What We Know About the Sabotage of Iran's Nuclear Program

Another nuclear scientist is killed, questions about Stuxnet linger

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Today was a very bad day for Iran's illicit nuclear program. Two months after cybersecurity officials discovered the scarily advanced Stuxnet worm, thought to be targeting Iran's nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that program has been "sabotaged." Nine months after an Iranian nuclear scientist was mysteriously killed by a bomb, another Iranian nuclear scientist has been mysteriously killed by a bomb. (A second bombing today injured another Iranian nuclear scientist.) Here's what we know against the apparent strikes on Iran's nuclear program.

  • Ahmadinejad: We've Been Sabotaged  The Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink reports, "Iran's uranium-enrichment program has been the target of sabotage, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday, but he refused to say whether the Stuxnet computer virus had been responsible for the problems. 'They had been successful in making problems for a limited number of our centrifuges, with software they had installed in electronic devices,' Ahmadinejad told a news conference, referring to Iran's enemies. He said the sabotage has been solved."
  • Backs Theory that Stuxnet Targeted Iranian Nuclear Program  Wired's Kim Zetter writes, "According to a recent report from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran had temporarily halted uranium enrichment at its Natanz plant for unknown reasons earlier this month. Thousands of centrifuges reportedly stopped production as a result. ... Iran’s confirmation this week that malware was behind recent problems with its centrifuges suggests that Stuxnet may indeed have been designed specifically to target Iran’s nuclear program."
  • Deadly Attack on Nuclear Scientists  Al Jazeera reports, "Assailants on motorcycles attached bombs to the cars of two nuclear scientists as they were driving to work in Tehran on Monday, killing one and wounding the other, Iranian officials say. Ahmadinejad said ... the assassination won't stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear programs. Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear chief, said the man killed was involved in a major project at the country's chief nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics. Some Iranian media reported that the wounded scientist was a laser expert at Iran's defence ministry and one of the country's few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation."
  • Iran Blames U.S., Israel for New Bombings  The Agence France-Presse reports, "Twin blasts in Iran's capital killed a top nuclear scientist and wounded another Monday, with Tehran swiftly blaming the CIA and Mossad for the attacks apparently carried out by men on motorcycles. Slain scientist Majid Shahriari and Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, who survived the attack, were senior figures in Iran's nuclear programme, which the West suspects of having military aims. ... The latest attacks came a day after the top US military officer said the United States was weighing military options in the face of Tehran's announcement it had an atomic power plant up and running."
  • Injured Nuclear Scientist Plays Big Role  A pseudonymous blogger at PBS Frontline's Tehran Bureau documents, "There were sufficiently compelling indications to place Abbasi Davani under international nonproliferation sanctions as a person 'involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.' He appears in Annex I of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1747, adopted on March 24, 2007. The resolution calls for member states to freeze his assets and exercise vigilance in allowing him to enter or transit through their territories. Abbasi Davani has been a member of the Revolutionary Guards since 1980 and saw three tours of duty during the Iran-Iraq War, according to Mashregh News. Aty News, close to the regime, reports that he teaches at the Superior National Defense University. He reportedly runs the physics program at Imam Hossein University, where he works closely with another Guardsman and physicist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, who is also under U.N. sanctions. Abbasi Davani was honored by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an awards ceremony for 21 top academics in 2007, according to Ebtekar News."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.