OpinionIran in the World PressDeath of nuclear scientist could lead to crackdown on...

Death of nuclear scientist could lead to crackdown on enemies of state

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ImageThe Times: The killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist on his own doorstep sounds like an incident straight out of a juicy spy novel. Or so the Iranian authorities would have us believe. The truth behind the murder of Masoud Ali-Mohammadi may remain shrouded in mystery. The Times

Commentary: Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

ImageThe killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist on his own doorstep sounds like an incident straight out of a juicy spy novel. Or so the Iranian authorities would have us believe. The truth behind the murder of Masoud Ali-Mohammadi may remain shrouded in mystery.

Who benefits from his death? Not the alleged killers, the CIA or Mossad — unless Dr Ali-Mohammadi was such a high-level nuclear scientist that his death would decapitate the atomic weapons programme that most of the outside world believes Iran is trying to hide.

Experts and intelligence agencies are sceptical that any such individual exists, and if one does, Dr Ali-Mohammadi was an unlikely candidate.

His students have said that he had pledged written support to the opposition and was increasingly critical of the regime, although this did not make him an obvious target for the regime itself.

Others critics are much more outspoken, many of them also based at Tehran University.

Last week Hillary Clinton was said to have held talks at the White House with scholars on Iran to discuss how the United States should respond if Tehran decided to strike a nuclear compromise.

Could Washington accept such a deal without betraying the Green Movement?

Now it looks as though Tehran could be making the link too. In a country where the nuclear programme has become a badge of honour, this assassination is ample excuse for a new crackdown on enemies of the regime and fresh proof, no doubt, of their links with Western backers bent on denying Iran its “nuclear rights”.

Dr Ali-Mohammadi could yet turn out to have been a nuclear genius at the heart of Iran’s illicit weapons programme.

Or he could have been a humble physics professor with inconvenient political views. We may never know.

How Tehran chooses to parlay his violent death may prove more significant.

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