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Michael Burleigh
January 14, 2012
The Sydney Morning Herald

OPINION


PHYSICS is an unhealthy line of work in today's Iran. A few days ago, 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan died in his car after two motorcyclists attached a magnetic charge to the door. Roshan can be seen among the men in white coats, beaming modestly behind President Ahmadinejad, in a photo taken a few months ago.

Roshan was not the first and nor will he be the last casualty of a covert war designed either to dissuade Iran from acquiring a bomb, or to prompt retaliatory missteps that will trigger an all-out onslaught by Israel or the US against Iranian nuclear facilities.

 

The identity of the assassins is inherently unknowable - though a good guess would be the dissident Mujahideen-e-Khalq group on behalf of Mossad. The CIA's weak human intelligence presence inside Iran makes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's categorical denial of American involvement plausible.


Why it is happening is far easier to fathom. Israel, although not the world's sole assassin, has historical form in this area. In 1963, Mossad embarked on Operation Damocles to menace and murder former Nazi rocket scientists who, according to a defecting Austrian, were helping then President Nasser develop rockets that could be equipped with radiological warheads. They received parcel bombs through the post, while their families back in Germany and Austria were threatened with violence. More recently, in 1990, Mossad shot dead Canadian Gerald Bull outside his Brussels apartment. Bull was helping Saddam Hussein improve Scud missiles while developing a long-range ''supergun'' as a sideline.

A similar logic, of degrading an enemy's scientific and technical capacity, was evident from the assassination campaign which Israel waged against key Hamas and Hezbollah figures. Victims included Hamas' Yehiya ''the Engineer'' Ayyash, whose head was blown off in 1996 by what he thought was his mobile phone, and Hezbollah's Imad Mugniyah, scraped from the street in 2008 after he was killed leaving a party at the Iranian embassy in Damascus. Both men had a lethal expertise which would be difficult to replace.
 

The Israelis believe that anyone who knowingly participates in developing weapons of mass destruction or terrorism should be aware that these are not risk-free activities. Iranian scientists know full well that electronic switches are used in nuclear triggers, and that enriching uranium beyond a certain percentage is not for the production of medical isotopes. And they accept the considerable financial rewards involved. If there are questions about the morality of killing such men, there are questions about the morality of their work in the first place.

Recent history has mixed lessons. In 1943 and 1944 the RAF and USAAF carried out repeat strikes on the German V-2 rocket launch site at Peenemunde, where the hydrogen peroxide fuel was also produced. They were not unduly concerned whether scientists and engineers were killed too, nor foreign slave labourers, provided the V-2s ceased raining down on London.
 

About the same time, Norwegian agents carried out a more morally fastidious operation to disable the Nazi heavy-water plant at Vemork, after the failure of raids and a glider-borne commando operation. Eventually, they not only got inside the plant to destroy its machinery, but sank a ferry containing railway wagonloads of the finished product in a fjord. While doing so, they scrupulously avoided causing any civilian casualties, by for instance attacking on a Sunday morning when children would not be taking the ferry to school.
 

Meanwhile, physicists and engineers are not subject to ethical codes in the way that biologists are with animal or human experimentation. Indeed, scientists routinely claim the quest for knowledge trumps everything, as those who worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos boastfully announced. Robert Oppenheimer said: ''If you are a scientist, you cannot stop such a thing … You believe that it is good to find out how the world works.'' He and his colleagues at least had the excuse that both the science and the weaponised atom bomb were untested, at least against a real city. Of course they could employ the compartmentalisation argument, rather like railway timetablers and dispatchers who sent trains to Auschwitz. What about the engine drivers and signalmen while we are about it? More plausibly, they can point to dual use, like Fritz Haber, who discovered how to synthesise ammonia into explosives, toxic gas and fertiliser that feeds half the world's population. But then firms that sold base chemicals to Saddam Hussein could make that claim too, and the Kurds got no fertilisers, but murderous clouds of gas.
 

Today's Iranian physicists can view a nuclear bomb detonating on the internet, and can read about Hiroshima in any number of books, starting with John Hersey's shocking 1945 account. They work for a regime that has explicitly threatened Israel (and by implication many ambient Palestinians) with such a weapon. I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes, men who live in the real world rather than a laboratory or philosophy seminar. Except that if Israel ventures down this road, I cannot think of much of an argument to prevent Iran following them, and then anyone else who decides to follow.



Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/shed-no-tears-for-physicists-killed-in-covert-nuclear-war-20120113-1pzg8.html#ixzz1jNkrv9Sr
 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tensions rising by the day, the Obama administration said Friday it is warning Iran through public and private channels against any action that threatens the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf.

Spokesmen were vague on what the United States would do about Iran's threat to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but military officials have been clear that the U.S. is readying for a possible naval clash.

That prospect is the latest flashpoint with Iran, and one of the most serious. Although it currently overshadows the threat of war over Iran's disputed nuclear program, perhaps beginning with an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear structure, both simmering crises raise the possibility of a shooting war this year.

"We have to make sure we are ready for any situation and have all options on the table," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, addressing a soldier's question Thursday about the overall risk of war with Iran.

For several reasons, the risk of open conflict with Tehran appears higher in this election year than at any point since President Barack Obama took office with a pledge to try to bridge 30 years of enmity. A clash would represent a failure of U.S. policy on several fronts, and vault now-dormant national security concerns into the presidential election contest.

The U.S. still hopes that international pressure will persuade Iran to back down on its disputed nuclear program, but the Islamic regime shows no sign it would willingly give up a project has become a point of national pride. A bomb, or the ability to quickly make one, could also be worth much more to Iran as a bargaining chip down the road.

Time is short, with Iran making several leaps toward the ability to manufacture a weapon if it chooses to do so. Iran claims its nuclear development is intended for the peaceful production of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, several longstanding assumptions about U.S. influence and the value of a targeted strike to stymie Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon have changed. For one, the White House is no longer confident it could prevail on Israel not to launch such a strike.

An escalating covert campaign of sabotage and targeted assassinations highlighted by this week's killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist may not be enough to head off a larger shooting war, and could prod Iran to strike first.

The brazen killing of a young scientist by motorcycle-riding bombers is almost surely the work of Israel, according to U.S. and other officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. The killing on a Tehran street followed the deaths of several other Iranians involved in the nuclear program, a mysterious explosion at an Iranian nuclear site that may have been sabotage and the apparent targeting of the program with an efficient computer virus.

Iranian officials accuse both Israel and the U.S. of carrying out the assassination as part of a secret operation to stop Iran's nuclear program. The killing came a day after Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was quoted as telling a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a "critical year" for Iran — in part because of "things that happen to it unnaturally."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Panetta made a point of publicly denying any U.S. involvement, but the administration tied itself in knots this week over how far to go in condemning an action that could further the U.S. goal of stalling Iranian nuclear progress.

The U.S. position remains that a military strike on Iran's known nuclear facilities is undesirable because it would have unintended consequences and would probably only stall, not end, the Iranian nuclear drive. That has been the consensus view among military leaders and policy makers for roughly five years, spanning a Republican and Democratic administration.

But during that time Iran has gotten ever closer to a potential bomb, Israel has gotten more brazen in its threats to stop an Iranian bomb by nearly any means, and the U.S. administration's influence over Israel has declined.

Israel considers Iran its mortal enemy, and takes seriously the Iranian threat to wipe the Jewish state from the map. The United States is Israel's strongest ally and international defender, but the allies differ over how imminent the Iranian threat has become, and how to stop it.

The strained relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plays a role, as does the rise in influence of conservative political parties in Israel. U.S. officials have concluded that Israel will go its own way on Iran, despite U.S. objections, and may not give the U.S. much notice if it decides to launch a strike, U.S. and other officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.

The Obama administration is concerned that Iran's claim this week that it is expanding nuclear operations with more advanced equipment may push Israel closer to a strike.

Obama last month approved new sanctions against Iran that would target its central bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad. The U.S. has delayed implementing the sanctions for at least six months, worried about sending the price of oil higher at a time when the global economy is struggling.

A senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard force was recently quoted as saying Tehran's leadership has decided to order the closure of the Strait of Hormuz if the country's petroleum exports are blocked due to sanctions.

