Tehran holds Israel, U.S. responsible for attacks

Tensions between Iran and the West, already on razor's edge, rose further on Wednesday after a young Iranian nuclear scientist heading for work was assassinated, 48 hours after Tehran declared that its capacity to enrich uranium had recorded a significant advance.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, the 32-year old deputy director for commercial affairs at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was killed when a magnetic bomb planted under his car by an unidentified motorcyclist exploded. Mr. Behdast was also a professor at Tehran's Technical University. The driver died later. The assassination of a scientist at Natanz — one of the two key facilities where uranium enrichment is being carried out — was a deadly riposte to Iran's defiant assertion two days ago that it had, in the teeth of western opposition, managed on its own to enrich uranium to a 20 per cent level. Iran's permanent representative to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh in an interview to Mehr News Agency declared that after its recent success at the Fardo facility near Qom, Iran is now in a position to fabricate fuel plates for a test reactor used for producing nuclear medicine that was required to treat cancer patients.

While Mr. Behdast's assassination was apparently meant to demoralise Iran's nuclear and security establishment, the U.S., Tehran's arch-foe, was working overtime to target Iran's economy, by curbing the critically important oil sales.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was on Wednesday in Beijing for talks with the Chinese leadership seemingly on exhorting their country's dependence on Iranian oil. On Thursday, he will head to Japan, another major importer of Iranian oil.

Tensions between Iran and the western powers, led by the United States, have been spiralling after the U.S. passed a law which targets Iran's global oil exports. In retaliation, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, vital for international oil exports, if the Americans acted on their threat.

Wednesday's assassination also follows the sentencing to death on January 9 of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American of Iranian descent who had been accused of spying.

The Iranian scientist's killing follows a pattern which can be traced to November 2010, when motorcycle borne assassins using magnetic bombs had killed nuclear expert Majid Shariari, and wounded Ferydoun Abbasi.

Mr. Abbasi now head's Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation. Exactly two years ago, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a physics professor, was also assassinated in Tehran.

The Iranian establishment held Israel and the United States responsible for these attacks. Israel was also the prime suspect for Mr. Behdast's assassination, which has stoked outrage in Tehran. “The terrorist action was carried out by the hirelings of the Zionist regime [Israel] and those who claim to be fighting terrorism,” said Mohammad Reza Rahimi, Iran's first Vice-President.

He added that the assassination was a clear expression of state-terrorism, which will be soon exposed after the inescapable arrest of the culprits, Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) reported.

On Wednesday, the French daily Le Figaro, quoting a security source from Baghdad, also reported that agents from the Israeli spy agency Mossad are recruiting and training Iranian dissidents from Iraq's Kurdish region to work against the regime in Tehran.

“Our enemies are seeing that sanctions and pressure are not sufficient, so they are seeking to create an atmosphere that is driven by a need for security,” said Safar-Ali Bratlou, Tehran's Deputy-Governor, according to FNA.

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