In what Iran called a “terrorist act,” nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed when an unidentified motorcyclist attached a magnetic explosive to his car Jan. 10. Rosha was a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. He is the third man identified as a nuclear scientist to be killed in Iran in a mysterious explosion in the past two years. A fourth survived an assassination attempt. The survivor, Fereydoon Abbasi, is now the head Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. In a statement quoted by Reuters, the organization said: “America and Israel’s heinous act will not change the course of the Iranian nation.” Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
However, even Tehran’s traditional supporter Russia issued a statement expressing reservations about the uranium enrichment program just launched at the underground Fordow facility near Qom, pointing out that enriching to 20%—although publicly announced to the International Atomic Energy Agency months in advance—is beyond what is needed for civilian purposes. “We hope that Tehran will listen to our opinion about the need for a further close cooperation with the agency and a quick start of serious six-way talks on the Iranian nuclear program without any preconditions,” Moscow’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Tehran is breaking its international commitments and displaying a “blatant disregard for its responsibilities.” She said “there is no plausible justification” to enrich to 20%, and that the step brings Iran closer to nuclear weapons capacity. She denied that the US had any role in the death of Roshan. On New Year’s Eve, President Barack Obama signed into law by far the toughest sanctions yet against Iran, which if fully implemented could make it impossible for most countries to pay for Iranian oil. The EU, which still buys a fifth of Iran’s 2.6 million barrels per day of exports, is considering an embargo. (AP, Reuters, NYT, CNN, Time, Jan. 11)