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UPDATED: Who Murdered Ali-Mohammadi?

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

26 Jan 2010 07:3140 Comments
Masoud-Alimohammadi.gif [ analysis ] On January 12, 2010, Dr. Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, a professor of physics at the Faculty of Science at the University of Tehran, was assassinated in front of his home in the north Tehran neighborhood of Ghaytarieh. A bomb reportedly concealed in a motorcycle parked next to his car was detonated by remote control.

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.

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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40 Comments

Unless you can provide some information about your alleged sources, there is little credibility that a scientist whose area is theoretical quantum physics is anything but remotely connected to a nuclear power program. Quantum physics and nuclear physics are disciplines different enough to be from different universes.

Chuck Hamilton / January 26, 2010 5:39 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,


I wouldn't put any atrocity past the hardliners, and your arguments for why the regime would wish to pacify him are persuasive.


What puzzles me is the manner of the killing and your revelation that his house was searched by govt. agents the previous day, possibly just a handful of hours before the bomb detonated.


The use of remote bombs in parked vehicles is the modus operandi of Mossad, a sophisticated form of terror suitable for eliminating individuals to which direct access is difficult.


Technically, it is fraught with risk of malfunction. A single failed attempt may put the target on guard, making him more difficult to isolate and hit later.


True, in Jordan he was in better reach of the Israelis, but Mossad has had a gentlemen's agreement with the Hashemites not to conduct terror activities on their soil since 1997, when several Israeli agents were captured by Jordanian security after a failed bid to assassinate Khalid Mishaal.


If Dr. Ali-Mohammadi's house had been searched the day before, isn't it possible that MOI suspected him of having gone beyond dissidence, and having actually turned into an asset for foreign intelligence?


And if so, wouldn't his movements and contacts have been under vigilant MOI surveillance both before and after the search took place?


What if the foreign agency was alarmed by news of the search and worried that the compromised asset could expose sources and methods under questioning? Given the intense MOI surveillance, how could the foreign agency silence him quickly without risking its local operatives?


If the regime was the culprit, couldn't it have killed him in a variety of less spectacular ways (car accident, salad poisoning, heart failure, ...) that would have been just as effective in instilling fear in his Green colleagues?


After all, a huge bomb blast in Tehran targeting a prominent member of Iran's scientific community, even if pinned on foreigners, must be embarrassing to Iran's security establishment and calls their competence into question among friend and foe alike.


If the regime carried out the bombing in order to terrify the Greens and stop a potential leak of sensitive nuclear data, wouldn't it have concluded the high drama by arranging for an unfortunate MEK soul to make a televised confession on state TV a few days later describing how he had carried out the assassination under orders from spy agencies abroad?


I don't mean to impugn the character or patriotism of Dr. Ali-Mohammadi, and in all likelihood, the hardliners are indeed responsible for his murder.


I have made the arguments above simply to demonstrate how the picture is murky, and some of the events you describe could be analyzed in a radically different way by filling in the voids in our information with a fresh set of assumptions.


Perhaps, even, the bombing stems from arcane struggles inside the hyrda-headed Iranian intelligence community, an attempt by one intelligence outfit to undermine another, using a dissident scientist as a pawn in its struggle.


At any rate, an Iranian citizen has been murdered barbarically in the prime of his life. I cannot even imagine the anguish his family are bearing at this moment. Those responsible, whether Iranians or foreigners, must be identified and the blood debt settled.

Ali from Tehran / January 26, 2010 7:56 PM

The nuclear program in Iran is just an imagination done at laboratory scales, future will reveal that present centrifuges at Natanz and other places were not made by Iranian scientists and Engineers. Applied science in Iran is like a cartoon.

but the probability that Dr. Ali mohammadi assassination carried out by hardliners is so high.

HD / January 26, 2010 11:03 PM

Information connecting Dr. Ali-Mohammadi to procuring dual-use technology for use in Iran’s nuclear program is intriguing, especially considering his open alliance with the Green Movement.

Intelligence reports connecting the Qods arm of the IRGC with remote bomb attacks in Iraq should not be dismissed. This sort of attack shows clear signs of that calling card. Also the fact that the bomb was on a motorcycle – the vehicle of choice for the Basiji – should also be taken into account.

