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

80beatsBy Andrew MosemanDecember 1, 2010 4:50 AM


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Between 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

. Related Content: 80beats: Internet Intrigue: China Reroutes the Web, Stuxnet Is Even Scarier

80beats: Iran Close to Completing Its First Nuclear Reactor. Should We Worry?

80beats: Super-Sophisticated Computer Virus Apparently Targeted Iran’s Power Plants

80beats: Iran Blocks Gmail; Will Offer Surveillance-Friendly National Email Instead

80beats: Dueling Videos: Is Iranian Nuclear Scientist a Defector or Kidnap Victim?

Image: iStockphoto

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