Why the Assassination of a Scientist Will Have No Impact on Iran’s Nuclear Program
By Robin Wright
The roadside assassination, last week, of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was an elaborate intelligence operation that played out like a blockbuster thriller, according to unusually candid accounts by the Iranian media. Fakhrizadeh, who was around sixty and had a graying beard, and also a bit of a paunch, has often been compared to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of America’s atomic bomb, and A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Fakhrizadeh had enough secrets in his head that he was followed around by a team of bodyguards; he also held the title of brigadier general.
The attack provoked fury in Iran, breathless headlines around the world, and a lot of speculation about retaliation, which could, in turn, spark a mini-war. No one claimed responsibility. But the hit, which required detailed intelligence about a secretive official’s weekend plans, his timing, and his route, mirrored four previous assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Carried out between 2010 and 2012, the previous operations were widely associated with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
The glaring irony of the sensational operation is that it will probably have a negligible impact on Iran’s nuclear program.