Some Dare Call It Conspiracy: What Killed an IAEA Agent in Iran?

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There's a perfectly rational explanation for why a U.N. nuclear inspector was killed in Iran today but it's much less intriguing than the conspiracy theories spreading online.

On Tuesday, an International Atomic Energy Agency official from South Korea was killed in a car crash near the Arak nuclear reactor in Iran. "Not suspicious at all!" tweeted Andy Bolton. "I wonder how that happened" added Adam Nima Pourahmadi.  "CIA regularly uses vehicular homicide" said Reddit user hadees

The conspiracists were fuzzy on details, as conspiracists tend to be, but the shortlist of alleged culprits included the Iranian government, the CIA, and Israel's intelligence agency, which each have a stake in Iran's May 14-15 nuclear talks with the IAEA.

"We hope that this will be a very constructive and successful meeting," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said last month, noting that after a "framework" for cooperation was agreed upon, Iran could consider the IAEA's requests to access its military site in Parchin.

With so much importance tied to the nuclear talks, the details of the crash are obviously important. An Iranian state TV report says the South Korean inspector was not wearing a seat belt when he was thrown from his car about 250 miles southwest of Tehran near a heavy water reactor being built in Khondad. The IAEA confirmed the death in a statement. "The car carrying the two skidded and overturned at around 12pm on Tuesday,"it said. "One of the two IAEA experts was injured, while the second one … from South Korea, died of severe injuries."

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What's missing from the conspiratorial accounts is that with about 26,000 fatal traffic accidents every year, Iran has one of the worst track records on automobile safety in the world. The crazy driving culture in Iran has, in fact, been immortalized in YouTube accounts of terrifying street scenes. 

In a 2009 study by Tehran University of Medical Sciences, road traffic was listed as "the leading cause of premature death and disability in Iran." It noted that this has "led to loss of more than 1.3 million years of Iranians' life, with the male to female ratio of 5:1." Overall, the study said the rate of road traffic injury and accident is the highest in the world. In light of that, it's not surprising that an IAEA official tooling around the country may have met his end in this hostile driving environment. But that's a lot less intriguing theory for some conspiracy-mongering denizens of the Internet.  

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