Artin Afkhami – New York Times July 11, 2012
The latest literary sensation in Tehran is a thriller about
Iran’s nuclear program that is laden with espionage, cunning and political murder. But its authors are not former Iranian intelligence operatives or Iranian military fiction writers. They are not the Iranian equivalent of Tom Clancy.
The book, “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars,” has set off a buzz among both government and opposition news media inside Iran for the assertion by its authors — Yossi Melman, widely regarded as a leading Israeli military and intelligence journalist, and Dan Raviv, a CBS national political correspondent — that five Iranian nuclear scientists killed in the past five years were all assassinated by operatives, most likely of Persian Jewish heritage, employed by Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied it is responsible for the assassinations.
Iranian news sources view the book, published Monday in English by Levant Books, a small company in Sea Cliff, N.Y., as an Israeli-written work exposing something the Israeli authorities do not want the world to know.
“Spies Against Armageddon” offers a broad overview of a widely reported Israeli campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, which Israeli authorities contend is a guise for developing nuclear weapons, an accusation the Iranians strenuously deny.
But the book’s assertion that the assassins were all Mossad agents who used agency safe houses maintained inside Iran since the era of the shah is new.
Iran’s state-financed Press TV focused in a Persian-language article on the book’s assertion that a Mossad unit known as Kidon — meaning Tip of the Spear in Hebrew, and responsible for assassinations and kidnapping — sent operatives to Tehran to carry out the assassinations over the past five years.
The Press TV report focused on the operatives’ nationality, pointing out that almost all the assassins employed by Kidon were either Iranian nationals or had dual citizenship. The implication was that they were citizens of Iran and Israel. Most people who hold such citizenship are of Iranian Jewish extraction.
A Web site whose Persian name translates to Soft War, which is dedicated to documenting all forms of “psychological operations and soft war” against Iran, ridicules the book’s assertions as “the biggest joke of the century,” specifically the claim that Mossad operatives are skilled enough to have sneaked inside Iran; placed sophisticated, magnetized bombs on the vehicles of four of the five scientists; managed to flood the house of a fifth with carbon monoxide; and escaped safely to Tel Aviv.
There are no plans to translate the book into Persian, but interest has spread across the political spectrum, as Iranian reformist newspapers have rushed to summarize and translate its contents. Political blogs on both the left and the right have written analyses and commentary.
The authors base their conclusions on reporting of public interviews, statements by Israeli leaders, leaked State Department cables and off-the-record meetings between the authors and Israeli officials.
But they do not cite sources for their assertions about the assassins’ nationalities or religious beliefs, which have gathered the greatest reaction in the Iranian press, or their statement that the assassinations were “blue and white,” meaning carried out by Israeli agents from start to finish.
Mr. Raviv refers to the book’s style as “synthesis,” assertions stated as facts, without citing interviews, quotations or even anonymous sources.
The question of the assassins’ nationalities has been of special interest in Iran, where a suspect in one of the attacks was hanged last month. Officials announced the arrest last month of a group of suspects, describing them as agents of what Iran calls the Zionist regime without identifying their nationalities. Though the book is unlikely to end speculation about who is responsible for the covert assassination campaign against Iran’s nuclear scientists, its assertions correspond with a longstanding assumption among many security experts in Washington’s policy circles.