This does not mean that the IRGC is clearly to blame, but the facts are compelling enough to implicate their involvement. Would the IRGC benefit from eliminating a possible defector who has such close ties to the nuclear program? A strong argument can be made to support such a claim.

As this story continues to develop, three significant signals are coming out of Iran. First the government is ratcheting up its regime change rhetoric towards the U.S. and Israel. Second the conciliatory statements earlier this week from Rafsanjani and Karroubi have the appearance of a coordinated effort. And third, the regime is making clear statements regarding its stance on media influence within Iran.

Combined the regime looks to be signaling what will be tolerated under its rule, redefining the political landscape.

Thor Neureiter / January 26, 2010 11:10 PM

Chuck:

First of all, there is no "alleged" source, but a real one.

Secondly, demanding that the identity of the source be revealed in a country like Iran is tantamount to giving him a death sentence. I said as much about the source as I could. "A very reliable source." That is all I can say. I sat on the information for over a week to double check it.

You also did not read the piece carefully, and appear to have a pre-conceived notion. In addition, with all due respect, you do not know much about Iran. Professor Ali-Mohammadi was involved in Iran's nuclear program, but not as someone who would contribute to the science part (as that part is well-understood), but as someone who was involved in procurement of dual technology.

Dear Ali:

I agree with you that the situation is murky, which was one reason that I wrote the update, with the hope that it would help to clarify the situation. I have always believed that Israel's role cannot be completely ruled out, but it appears to be unlikely that Israel did it.

As I mentioned in my original piece, the manner by which he was murdered was unusual. But, that could be a divisionary tactic.

Your point about Israel-Jordan agreement is well taken. I am aware of that and it occured to me while I was writing the piece, but does that include non-Arab or non-Jordanian and Palestinians? I simply do not know. Plus, Jordan, an ally of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, is no friend of Iran.

Yes, if he was not murdered by the hardliners, this should be embarrassing to them, but is there anything that actually embarrass these people?

The possibility that he was murdered by rogue elements within the security/intelligence apparatus cannot be ruled out. But, the bottom line, just like the Chain Murders, is that, if that was the case, he was still murdered by (part of) the same establishment.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 26, 2010 11:26 PM

It is obvious the america, israel or the uk is responsible for this murder.

Radical Guy / January 26, 2010 11:42 PM

This looks like one of those murders around which many theories will be weaved but the real truth will probably not be known as whoever has done it will take great pains to conceal it. I think the starting point should be to allow the official investigation to be completed first before coming to any judgement. Unless Iran has also like Britain adopted the 70yr rule of non-disclosure of information relating to the death of the British scientist, David Kelly, after he leaked the false nuclear dossier on the basis of which Tony Blair involved in the illegal war against Iraq going against the wishes of the majority of the British people.

rezvan / January 27, 2010 1:16 AM

I read the piece carefully. Apparently you know little or nothing about physics or you would know very little being an expert in particle physics would qualify Ali-Mohammedi to be involved in a nuclear program. They are completely different fields. Given the number of denials to the contrary by people who knew him, students, colleagues at Tehran University, etc., I question the veracity and/or reliability of your source. Furthermore, why do you not deal with the photos that turned up on the day of the assassination of Abu Nasser of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the immediate vicintiy shortly after the blast? Are you unaware of them, have they been debunked, or did you not mention it for some toher reason?

Chuck Hamilton / January 27, 2010 2:44 AM

Who killed Ali-Mohammadi?
The same people who have murdered Iranians since 1979. What else is new?

What are we to do?

February 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, is shaping up to become a significant, and possibly defining, moment in the Iranian opposition's struggle against the regime a struggle that has ebbed and flowed, but never been crushed, since last June's elections saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reelected in a bitterly disputed vote.

Opposition Web sites are encouraging supporters to come out onto the streets en masse to mark the anniversary by challenging the authorities except those who support the regime, seeking to echo the events of 1979 by urging Iranians to "rise up" and asserting that "victory is near." The Islamic Republic belongs in the garbage of history.

Niloofar / January 27, 2010 2:53 AM

Basically, the story that Ali-Mohammedi was a nuclear scientist was quickly debunked, so now the story the regime is passing around, and more quietly, is that he was involved instead in the procurement end. Theoretical quantum physicists do not do "procurement", they do theory. Either your "source" is a Tehran government asset or was fed that information by one. Either way he/she has already been compromised.

