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Covert war against Iran's nuclear scientists: a widow remembers


Nov 4, 2012
Iran, Islamic Republic Of
United States
The wife of the first scientist to be assassinated speaks about her husband's growing fear of a net closing around him – and of meeting his Israeli-trained assassin before his execution.

Tehran — There were no signs of trouble the morning of the assassination.

Iranian scientist Masoud Alimohammadi and his wife woke before dawn and prayed together. Then she prepared breakfast while he made a list of things to do that day.

“He was a very precise person and always wanted everything to go smoothly,” Mansoureh Karami recalls about her husband.

That morning Mr. Alimohammadi – a balding man with a thick mustache, close-set eyes, and dozens of published academic papers – said goodbye three times to his wife: when she gave him his packed lunch, as he tightened his shoe laces, and as he got out of his car to close the house's gate behind him.

That's when the explosion came.

A remote-control bomb attached to a motorcycle nearby killed the particle physicist with a lethal spray of metal pellets, giving Iran its first "nuclear martyr" and sending shockwaves through Iran’s scientific and nuclear community.

By the time the fifth nuclear scientist was killed, it was less of a surprise. Those working on Iran's nuclear program had been watching their backs for years.

The covert war waged by the US and Israel against Iran's nuclear program has seen the assassination of five Iranian scientists, malicious computer viruses like Stuxnet, espionage, and unexplained explosions, as well as several apparent attempts by Iran to fight back in kind, with largely unsuccessful operations from India to Georgia to Thailand.

Iran's "nuclear martyrs” have been a rallying point for the country's nuclear program and its “right” to uranium enrichment for years, regardless of the high cost of sanctions. Negotiations in Vienna today seek to curb that program to ensure it can never produce a nuclear weapon – an aim Iran says it rejects.

Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. News reports from Israel indicate that a televised confession by Majid Jamali Fashi, broadcast on Iran state TV in early 2011, was genuine. Speaking from Tehran's Evin prison, the young man described his training – which included working with two new Iranian motorbikes, and a perfect replica of Alimohammadi’s street and house – at a station for Mossad, Israel's spy agency, off the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway east of Ben Gurion Airport.

Mr. Fashi pleaded guilty in court, and was sentenced to death. Before he was executed, however, Karami confronted him face-to-face at Evin prison.

“There were many things passing through my mind, of taking revenge,” Karami told The Christian Science Monitor.

She brought the leather satchel her husband used the morning of his death. Eyes brimming with tears, she unpacked it to show how the metal pellets carved through a bound PhD thesis of one of Alimohammadi’s students and tore through his eyeglasses case, breaking the lenses.

Before the meeting, Karami had vowed that, as many pellets as had entered her husband’s head, she would “hammer that many nails in that person’s head.” But when she met Fashi she found a broken man pleading for forgiveness, sobbing so much that he used up an entire box of tissues.

“When I saw him, I saw him being so powerless and small. I said it’s a waste for my hands to expend all this energy [hammering nails],” recalls Karami. She has two grown children, a degree in psychology, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies.

“I will never forgive him – there is no place for forgiveness. Because I don’t think he only affected my family, but the whole country,” says Karami, focusing her determined dark brown eyes. “All the people of the world – no matter their beliefs – they still respect their country, and he betrayed his country.”

Time magazine in early 2012 quoted “intelligence sources” confirming Fashi’s “involvement in a Mossad cell that the sources claim was revealed to Iran by a third country.”

Fashi said in his confession, “They told me that the subject of the operation is a person involved in making an atomic bomb and that humankind is in danger and you are the savior.”

Fashi said that after the attack, “I was very proud that I have done something important for the world and then suddenly realized that what I believed in was a lie.”

Four more assassinations of scientists connected to Iran’s nuclear program followed, three by magnetized bombs attached to their cars while stuck in traffic by motorcycle-riding assailants.

Iran is widely believed to have attempted to strike back with copycat attacks. A magnetized bomb attached by a motorcyclist to the car of the wife of the Israeli defense attaché in New Delhi wounded her and three others in February 2012. On the same day, a similar bomb was found attached to a car close to the Israeli embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. It was defused.

The killings helped make the nuclear issue one of “national dignity,” says Karami. Portraits of the dead scientists were often shown during press conferences held by Iran’s previous top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and are frequently displayed on national days such as the revolutionary anniversary. They have achieved hero status in Iran, ranking among the most revered martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

“I know a lot of people in my neighborhood who are not pro-revolutionary. But now [after the assassinations], on the nuclear issue they speak completely for the government,” says Karami. “I am certain of our officials, that they will not forget our martyrs.”

Covert war against Iran's nuclear scientists: a widow remembers - CSMonitor.com

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