Israel is assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists as part of a covert war against the Islamic Republic's illicit weapons program, the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday quoted Western intelligence analysts as saying.
Quoting intelligence experts and an unnamed former CIA agent, the newspaper said Israel's "decapitation" strategy had targeted members of Iran's atomic programme to set back the country's nuclear progress without resorting to war.
The programme has taken on extra emphasis with the election of President Barack Obama, who has adopted a more diplomatic line with Iran, quietening former Bush administration talk of a possible military strike against Iran to hit its nuclear assets.
The British daily said Israel's Mossad espionage agency was rumored to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran's Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported "gas poisoning" in 2007.
Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli "hits", intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the program, according to the analysts.
"Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way they don't realise what's happening," the paper quoted a former CIA operative as saying.
"We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."
Nevertheless, it should be noted that Israel has been carrying out similar covert activities for about a decade, ever since Iran was first suspected of seeking nuclear weapons. The U.S. journalist James Risen has written recently that the CIA and the Mossad have planned together a number of sabotage operations against the Iranian program, including damaging power lines to nuclear sites in order to cause harm to computer systems and equipment.
Asked about the newspaper report, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told Reuters: "It is not our practice to comment publicly about these sorts of allegations, not in this situation, not in any situation."
"In the absence of a diplomatic solution to resolve this problem, and the infeasibility of war for now, this is the best next solution," he said.
However, he said there were also indications that several more countries other than Israel were involved in attempting to infiltrate Iran to disrupt its nuclear programme, and suggested much of the reported clandestine activity was more part of a psychological war than an actual one of sabotage.
"If it's true, then it's putting pressure on the Iranian programme technically. If it's not true, then it's all just part of the psychological conflict.
"Since none of this is confirmed, we can't be sure. But even if there's no truth to it, it's part of what is a massive psychological war against Iran's nuclear programme. That is a certainty. That is clear.
Last Mod: 17 Şubat 2009, 12:34