Chuck Hamilton / January 27, 2010 3:53 AM

Interesting how the theory has now shifted from the assassinated scientist not being related to the nuclear program (as the regime had plainly stated, therefore, according to the opposition, the regime did it), to him now being nuclear related and that's exactly why he was allegedly "bumped off" by the regime.

What next?

And why hasn't the the "Tondar commando" group here in the US been, at the very least, called in for questioning for its alleged role in international terrorism? Or have I missed something here? (A hacked website is easily proven.)

Muhammad, do you have any sources experienced with Imam Hossein University? How do you mean "run on military brigade lines"? I've seen this description provided by MEK and its supporters. Do the students and faculty wear military uniforms? Are they provided ranks and medals? I've seen no evidence of this. If you have, please direct me.

Pirouz / January 27, 2010 8:47 AM

I think a good theory came a few weeks ago from Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com who believes the Israelis carried out the assassination in order to sabotage the Green movement.

Karl / January 27, 2010 11:31 AM


Dear Ali,

Great analysis! So Israelis could have done it so he won't fall under hands of Iranian intelligence and be forced to reveal harmful information under torture. But this theory makes a big assumption and that is that he was an asset for Mosad or like. Considering that he applied for a Visa for Sweden and was rejected and also the fact that he join the Green movement makes that a remote possibility. Would he been working for foreign intelligence, one would not expect some drastic actions but a quite continuation of his usual role within nuclear program or IRGC circles.

Kia / January 27, 2010 12:47 PM

Chuck Hamilton,

it seems like you are misunderstanding what Prof. Sahimi is saying. He is not saying that Prof. Alimohammadi was a nuclear physicist, you should read the first article about this: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/01/who-murdered-prof-ali-mohammadi.html

But yes you are right Prof. Alimohammadi was a high energy physicist and as I have explained in earlier comments, he could not contribute with anything scientifically that was important enough to get him killed (could easily be replaced by others). Mosad/CIA could target many other people of greater importance.

If you think Prof. Sahimi is saying something else, them read this peace once more. This (second) article is based on newer information and it is claimed that Prof. Alimohammadi was involved in the nuclear project. BUT not as a nuclear physicist!

Heidar / January 27, 2010 5:40 PM

@Chuck Hamilton

A minor point:
You are accusing Prof. Sahimi of knowing nothing about physics, but you are yourself saying: "Quantum physics and nuclear physics are disciplines different enough to be from different universes".

Well let me clear up this point as it keeps showing up in the press and may annoy other (theoretical) physicists too.

Quantum physics is a HUGE field in physics concerning everything where quantum effects are of importance. Nuclear physics is (largely) a sub-discipline of quantum physics. Actually it was quantum physics (among other things) which made an understanding of the atomic nucleus and the atomic bomb possible.

What you are saying is like saying "Apples and Fruits are different enough to be from different universes". In other words, totally meaningless.

Nonetheless, you are right about he worked with disciplines useless for practical nuclear physics. (I shall skip a detailed account of what he was doing, since it will only bore you. But feel free to ask.)

Heidar / January 27, 2010 5:56 PM

Chuck:

You repeat the same line without paying attention to what the article said.

First of all, google search my name for my scientific work. You will find that out of about 300 published papers at least half have been published in physics journals, and the most prestigious ones for that matter, including Physical Review Letters and Physical Review. I am not a particle physicist, but I know physics allright!

Secondly, you still do not get it. He was the HEAD of IAP and as such, according to the source, was involved in procurement of instrunments with dual technology.

Major General Hassan Firoozabadi, Iran's chief of staff of the armed forces, is a MEDICAL DOCTOR. So, would you say that, "doctors do not lobby for a larger budget for the army," or, "doctors do not plan for war or defense of a country", or, "doctors do not get involved in ordering more weapons"?

As for the photos of Abu Nasser: Yes, I am aware of them. Either he had a hand in it, or he did not. If he did, he did it on behalf of the hardliners. If he did not, then, what would be the point of mentioning him? I am not trying to pinpoint exactly WHO pulled the trigger to make the bomb go off.

