Israel’s Mossad has spent years on a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world Iran possessed a nuclear weapons program – and legitimizing its assassinations of Iranian academics.
The Israeli assassination of Iranian defense official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is being treated as a triumph of Israeli intelligence, with ubiquitous references in the New York Times and other major media outlets to the killing of “Iran’s top nuclear scientist”. In fact, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency eliminated Fakhrizadeh, a defense official, despite the knowledge that its public depiction of him as the key architect of an Iranian nuclear weapons program was a deception.
For years, US media outlets have portrayed Fakhrizadeh as Iran’s equivalent to J. Robert Oppenheimer, marketing him to the public as the mastermind behind an Iranian version of the Manhattan Project. This image was developed primarily through a carefully constructed Israeli disinformation operation based on documents that displayed signs of fabrication.
The killing of Fakhrizadeh was not the first time Mossad bumped off an Iranian it had baselessly accused of playing a leading role in a weapons program. In July 2011, someone working for Mossad — apparently an MEK member — gunned down a 35-year old engineering student named Darioush Rezaeinejad and wounded his wife in front of a kindergarten in Tehran.
The young man was targeted on the basis of nothing more than the research he had conducted on high-voltage switches and his publication of a scholarly paper about his scholarship. The abstract of the professional paper Rezaienejad had published made it clear that his work involved what is called “explosive pulsed power” involved in high-power lasers, high-power microwave sources and other commercial applications.
A few days after the assassination of Rezaienejad, however, an official of an unnamed “member state” provided Associated Press reporter George Jahn the abstract of Rezaienejad’s paper, successfully persuading Jahn that it “appeared to back” the claim that he had been “working on a key component in setting off the explosives needed to trigger a nuclear warhead.”
Then, in September 2011, the Israelis provided Jahn with an “intelligence summary” advancing the ludicrous claim that Rezaeinejad was not an electrical engineering specialist at all, but rather a “physicist” who had worked for the Ministry of Defense on various aspects of nuclear weapons.
The deployment of absurd assertions backed by paper-thin evidence to justify the cold-blooded murder of a young electrical engineer with no record of nuclear weapons involvement illuminated a Mossad modus operandi that has reappeared in the case of Fakhrizadeh: Israeli intelligence simply gins up a narrative centered around fictional ties to a nonexistent nuclear weapons program. It then watches as the Western press uncritically disseminates the propaganda to the public, establishing the political space for cold-blooded assassinations in broad daylight.How Israel deployed an intelligence deception to justify killing scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh