Iran Blames U.S. For Nuclear Scientist's Death

Separate car bomb blasts killed one Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran. One of the victims was described as a key figure in one of Iran's main nuclear projects. President Ahmadinejad blamed the attacks on Israel and the U.S. He also dismissed revelations in the WikiLeaks documents as "mischief" aimed at making trouble between Iran and its Arab neighbors.

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GUY RAZ, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Iran's president is blaming Israel and the West for a pair of bombings in Tehran this morning. The bombings killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another. The bloodshed comes just one day after the release of classified diplomatic cables by the website WikiLeaks.

RAZ: Those cables describe anxiety among Iran's Arab neighbors and suggest they are eager for a military strike against Iran's nuclear installations. In a moment, we'll hear about a shipment of missiles to Iran from North Korea disclosed in the WikiLeaks cables. But first, NPR'S Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul on this morning's attacks.

PETER KENYON: The bomb blasts were grimly reminiscent of an attack this January, when a motorcycle blew up near the car of an Iranian nuclear scientist, killing him. Today, state media reported motorcycle-riding assailants attached magnetic bombs to the cars of two Iranian scientists, killing one and wounding the other.

Iran's nuclear chief said the slain scientist was working on a major nuclear project that he declined to specify. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters the attacks would not hamper Iran's nuclear program. He referred to Israel, as he often does, as the Zionist regime.

President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through Translator) Western governments and the Zionist regime were undoubtedly involved. I hope security officials will find out about them and publish their names, but they should know that they are making a mistake.

KENYON: Ahmadinejad also weighed in on the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, which quoted various Persian Gulf leaders as favoring a military strike against Iranian nuclear targets. The Iranian president viewed the leaks as part of an ongoing Western plot.

Pres. AHMADINEJAD: (Through Translator) We do not consider these documents to have any value. Iran and other countries in the region are friends and brothers. Such mischief will have no impact on the ties between nations.

KENYON: The cables quote Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah as repeatedly urging Washington to cut off the head of the snake, meaning Iran. Similar comments were attributed to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the king of Bahrain and others.

Analysts say the views themselves aren't surprising, given the deep fears among Arab states about Iran's regional ambitions. But what the leaks have exposed is the vast gulf between what Arab leaders say in public and what they urge in private.

This disconnect is hardly unique to the Middle East, but Emile Hokayem, an analyst in Bahrain with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says the WikiLeaks documents will be seen in Arab capitals in two ways: as a dangerous provocation of Iran shortly before nuclear talks are due to resume, and as a blow to the credibility of the Americans who assured these leaders they could speak freely in private.

Mr. EMILE HOKAYEM (Senior Fellow for Regional Security, International Institute for Strategic Studies): The U.S. is coming across as unreliable not only strategically but also operationally. I mean, how can a superpower just allow that kind of leak?

KENYON: Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of these cables for Arab leaders is the way that their private comments about Iran match up so neatly with the views of Israel. That point did not escape the notice of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (Israel): (Through Translator) There is agreement in Europe, in Israel and countries in the region that the main threat stems from Iran - its plans to expand and its plans to arm itself. This was exposed in a very persuasive way in the latest disclosures. Although it had been known before, it had not been said directly.

KENYON: Now, that it has been said directly, analysts say Arab leaders will be dismayed that these diplomatic cables have given fresh ammunition to their Islamist critics whose calls for insurrection have long been based on accusations of hypocrisy among the West's Arab allies.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News.

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