Karl:

I read Raimondo's piece when it was published. I highly respect him. He thinks Israel did it. As I have said all along, while the possibility of Israel being involved cannot be completely ruled out, AT THIS POINT BASED ON ALL THE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE, I find the probability being very small.

Pirouz:

First of all, analysis of any problem is not written on stone that cannot be changed. In my original piece I said that he was not a nuclear physicist, but had been involved in several projects with the IRGC. The present piece provides further details. No contradictions, at least on my part.

Secondly, Imam Hossein University is run by the IRGC like a military organization with the same type of watchful eyes. Its graduate work for the IRGC, the regular army, and the intelligence. That is what I meant.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 27, 2010 7:37 PM


I suppose the post by Pirouz caught my attention. I feel somewhat sympathetic to what he says.

It almost feels like every group with a viewpoint is trying to use what is known, or "sourced", about this murder to fit some narrative. I know someone will say, but I also said that so and so and so is a possibility -- I guess in that case I would say that the narrative is: some turn out to be the more likely murderers. Okay!

Facts are: We don't know! No Evidence! Lots of bad actors - individuals, organizations, and whole countries! Lots of motives!

Possibilities abound!

This update is a small thread with a viewpoint based on a source. Thanks for sharing it with us.

jay / January 27, 2010 7:58 PM

Prosecutor General of the city of Khoy in Western Azerbaijan was assassinated 6 days ago, 2 days after 4 suspects have been identified and taken into custedy.
3 Days later the actual assassin (with a grain of salt of course) has been identified and arrested awaiting trial (?).
We didn't see such a hasten investigation after the Dr. Ali Mohammadi getting brutally killed, instead I remember watching a clip in which cleaning crew sweeping the "crime scene" 2 hours after the Body was removed and so far no announcement of who is in charge of investigation (if any) and/or what the progress is.

If he was killed by US/Israeli agents or any other enemy of regime, then what happened to live televised funeral process? Why did regime took his body away from his family for 2 days and why the funeral was not public and under strict control by security forces who let only family members and very close friends to participate.

IMHO it is not difficult to speculate who really murdered late Dr Ali Mohammadi.

Aryajet / January 28, 2010 12:16 AM

The kind of particle physics Dr. Mohammidi's students reported him as being in are highly theoretical and not at tall geared toward any form of application in any foreseeable future (expcept for things like particle colliders). What happened is this: Dr. Mohammidi was assassinated by a vehicle bomb much like those used by the Lebanese Hezbollah and Abu Nasser was photographed, by Fars no less, at the scene. Initially, the regime was screaming about the assassination of their "nuclear scientist". That claim got rather thoroughly and completely debunked. Two weeks later they issue this story that no, wait, that was wrong, he was the head of the procurement program. Theoretical particle physicists do not do "procurement"; that's the job of MBA's, or their equivalent, and quartermasters. His being in that position is simply not credible.

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 2:21 AM

@Heidar: Particle physics deals with electrons, quarks, photons, muons, leptons, bosons, etc., at the subatomic level, all of which are extremely smaller than which protons and neutrons at the atomic level with which nuclear physics deals. Particle physicists are still trying to learn the behavior of the various particles, partly through projects such as the supercollider. The fields are vastly different even if they superficially overlaps in a very few areas.

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 3:31 AM

Chuck Hamilton makes things up as he goes!! The arrogance that he demonstrates in repeating one and only one line - namely, that Hezbollah did it - regardless of what anyone else says also indicates a special agenda!

First, he asked me to give away the identity of the source - which goes to show how much he knows about Iran. Then, he claimed that particle physicists do not procure things. After I replied that as the head of the IAP he was involved, and that others in Iran with other specialities do things unrelated to what they were educated about, he comes back with his worn out argument.

Then he begins making things up: No, unlike what he claims, the government has never said that Profesor Ali-Mohammadi was the head of the IAP, even though the record is there. No, unlike what he says, the government has never backed down from the claim that he was a nuclear physicist.

