I do not know who killed Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, the procurement director at Iran’s Natanz Enrichment facility. Washington has categorically denied involvement and while Tel Aviv has, as usual, been coy about its role, Israeli President Shimon Peres shed doubt on his country’s culpability in a CNN interview. Adding further confusion, “Western intelligence sources” have told Time Magazine that Israeli Mossad was responsible for the assassination.
In reality, it really does not matter who killed the young man and his driver as they sat in Tehran traffic. For all we know, given the mileage the Iranian government has gotten out of the murder, forces inside Iran could have been responsible. Nevertheless, in light of the public discourse on Iran in the United States, Israel, and even Europe, it has been quite difficult for the leadership of these governments to convince the world and, even more so, the Iranian public that they are not responsible for Ahmadi-Roshan’s murder.
After months of chuckling over the murder of several other Iranian scientists – with pundits and politicians declaring that economic sanctions against Iran, even crippling ones, are not enough, and that “covert war” is better than overt war, killing better than doing nothing – it is hard for Western leaders to suddenly plead innocence. The Israeli government, of course, has the added complication of really wanting the world to think that this is its doing. The image of an all-menacing intelligence service with extensive reach is, after all, an integral part of Mossad’s bravado.
Promising revenge, Tehran is doing its part to add to the drama. The culprits shall pay, says the intractable Sardar Massoud Jazayeri, the deputy head of Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff who is never at a loss in his use of bombast. The Iranian government has already sent a letter to the British government reminding it of statements made by MI6 head, Sir John Sawyers, who in October 2010 said, “stopping nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed purely by conventional diplomacy. We need intelligence-led operations to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons.” A letter has reportedly also been sent to the United States via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran regarding the “credible documents” that allegedly show CIA’s “guidance, support, and planning” with the “direct involvement of dependent agents.”
In many ways, Tehran has already taken its vengeance. It was not long ago that the Obama Administration accused Iran of planning the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. That case has already left our collective consciousness given the Administration’s inability to sell its plausibility. Now Tehran has an actual murder for us to savor with the United States and United Kingdom standing accused notwithstanding their vehement denials.
Tehran was quite ready for this. No bloodied picture of the murdered man was shown; no routine passport pictures. Instead Farsnews, the mouthpiece for Iran’s hard-line political camp, immediately posted a photo of Ahmadi-Roshan with his adorable young son, both sweetly gazing at the camera. The picture went viral and, with it, a rather explicit message: America, Britain, and Israel, have killed a human being; they have killed a father and made a son orphan. It must have been pure fortuity for Tehran that, on the same day, a video of American marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies also took the internet by storm.
I remember when in 2009 the image of another murdered Iranian went viral. Most of us had no doubt that the image of the bloodied Neda Agha-Soltan was a testimony to the cruelty of the Iranian government. Since then, many others have died in Iran and many more imprisoned for their political views. But today it is the inhumanity and immorality of U.S. policy and public discourse that is on display. A murdered Iranian father looks into the camera and shames our flippant discussions of the killing of Iran’s nuclear scientists and our proclivity for using sanctions and other forms of collective punishment to hold an entire nation responsible for the alleged crimes of its leaders. Meanwhile, we in the United States wonder at the kind of military training that teaches soldiers to delight in urinating on emaciated, faceless, and already dehumanized dead bodies.
Some Iranians inside and outside the country have tried to highlight the immorality and ineffectiveness of the Iranian intelligence service, which displays outmost strength in interrogating and imprisoning Iranian citizens for their political views and peaceful activities but has proved powerless in securing the country against acts of terrorism. In the current international climate, however, it is not hard to understand why these voices have gone unheard.
* Farideh Farhi is an Independent Scholar and Affiliate Graduate Faculty at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and a member of Muftah’s Board of Advisors.