Rick Gladstone – New York Times January 12, 2012
Iran expressed deepening fury at Israel and the United States on Thursday over the drive-by bombing that killed a nuclear scientist in Tehran the day before, and signaled that its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps might carry out revenge assassinations.
News of the scientist’s killing dominated Iran’s state-run news media, which were filled with vitriolic denunciations both of Israel, seen in Iran as the main suspect in his death, and the United States, where top officials have gone out of their way to issue strongly worded denials of responsibility.
Israeli officials, who regard Iran as their country’s main enemy, have not categorically denied any Israeli role in the killing, which came against a backdrop of growing pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program. Western nations suspect that Iran is working toward building a nuclear weapon, despite Iran’s repeated assertions that its program is peaceful.
Iran’s official government reaction to the scientist’s killing on Wednesday was more restrained, saying that Iran would not be dissuaded from its right to peaceful nuclear energy and demanding that the United Nations Security Council investigate and condemn the attack. The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, said in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the killing was part of a campaign of terrorist acts against Iran committed by “certain foreign quarters,” an oblique reference to Israel and the United States.
A much stronger call for retribution came Thursday from one Iranian newspaper in particular, Kayhan, a mouthpiece for the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and for the Revolutionary Guards.
“We should retaliate against Israel for martyring of our young scientist,” Kayhan’s general director, Hossein Shariatmadari, who was appointed by the ayatollah, said in an editorial. Referring to the Israelis, he wrote, “These corrupted people are easily identifiable and readily within our reach.”
The Kayhan editorial, as translated by Agence France-Presse and other Western news services, also said, “The Islamic republic has gathered much experience in 32 years, thus assassinations of Israeli officials and military members are achievable.”
Another hard-line newspaper, Resalat, said, “The only way to finish with the enemy’s futile actions is retaliation for the assassination of Iran’s scientist.”
Ayatollah Khamenei added his voice to the condemnations from Iran, posting a condolence message on his Web site that accused the American and Israeli intelligence services of orchestrating the “cowardly murder” of the scientist, who is to be buried on Friday. “Punish the perpetrators of these crimes,” he wrote.
The scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. He was killed on his way to work in rush-hour traffic in Tehran on Wednesday morning. Iranian news accounts said that a motorcyclist slapped a magnetized bomb on his car, killing Mr. Roshan and mortally wounding his driver and bodyguard, identified as Reza Qashaqei.
Mr. Roshan was at least the fifth Iranian scientist with nuclear connections to be killed since 2007.
Kayhan’s account of Mr. Roshan’s death quoted his mother, Sediqeh Salari, as saying: “They assassinated my son to remind us how much they hate our guts, to show their hostility. These are Iran’s sworn enemies.”
The scientists’ deaths are part of what current and former American officials and specialists on Iran have called an accelerating covert campaign of assassinations, bombings, defections and digital attacks, which they believe has been carried out mainly by Israel in an effort to subvert Iran’s nuclear program.
Artin Afkhami contributed reporting.