Chuck Hamilton reminds of another man in another website whose "speciality" is repeating a certain line, by being oblivious to facts, reasons, evidence, etc. Both (who are most likely the same one) do this because they both have a certain agenda that want to advance.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 28, 2010 3:55 AM

You are the only person in two weeks to claim Dr. Alimohammadi had anything to do with Iran's nuclear program since even the regime press dropped that line after being confronted by his students, all his colleagues, and even Iran's nuclear agency itself has denied that Alimohammadi had anything to do with the program in Iran. YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON making that claim now, solely only the basis of alleged information from an invisible person supposedly in Iran. What you claim is unverifiable and therefore not credible. It puzzles me why you would make such a claim in the face of denial by persons who knew him and the scientists of Iran's nuclear agency except to make it look as if a foreign entity may have been behind the assassination rather than the Tehran government. Is the reason for your attempted deflection the fact that you hold the National Iran Oil Company chair at USC? Is that why you initially attacked the Ashura protestors who defended themselves? Whose interests do you really speak for?

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 4:43 AM

@Chuck Hamilton
I know very well what Particle physics is (actually Prof. Alimohammadi was specialized in topics even more theoretical and fundamental than the ones you are mentioning). My second comment was about your distinction nuclear physics vs. quantum physics, which is nonsense.

I think you should spend more time on understanding what people are saying to you, instead of just repeating the same lines.

Heidar / January 28, 2010 4:46 AM

After all, George W. Bush once had a secret friend who told him Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program and WMD's.

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 4:47 AM

The visit to Alimohammadi's home has also been reported by the rah-e sabz (Green Path) website in Persian, http://www.rahesabz.net/story/8637/ , which claims further that all of Alimohammadi's documents were seized during the search and that he had resigned from all his collaborations with nuclear centers 2 weeks prior to that. What are the odds that he would have been the subject of search & seizure by the security police the day before his assassination by the Mossad?!

That Alimohammadi may have been involved in nuclear procurement was also suggested (although with no specifics) by this Israeli analyst shortly after the assassination: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142310.html The analyst claims that Iran's chemistry & physics dep'ts have bought and housed nuclear-related equipment and their scientists have consulted Iran's nuclear effort. But he concludes that it's most likely the work of Israel.

Whoever had the wherewithal to place the bomb and monitor it and the Professor's movements could have easily killed him with less "explosive" means, e.g. silenced bullet (from a distance or close by) or a lethal injection while passing by. They must have deliberately chosen this method to enhance its terror and violence factor.

As far as comments regarding his specialty of theoretical particle physics and his relation to military/nuclear efforts, its true that all his public publications have no nuclear or indeed any other practical military or industrial applications. However, this doesn't rule out his technical involvement with the nuclear or other military work even beyond procurement, as Chuck Hamilton claims. Theoretical particle physicists are the most mathematically and analytically trained scientists you could find. Overwhelming majority of the small number of scientists that get PhDs in that field cannot get research positions in their field as such positions are extremely rare and competitive (particle physics is not a burgeoning field like biology). However, b/c of their extensive mathematical/analytical training they end up with decent technical jobs in areas for which they've had no specific training. E.g. in the 90s and early 00s a large number of particle theorists ended up on Wall Street w/ lucrative jobs doing financial modeling (partially responsible for the followup financial meltdown). Many have gone to computational modeling in areas of biology. And some to software design for various applications. Almost none of them had any training in economics, finance or biology, or got extra degrees in those fields. It is not far-fetched that Alimohammadi may have in fact helped and had knowledge of Iran's nuclear or other military efforts in a technical way b/c of his general expertise in physics and mathematical analysis.

maghshoosh / January 28, 2010 5:01 AM

Chuck:

Tehran Bureau is not Iranian.com. If you do not stop your baseless personal attack (that I respond to below), none of your comments, regardless of the name under which you post, will be posted. Freedom of expression does not include baseless personal attacks and defamation, and you are getting very close to demation.

1. Any reader can easily check to see that I never attacked the Ashura demonstrators for defending themselves. What I said, and I stand by it and know that it is supported by many, is that there is a difference between legitimate self-defense and using violence as a legitimate tactic to confront the hardliners. The former is fine, the latter in my opinion is not. So, your fabrication does not stand up to even the most superficial scrutiny. The article can easily be checked.

