear technology for peaceful purposes."
Earlier on Sunday, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iranian vice president and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, also denied the reports, saying that all the country's "nuclear experts, thank God, are sound and safe."
According to Fars, Aghazadeh said that no such person called Ardeshire Hassanpour had been among his employees.
U.S. WEBSITE: MOSSAD KILLED IRANIAN NUCLEAR PHYSICIST
By Yossi Melman
February 4, 2007
A senior nuclear physicist involved in Iran's nuclear program who died under mysterious circumstances two weeks ago was killed by the Mossad, according to a report released in a U.S. website this weekend.
The website -- Stratfor.com -- features intelligence and security analysis by former U.S. intelligence agents.
Professor Ardashir Hosseinpour, a world authority on electromagnetism, was until recently working on uranium enrichment at the facility in Isfahan, one of the central processing sites in Iran's nuclear program.
The physicist died January 18, but news of his death only emerged six days later in two Iranian media outlets.
A report released this weekend in Stratfor.com stated that the Mossad was behind Hosseinpour's death.
The report said the physicist died from "radioactive poisoning" as part of a Mossad effort to halt the Iranian nuclear program through "secret operations."
The site indicates that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Mossad was involved in the deaths of scientists involved with the Iraqi nuclear program. At least three scientists were killed in those operations.
A website of expatriate Iranian communists said that several other scientists were killed or injured in the operation to kill Hosseinpour at Isfahan, and given treatment at nearby hospitals.
The site says Iranian physicians are trying to determine the circumstances of the deaths, and believe they may have to deal with similar incidents in the future.
News of Hosseinpour's death appeared in the Al-Quds daily, published in Tehran, and in a release by the Iranian Students' News Agency.
Both news items said Hosseinpour died from "poison gas."
Radio Farda -- a Persian-language station operated by the U.S. government -- said several days ago that the scientist died of "smoke inhalation."
The Radio Farda report said Hosseinpour, 45, was considered an expert in the field of electromagnetism and formerly taught in the physics department at Shiraz University. He also published widely in international publications.
Hosseinpour was also recently employed by Isfahan's Malik Ashtar University of Technology. Several departments of that institution have been implicated as being involved in Iran's secret nuclear program, believed to be conducted in parallel with its official, disclosed program.
University Rector Mahdi Najad Nuri, a general in the Revolutionary Guards, was named a month ago on a U.N. Security Council list of people and institutions whose activity should be monitored for alleged contacts with Tehran's nuclear program.
Scientists at the Isfahan facility convert natural uranium powder to a gaseous state for transfer to the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. There the uranium flows into hundreds of centrifuges, where it undergoes a high-speed process of enrichment.