The killing of the third Iranian scientist thought to be part of Iran’s nuclear program since 2009, in this case Darioush Rezaie, is most likely the work of either the CIA and Mossad. (Another suspicious incident occurred not long ago when a civilian aircraft crashed in Russia killing everyone on board, including several Russian nuclear scientists who worked in Iran for a time.)

While it’s true that U.S. forces recently struck deep into Pakistan to attack bin Laden’s compound, in Rezaie’s case a Western security agency probably used a proxy. Likely candidates are Iranian opposition groups – and terrorists in their own right — the Mujahedin-e Khalk (MEK) or Jundallah.

What’s especially intriguing, though, is how Iran responds to these events. At Reuters, Andrew Hammond reports:

When news of the shooting first came out, semi-official news agency Mehr published information on Rezaie’s background which indicated involvement in Iranian nuclear activities. … But the report was then immediately withdrawn by Mehr and Iran’s intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi … denied Rezaie had any links to the nuclear energy program.

Then when parliament speaker Ali Larijani blamed the United States and Israel in a speech broadcast live on state television Sunday, Moslehi said it was too early to tell. “We have not found any trace of foreign spy services involvement in Rezaie’s assassination case yet,” … Analysts believe that Iran might wish to play down … the incident [as it is] embarrassing for its security agencies and could become an issue in domestic politics.

Afshon Ostovar, an Iran analyst based in Washington, accepts that

“…Rezaie was assassinated because of his relationship to Iran’s nuclear program…” [But after] the initial confusion, Ostovar said he detected “a PR campaign to both downplay the impact of his death on Iran’s nuclear program and to discredit any sense of legitimacy of the assassination.”

How different from the United States, which, if a foreign nation engineered an attack on its soil, would be reeling around as if mortally wounded. Besides figuring out yet more domestic security restrictions, the United States might take the attack as license to finally bomb one, some or all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. A smaller power just tries to save some face, roll with the punches, and soldier on. In Iran’s case, presumably it expects to have the last laugh anyway when it develops nuclear capabilities.

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