2. I am not the only one who says that Professor Ali-Mohammadi was involved in Iran's nuclear program. Many have. But, those who say that he was not involved can only point to his research, and that is the part that people like you don't get, or pretend to not getting it, or ignore it because they have an agenda.

The nuclear science part of Iran's nuclear program was understood in the 1930s and 1940s. Nuclear physicists do not contribute to a nuclear program of the type that exists in Iran, neither in Iran nor anywhere else. The important part is the design of centrifuges for enrichment, materials for making them, and if there is a weapon aspect, designing the warhead, etc. These are all done by engineers and materials scientists.

But, all the designs and related work require sophisticated instruments. It is here that a person like Professor Ali-Mohammadi may have contributed as the head of the IAP, by approving all the procurement, obtaining budget for them, and providing a cover (the IAP) for the purchases. That he was at IAP is a matter of record and indisputable. That he had close relations with Fereydoon Abbasi is indisputable.

3. The goal of the piece is to shed light on what may have happened. Not only am I not defending the hardliners, but say explicitly that the new disclosure further points to them. So, your personal attack is uncalled for.

4. You have an agenda: Implicating Hezbollah. But, either Hezbollah was involved or was not. If the former, it did it on bahalf of the hardliners. If the latter, the issue is moot.

5. I do not owe you or anybody else for that matter any explanation regarding your insulting innuendoe about the NIOC Chair. But, just to demonstrate your ignorance and your baseless personal attack:

In 1973 the Shah gave USC $7 million to establish an endowed Chair in petroleum engineering. It was called the Shah Chair until the 1979 Revolution. Afterwards, USC did not want to be associated with the Shah and his name. So, it renamed the endowed Chair the NIOC Chair. But, neither USC nor I have any relation with the NIOC. And, NIOC has nothing to do with the endowed Chair at USC. It is just a name.

An endowed Chair is given to the best faculty of any major research university. 1-2%, at most, of the faculty is appointed to an endowed Chair. I was appointed to it (but had no control or influence on the appointment) after a university committee unanimously recommended me, based on my well-known contributions to the science of porous media, oil and gas reservoirs, and the downstream of the pet. industry.

So, once again, your innuendo is uncalled for.

6. Your reference to Bush and Saddam is just to create distraction and give yourself an appearance of being objective. There is no relation between Bush and Saddam and the subject of this piece. No one is fooled by it.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 28, 2010 7:02 AM

HD,

Please do not comment any more. You have insulted the quality of Iran's scientific achievements with no proof.

Ashoora / January 28, 2010 7:22 AM

Dear Maghshoosh,


Reference to your post above, in which you state:


"Whoever had the wherewithal to place the bomb and monitor it and the Professor's movements could have easily killed him with less 'explosive' means, e.g. silenced bullet (from a distance or close by) or a lethal injection while passing by. They must have deliberately chosen this method to enhance its terror and violence factor."


Not necessarily. It depends on who did it, and why.


If Dr. Ali-Mohammadi was under surveillance by agency 1, and agency 2 wanted him dead, using the hands-on methods you suggest would be riskier and more difficult for the assassin, not easier.


Remote bombs placed in public places along the target's foreseen route are the staple method of hitting persons who are hard to access in hostile security environments, not those who can be approached by operatives wielding silenced firearms or toxins without fear of consequence.


You ask: "What are the odds that he would have been the subject of search & seizure by the security police the day before his assassination by the Mossad?!"


In the unlikely scenario that he had become an asset of foreign intelligence, his handlers would have felt a pressing impulse to terminate him immediately after learning of the house search.


Assume, just for the sake of argument, that my scenario is correct. Given the certainty that he would have been under keen surveillance by domestic security following the search, what other means of killing him quickly could the foreign agency have opted for, without risking the detection and capture of their assassin?

Ali from Tehran / January 28, 2010 7:51 AM

One bit of speculation ... If the reports of the security police search & seizure the day before the assassination are accurate, it's hard to consider anyone outside the establishment as the culprit. However, the unnecessarily violent & terroristic nature of the act (using explosives) makes it suspicious that it was just vindictiveness for his association w/ the Greens. The violence and the seizure of documents suggests that he may have aroused suspicion of betraying national security or serious embarrassment to the regime, although one cannot discount overly-violent rogue elements.