Panetta linked the two crises Thursday, saying an Iranian nuclear weapon is one "red line" the U.S. will not allow Iran to cross, and a closure of the strait is another.

"We must keep all capabilities ready in the event those lines are crossed," Panetta told troops in Texas.

He did not elaborate, but the nation's top military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, has said the U.S. would take action to reopen the strategic waterway. That could only mean military action, and there are U.S. warships stationed nearby.

"The United States and the international community have a strong interest in the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation in all national waterways," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday, adding that Iran is well aware of that position. "Our views are clear, we're expressing them publicly and privately, and I'll leave it at that."

International talks to barter Iran out of building a nuclear weapon are nearly collapsed, the United States and several partners are on the verge of applying the toughest sanctions yet on Iran's lifeblood oil sector, an increasingly cornered Iranian leadership is lashing out in unpredictable ways and faces additional internal pressures with a parliamentary election approaching.

All that adds up to a new equation, U.S. and western diplomats said. A unilateral U.S. military strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure remains unlikely but no longer unthinkable, while the likelihood of an Israeli military strike has increased.

Immediate consequences would probably include an unpredictable spike in oil prices, ripple effects in troubled European economies and a setback for the fragile U.S. economic recovery. Longer term, a strike or a full-on war would almost surely ignite anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and beyond and empower hardline political movements in newly democratic Egypt and elsewhere.

Although the Obama administration wants to avoid conflict, it is locked in a cycle of provocation and reaction that feeds Iranian fears and may make war more likely, said Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department Iran expert now at the Brookings Institution.

"The tactics the administration has been taking means conflict becomes more likely, because of the potential for miscalculation and the level of tensions and frustrations on both sides," she said.

 
FOX News
1/9/2012 

URGENT:
 A 25-year-old man described as an Islamic extremist was arrested in an alleged plot to attack crowded areas in the Tampa, Fla., area with a car bomb, assault rifle and other explosives, authorities said Monday. 


The U.S. Department of Justice said Sami Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia, was arrested Saturday night.

Osmakac, from Pinellas County, allegedly told an undercover agent that "We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?'" according to a federal complaint. 


FBI agents arrested Osmakac on Saturday after he allegedly bought explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent. The firearms and explosives were rendered inoperable by law enforcement. The federal complaint says that shortly before his arrest, Osmakac made a video of himself explaining his motives for carrying out the planned violent attack.


He has been charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. His first appearance in federal court is scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. ET. 


Sources close to the investigation told Fox News that Osmakac was being "closely monitored by law enforcement" for months in what authorities have described as a "sting operation." 


Federal officials said a confidential source told them in Sept. 2011 that Osmakac wanted Al Qaeda flags. Two months later, the federal complaint said, Osmakac and the confidential source "discussed and identified potential targets in Tampa" that Osmakac wanted to attack.


Osmakac allegedly asked the source for help getting the firearms and explosives for the attacks, and the source put him in touch with an undercover FBI employee.


On Dec. 21, Osmakac met with the undercover agent and allegedly told the agent that he wanted to buy an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and explosive belt. During a later meeting, Osmakac gave the agent a $500 down payment for the items.


"According to the complaint, Osmakac also asked the undercover employee whether he/she could build bombs that could be placed in three different vehicles and detonated remotely, near where Osmakac would conduct a follow-up attack using the other weapons he requested," a press release from the Department of Justice said. "The undercover employee said he/she could possibly provide explosives for one vehicle. Osmakac also allegedly said that he wanted an explosive belt constructed to kill people."


On Jan. 1, Osmakac told the agent that he wanted to bomb night clubs, the Operations Center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and a business in Tampa, Florida.


Osmakac told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to detonate a car bomb and use the explosive belt to "get in somewhere where there's a lot of people" and take hostages. 


He also allegedly told the agent that "Once I have this…they can take me in five million pieces," in an apparent reference to a suicide blast. During that meeting, the agent told Osmakac he could always change his mind about his plot.


Osmakac had created a "martyrdom video" and tried on a bomb belt before being arrested Saturday, law enforcement officials told Fox News.


Click for more on this story from MyFoxTampaBay.com
 

Fox News' Mike Levine and the Associated Press contributed to this report.



Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/09/suspected-islamic-extremist-arrested-in-florida-bomb-plot/#ixzz1izDGdGSi
 
A group of hackers from Israel, abroad claim to have obtained details of thousands of Saudi credit cards; threaten to expose the data should cyber attacks on Israel continue
Aviel Magnezi 
YNetNews.com
1/9/12

Cyber vengeance: The major credit card information leak, a by-product of the activities of theSaudi hacker who has been sneering over attempts to locate him, has not been ignored.

 

 

Israeli hackers who spoke to Ynet claimed on Monday that they have managed to lay their hands on the details of thousands of credit cards used on Saudi shopping websites. Ynet has confirmed the hackers' reports. "If the leaks continue, we will cause severe damage to the privacy of Saudi citizens," one of the Israeli hackers threatened.

 

 

Related stories:

 

The Israeli hackers' activities have yielded, according to the hackers, "thousands of lists that include the personal details of citizens in the Arab state as well as the credit card details of those citizens. At the moment, we're holding on to the information and waiting for the right moment to publish it," they stressed.

 

 

 
חלק מרשימת השמות שהגיעה לידי ynet

Will Saudis soon be facing credit card leak?

 

Ynet has looked into the details and can confirm that at least some of the names on the list are real and match the rest of the details presented in the hackers' list. Most of the identities matched the information in the file, their Facebook and email accounts as well as their telephone numbers. The people listed were mostly Saudi citizens.  

 

 

Speaking to Ynet, Mohammad, a Saudi resident, confirmed the details and tried to find out how his telephone number and information was discovered. "That is my name and those are my personal details, but I don't know anything about a credit card leak, no one told me anything," he said before hanging up.

 

 

One hacker who spoke to Ynet said: "We could not stay silent after the pompous boasting of the Saudi hacker." He added that "a few Israeli hackers came together and decided on various responses for each cyber activity that would be carried out against Israel, including responses beyond the cyber world."

 

  

 


חשבון הפייסבוק של אחד מהסעודים ברשימת ההאקרים 

The Facebook page of one of the Saudis exposed by Israeli hackers

 

When asked what he meant he explained that "the response we decided upon after group consultations includes scenarios where Israel is attacked outside of the cyber world." For example, he explained that "if a terror attack were to take place, we will make every effort to publish the terrorist's personal details and those of his family."

 

 

He stressed that "sadly, the State of Israel does not support an offensive policy so we are forced to maintain a great deal of secrecy; if we are caught we're facing a harsh punishment."

 

Meanwhile, the Saudi hacker has failed to impress Israelis. "Any hacker can see tat this isn't the most talented person and that everything he did demanded very little knowledge and that it can be carried out through pre-arranged programs without any problems."

 

 

The Israeli hacker added that they were "working on exposing his true identity, but it isn't our main priority."

 

 

 

Computer aficionados have said that the major leak was a "major failure" and stressed that it was not difficult to carry out and lacked technological sophistication."

 

The Knesset's Economics Committee discussed Monday the recent credit card scandal. Representatives from Israeli credit card companies, the Bank of Israel, the National Security Council, Justice Ministry and National Cyber Headquarters all participated in the meeting.

 

 

While the credit card companies' representatives stressed their ability to track down irregular financial activities, an expert warned "the damage caused from this monumental affair of identity theft is much greater than it appears."

 

 

"We have very high technological abilities," a representative of the credit companies stressed. "Even in this particular affair, our ability to block the cards and immediately stop any sort of damage was very high. We did it immediately – in the first incident within less than an hour and during the second event within less than ten minutes."

 

 

"This is a huge event in Israeli terms and a small one on a global scale. People like Omar, so-called-Omar, appear every so often. This was an attempt to embarrass the State of Israel. If he wished to cause financial damage he would have kept the lists to himself and not have published them," they added.

 

 

According to Dr. Nimrod Kozlovski, a researcher in the field of internet and information law and information security, "the damage is great, tens times greater than what's said here. Even if the credit card companies operated in a perfect manner, this event will remain with many Israelis for a long time, because they can be impersonated and therefore be classified as problematic online."


http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-4173264,00.html

 

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