Iran threatens retaliation for assassination of nuclear scientists

Here and Now

Iran is preparing to retaliate against the west after an assassination of one of the country’s nuclear scientists, Iranian media are reporting.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed when the car he was riding in was hit with a car bomb attached to the vehicle by a person on a motorcycle. Iran was quick to blame Israel or the United States, though the U.S. has vehemently denied any involvement. Roshan was a director at the Iran’s nuclear enrichment laboratory.

Thousands gathered at Roshan’s funeral, where chants of death to Israel and death to the United States were common.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States might have an idea of who was behind the attack.

“I’m not sure who was involved. We have some ideas as to who might be involved. But we don’t know exactly who was involved,” Panetta said, according to various media report. He gave no further details.

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Vali Nasr, professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, said the threat is serious.

“The Iranian government is under pressure from its own public to show that foreign powers cannot carry out acts of assassination on its own territory with impunity and at free-will,” Nasr said. “I think Iran would like to send a signal to whoever is doing this not to carry out any further such attacks.”

Any retaliation would probably also take the form of acts of terror, Nasr said. Iran has a history of doing just those sorts of things.

“Today, Iranians announced in one of their newspapers that the attacks would be outside of the region,” he said.

That likely means an attack on either an Israeli or an American target, outside of the Middle East.

Roshan is the fifth nuclear expert to be targeted for assassination in Iran, and the fourth to be carried out successful. Some have suggested, however, that at least a few of those might have been carried out deliberately by Iran to get rid of western sympathizers.

Nasr rejects that.

“Any time you have a bombing like this happen, it’s an embarrassment to the Iranian government,” he said.

Nasr said the current tensions between Iran and the United States are unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Iran will likely dig in its heels, the United States will keep applying pressure and eventually the whole situation will break, Nasr said.

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