Recall Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician, who in the 70s & 80s collected secret information about Israel's nuclear bomb efforts and publicized it through a western journal. His motivation was not to endanger Israel's security per se, but to prevent an eventual nuclear Armageddon in the Middle East. The Israeli gov't showed vindictiveness in including 11 years of solitary confinement in his jail term. Could the regime have suspected Alimohammadi of becoming the Iranian Vanunu?

maghshoosh / January 28, 2010 7:58 AM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,


Chuck's quirky comment about Bush having a secret friend who told him about Saddam's WMD may be an innocent Freudian slip.


After all, we all know who that secret friend was, the same friend who would be most pleased if Dr. Ali-Mohammadi's murder could be pinned on Hezbollah.

Ali from Tehran / January 28, 2010 8:35 AM

Professor Sahimi,

Do not make personal attacks and baseless accusations against me such as those at the time 3:55 AM and I will not respond in kind.

Had you stated something like "that according to your personal sources" rather than stating what you did as established fact, I would not have argued with you and would even have given what you said serious consideration. However, without corroboration of some kind, what you say your source tells you does not have much weight given the reports of Dr. Alimohammadi's close associates (students, colleagues at Tehran Uni, former classmates, friends, the nuclear agency itself) I mentioned above.

Surely as a scientist you understand the need for a statement to be able to be verified before it is accepted as fact. I would think this would be glaringly obvious in the aftermath of the uproar the past couple of days over Fars News' twisting and misquotation of Mehdi Karroubi by people who failed to verify before they vilified.

My apologies about the remarks about your chair. But let me quote you: "Chuck Hamilton reminds of another man in another website whose "speciality" is repeating a certain line, by being oblivious to facts, reasons, evidence, etc. Both (who are most likely the same one) do this because they both have a certain agenda that want to advance." Your innuendo was uncalled for as well.

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 8:43 AM

Dear Ali from Tehran,

As I'm from the old school of political liquidations, where after extensive zen training select agents learn to stare their victims to death thereby giving it the appearance of a traceless natural demise, I cannot comment meaningfully on the logistics of modern high tech modes of assassination. The scenarios you paint of various modes of assassination are as plausible to me as any other. So maybe I used the word "certainly" too callously.

But I was just thinking that if you were to attach explosives to a motorcycle, that according to a previous Sahimi article may have been parked there for a couple of days, you have to worry about occasional disturbances of it. A motorbike is rather exposed and any extra appendage to it may be seen even by the untrained eye. What if a kid comes by and wants to sit on it and play around? Or someone moving a load or a car passing by accidentally bumps against it? And a zillion other such possibilities? And then you have to time the explosion to when the victim is w/in striking distance or wait & watch the bike until the next time he comes by. With a gun, sniper rifle or dart many of these concerns seem to be removed. But these are all idle speculation, as experts in such deadly arts, of which you may be one, may have techniques or skills unknown to n00bs like me.

However, if the search of his house by gov't agents can be taken as indication of increased surveillance, then any assassination attempt becomes riskier for a foreign agent. In any case, I made a speculation earlier that should show up by the time you see this post, that the over-violent use of explosives may suggest that something about him was vexing someone in the establishment more than just his Green sympathies.

maghshoosh / January 28, 2010 9:22 AM

Dear Ashoora:

I have seen many research centers in Iran that they claim they do research such as IPM, where Pro. Ali Mohammadi was a resident researcher. I have involved in some project also. there are many scientists at Iran with a high talent and novel Idea but they don't have means to succeed and government do not support them.

HD / January 28, 2010 3:42 PM

Chuck:

The reason we got into this is, in my opinion, that you do not respond to what I say, but only repeat your line. That is not the way to argue. You also stated that I attacked the Ashura demonstrators for defending themselves. I never said anything that could even be interpreted that way.

Thus, in my view, it was you who made this personal, not me. You attacked my integrity, my truthfulness, etc. I stand by what I have said, because the source is a person that, on the one hand I have known for years and have had extensive research collaboration with and a deep friendship, and on the other hand had accurate information that was corroborated by two other sources, both again friends of many years. In the first piece that I wrote, I already said that Professor Ali-Mohammadi had been involved with several projects with the IRI.

