Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Iran's nuclear scientists are no civilians

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Following the recent deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists, a number of people seem to have not only attributed their killings to Israel, but also condemned them as the murder of "innocent civilians" or even "terrorism" (for an explanation of why the killings may not have been Israel, see Iran expert Emanuele Ottolenghi -- soon to be visiting Australia -- here). The characterisation of the scientists connected to Iran's nuclear program as "civilians", however, is false. The International Atomic Agency report on Iran's nuclear program released late last year detailed extensively how the Iranian nuclear program falls under Iran's military complex, summarised in the image below (click to enlarge).

 

Iranian nuclear program hierarchy

 

Providing even more proof of the tangible threat posed by the nuclear scientists, journalist Michael Totten has come across an interview by Iranian state media outlet Fars News with the wife of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, one of the assassinated scientists. The interview reveals that her husband was working on the project in order to kill Israelis.

TEHRAN (FNA)- The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly.

"Mostafa's ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel," Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday.

As Totten observes, this means that the Israelis were arguably acting in self-defence if they were in fact the assassins.

So he wasn't just constructing something that could theoretically be used as a genocide weapon. He was constructing something that he wanted to use as a genocide weapon. Intent matters, not just in war, but also in the courtrooms of liberal democracies.

If the Israelis were, indeed, the ones who took him out, they were acting in self-defense. It ought to go without saying that the Israelis perceived it that way all along, but it's worth noting that the slain scientist's own family and government are now legitimizing that point of view.

Fars News is representative of the Iranian regime and its intended message. That it is boasting of the nuclear scientist's intention of "annihilating" Israel is extremely concerning, especially as Iran has reportedly already made plans for its nuclear strike on Israel -- a fact that former US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams recently pointed out:

Under this pre-emptive defensive doctrine, several Ground Zero points of Israel must be destroyed and its people annihilated. Forghani cites the last census by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics that shows Israel has a population of 7.5 million citizens of which a majority of 5.7 million are Jewish. Then it breaks down the districts with the highest concentration of Jewish people, indicating that three cities, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, contain over 60 percent of the Jewish population that Iran could target with its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, killing all its inhabitants.

In any regular situation, scientists are civilians and would never be legitimate military targets; however the Iranian situation is far from "regular". If there is any sort of line where a person ceases to be a civilian and becomes a combatant, it is hard to imagine that it has not been crossed by a scientist who is knowlingly developing an extremely deadly weapon with the intention of using it to destroy an entire nation.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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