UPDATED: Who Murdered Ali-Mohammadi?
by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles
26 Jan 2010 07:31
Reporting on the assassination, the Islamic Republic News Agency and Fars, the news agency controlled by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), declared that Professor Ali-Mohammadi was both an active nuclear physicist and a supporter of the doctrine of Velayat-e Faghih -- political guardianship of the Iranian people by an Islamic jurist, currently Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- the basis of Iranian theocracy. The news agencies blamed Israel, the United States, and "their internal lackeys" for orchestrating the assassination. However, friends, colleagues, and former and current students of Ali-Mohammadi quickly refuted the basis for those claims, arguing that the professor's views had fundamentally changed and that he was a supporter of the reformists, in particular, the Green Movement.
Professor Ali-Mohammadi's funeral was tightly controlled by state security forces and led by the hardliners. His immediate family was permitted little control over arrangements for the funeral procession. The event was widely criticized, to the point that the pro-Green Muslim Student Association of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Tehran and the school's hardline Basij organization issued a joint statement denouncing the way the funeral was handled.
Since then, many in the conservative and hardline camps have continued to insist that Ali-Mohammadi was murdered by agents of foreign powers. Minister of Intelligence Heidar Moslehi claimed that his office had obtained solid evidence on the perpetrators, but no such information has been disclosed.
Tehran Bureau has obtained new information on the circumstances surrounding the murder of Professor Ali-Mohammadi, as well as his background. This information sheds new light on the possible culprits behind his assassination. The information reveals, in particular, that before changing his political views and becoming a supporter of Iran's reformists and the Green Movement, Ali-Mohammadi, while not a nuclear physicist as claimed by the hardliners, was deeply involved with Iran's nuclear program.
According to an informed source in Tehran who was Professor Ali-Mohammad's friend and classmate, the day before his assassination, his house was searched by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. After his murder, his family was threatened with criminal arrest and prosecution if they made public any information about the search.
The same source in Tehran stated that after the fatal bomb explosion, neither the police, nor IRGC security agents, nor agents of the Ministry of Intelligence were dispatched to the explosion site to collect evidence. Instead, the debris from the explosion was simply swept away -- peculiar in any circumstance, especially so given that the hardliners attribute the assassination to foreign agents.
According to Tehran Bureau's source, Ali-Mohammadi was extensively involved with the Institute for Applied Physics (IAP) at the Iran University of Science and Technology. In 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publicized evidence that the IAP was a military-related institute. It asked Iran to clarify the Institute's procurement activities in relation to the so-called green-salt project, which had provoked much speculation in the West. Green salt, or uranium tetrafluoride, is an intermediate in the conversion of uranium hexafluoride to either uranium oxides or uranium metal.
The IAEA also asked Iran to clarify any possible role that IAP staff had played in testing high explosives and the design of a missile reentry vehicle. Questions were raised about the involvement of one particular IAP scientist in the development of exploding bridge wire and detonators, and procurement for borehole gamma spectrometers. Iran responded that the staff scientist had no involvement in the work related to the exploding bridge wire. In fact, the work and the instruments both have application in the oil industry, particularly in well logging, and are thus of dual use. Another IAP scientist was also under suspicion because in his curriculum vitae he had mentioned his work on the Taylor-Sedov equation. The equation describes the pressure and flow that result when a large amount of energy is released in a very small volume, and may be used to express the evolution of the radius of a nuclear explosion. Iran responded that the scientist had used references that are available in the open scientific literature and that the work was anyway not related to nuclear explosions.
According to the source in Tehran, Professor Ali-Mohammad was for quite some time the head of the IAP, which is now defunct. During his tenure, he worked closely with Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi (also known as Abbasi Davani), a senior science official in Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. Both Abbasi and Ali-Mohammadi were also instructors at Imam Hossein University, run on military brigade lines by the IRGC. Abbasi, 51 years old, has a doctorate degree in physics, and has reportedly been a member of the IRGC since its inception in 1979. On March 24, 2007, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1747, imposing certain sanctions on Iran. In its annex, the Resolution listed Abbasi as one of those specifically sanctioned.
It is clear that, as the head of the IAP, Ali-Mohammadi had been involved in the procurement of dual-use technology. Those activities and his deep connections with Iran's Defense Ministry and the military-run Imam Hossein University constitute solid evidence of his involvement in Iran's nuclear program. Some Internet reports claimed that Ali-Mohammadi planned to spend a year's sabbatical in Sweden. Tehran Bureau's source stated that while it is true that this was Ali-Mohammadi's intention, his visa application had been rejected by Sweden.
There has been much speculation that Ali-Mohammadi might have been murdered by an Israeli agent. This is very unlikely, despite the new evidence that point to his involvement with Iran's nuclear program. If Israel wanted to kill him, it could have done so with much greater ease in Jordan, where it has many well-placed agents. Jordan is home to the Synchrotron Radiation Center for Research and Applied Science in the Middle East, which Ali-Mohammadi had visited in July 2009, just six months before his assassination.
In sum, the new information on Professor Ali-Mohammadi's background and the circumstances surrounding his murder, and the fact that he had turned against the hardliners and had become a strong supporter of the Green Movement, all point in one direction: the likelihood that he was killed by hardliners terrified by the prospect that he might disclose information on Iran's nuclear program.
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