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An Iranian scientist was killed in a bomb blast on Wednesday, suggesting that Western forces may be dismantling the country's nuclear program from within. The 32-year-old professor who worked at a nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz died after a motorcyclist attached a magnetic bomb to his car while he was driving through Tehran. Mostafa Roshan is now the fourth person linked to Iran's nuclear industry that has been murdered in a similar fashion in the last two years. In both January and November of 2010, another university professor and a nuclear scientist were killed by similar bombs stuck underneath their cars. (However, at least one Iranian observer suggested the targets could be opposition members killed by internal forces.)

Iranian officials called the assassination the work of "Zionists" and while there is no proof that Israel or the United States is responsible for the attacks, it does appear that there is a systematic effort underway to disrupt the country's nuclear ambitions from within the country. While the world worries about a possible bombing raid from the Israeli air force, mysterious bomb blasts at military sites and an even more mysterious computer worm have set the program back by months or years at a time. If the patterns of the assassinations are true, it seems that outside forces are finding other non-military ways to attack Iran's nuclear capability.

True or not, the latest incident will only undermine the already fragile situation between Iran and the West. Just two days ago, an Iranian-American citizen was sentenced to death after being accused of working for the CIA and there are still concerns that the country could shut down the Strait of Hormuz as retaliation for sanctions. If attacks like this become more frequent and more public, the only hope is that neither side decides to turn this covert war into a real one.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.