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nuclear issues

Here's the full text published on 17 February 2012. It covers Libya, Combined Joint expeditionary force and headquarters, defence equipment and industry, research and technology, nuclear issues, cyber, counter terrorism, security, Iran, Somalia, and Burma 

    

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By Ben West

On the morning of Nov. 29, two Iranian scientists involved in Iran's nuclear development program were attacked. One was killed, and the other was injured. According to Iranian media, the deceased, Dr. Majid Shahriari, was heading the team responsible for developing the technology to design a nuclear reactor core, and Time magazine referred to him as the highest-ranking non-appointed individual working on the project.

Official reports indicate that Shahriari was killed when assailants on motorcycles attached a "sticky bomb" to his vehicle and detonated it seconds later. However, the Time magazine report says that an explosive device concealed inside the car detonated and killed him. Shahriari's driver and wife, both of whom were in the car at the time, were injured.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of town, Dr. Fereidoon Abassi was injured in a sticky-bomb attack reportedly identical to the one officials said killed Shahriari. His wife was accompanying him and was also injured (some reports indicate that a driver was also in the car at the time of the attack). Abassi and his wife are said to be in stable condition. Abassi is perhaps even more closely linked to Iran's nuclear program than Shahriari was, since he was a member of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and was named in a 2007 U.N. resolution that sanctioned high-ranking members of Iran's defense and military agencies believed to be trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

Monday's incidents occurred at a time of uncertainty over how global powers and Iran's neighbors will handle an Iran apparently pursuing nuclear weapons despite its claims of developing only a civilian nuclear program and asserting itself as a regional power in the Middle East. Through economic sanctions that went into effect last year, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany (known as the "P-5+1") have been pressuring Iran to enter negotiations over its nuclear program and outsource the most sensitive aspects the program, such as higher levels of uranium enrichment.

The Nov. 29 attacks came about a week before Saeed Jalili, Iran's national security chief, will be leading a delegation to meet with the P-5+1 from Dec. 6-7 in Vienna, the first such meeting in more than a year. The attacks also came within hours of the WikiLeaks release of classified U.S. State Department cables, which are filled with international concerns about Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Because of the international scrutiny and sanctions on just about any hardware required to develop a nuclear program, Iran has focused on developing domestic technologies that can fill the gaps. This has required a national initiative coordinated by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to build the country's nuclear program from scratch, an endeavor that requires thousands of experts from various fields of the physical sciences as well as the requisite technologies.

And it was the leader of the AEOI, Ali Akhbar Salehi, who told media Nov. 29 that Shahriari was "in charge of one of the great projects" at the agency. Salehi also issued a warning to Iran's enemies "not to play with fire." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elaborated on the warning, accusing "Zionist" and "Western regimes" of being behind the coordinated attacks against Shahriari and Abassi. The desire of the U.N. Security Council (along with Israel and Germany) to stop Iran's nuclear program and the apparent involvement of the targeted scientists in that program has led many Iranian officials to quickly blame the United States, United Kingdom and Israel for the attacks, since those countries have been the loudest in condemning Iran for its nuclear ambitions.

It seems that certain domestic rivals of the Iranian regime would also benefit from these attacks. Any one of numerous Iranian militant groups throughout the country may have been involved in one way or another, perhaps with the assistance of a foreign power. A look at the tactics used in the attacks could shed some light on the perpetrators.

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