Rahesabz, the site of the Green Movement, has confirmed Professor Ali-Mohammadi's involvement with the nuclear project, as well as his home
being raided by security agents the day before his assassination. As one of the commentators pointed out, the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz has also published about it.

Secondly, you demand that I reveal the identity of the sources. I cannot do that in a country like Iran. After reading the article, one of the
sources was already very concerned (the editor can confirm this) that his identity and those of others will be revealed and create severe problems
for them. We are talking about a political system that, in order to survive, has no mercy on anyone, including those who helped to establish the system in the first place.

I am a scientist, and in science we learn that we state everything based on solid facts, reasoning, etc. I write articles based on this principle.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 28, 2010 7:46 PM

I was not asking for names regarding your sources, though assuming that from the way I worded my question.

Rahesabz claims were made before his involvement was denied by his colleagues at the university, his students, former classmates, and Iran's nuclear agency (which made its denial in the face of claims to the contrary by the regime allied media).

I made my remarks about your Ashura statement after you had made your personally insulting remarks to me. As I recall, when you wrote that article I was not the only that objected to words that seemed to condemn the protestors who used violence to defend themselves. In fact, others used much stronger language than me and continued to do so even after you explained what you meant.

If what you said in your article above was something you knew personally from your own experience, that I could accept. You are reliable and credible. However, I know nothing about the source for the information in this article, which is its sole source.

Chuck Hamilton / January 28, 2010 10:22 PM

Chuck:

I do not wish to drag this on, because in my view it is not appropriate to turn this forum into a personal debate.

No, Rahesabz continues to say the same thing. I read it several times a day, and am friend of a leading figure behind it. I know that is their
position.

No, others did not accuse me of attacking those who had defended themselves on Ashura day. They criticized me for saying that violence is not a legitimate tactic for the Greens; I am fine with such criticism. People are entitled to their opinion. But, if they did what you said (namely, that I attacked them), then they made the same mistake as you did. But, the issue of use of violence is in fact a raging debate among the Iranians.

Professor Ali-Mohammadi's former classmate, Dr. Ahmad Shirzad, and others said that he was not a nuclear physicist, and that it was not his field.
But, as I remember it, they never made any statement about anything else. I never claimed that he made scientific contributions. My piece was about what he did when he was at the IAP. In addition, as early as 2004 the Mojahedin-Khalgh had identified him as a key figure in Iran's
nuclear program, which is exactly when he was at the IAP.

I had three sources for this story. One provided the information, the other two corroborated it. If I divulge just a bit more information about them, and the piece is read by Iran's intelligence ministry, they would immediately know the who I am talking about.

Finally, I do not really get the point of all of this arguments. I obtained what I consider to be highly reliable information, posted it, and
stand by it. Otherwise, I would not have posted it. I receive a lot of information practically every day, but only a very small fraction of it
can be checked and verified, and therefore can be posted. You may accept it or reject it. Either way is fine with me. Your point about Hezbollah is
moot for the reason that I explained in the previous responses. I am also pointing toward the hardliners as the culprit, which is the bottom line of your argument, namely, Hezbollah, because if it was the culprit, it did it on behalf of the hardliners.

I hope this clarifies and ends this debate.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 28, 2010 11:57 PM

Your mention of three sources...that's the exactly kind of amplifying information I was seeking, that and no more. Initially all the government organs (Fars, IRIB, etc.) were condemning the United States and Israel for the murder of their nuclear scientist, then the nuclear agency denied his association and they shut up. Which would make sense if they were trying to avoid attention. Although perhaps they should have thought of that BEFORE the bombing.

Chuck Hamilton / January 29, 2010 2:11 AM


Dear Ali from Tehran,

If, as mentioned here and on previous article on this subject by Dr. Sahimi, the motorcycle has been parked there for couple days, then the search on the day before could not have been the "impulse" to justify the assassination by supposable handlers. But, in any event, I find your speculation interesting.

Kia / January 29, 2010 4:59 AM

Dear Prof. Sahimi,

You previously stated your intention to find out Mousavi's official position with regards to Makhmalbaf et al; did you make any progress?

Thanks

Pak / January 29, 2010 7:06 PM

pak:

not yet. But, I am still trying.

Muhammad Sahimi / January 30, 2010 5:47 AM