Iranian site after explosion
Iranian site after explosion Institute for Science and International Security

The United States doesn't know who has been “knocking off” Iranian nuclear scientists – but Washington is not the culprit, says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a press conference, Clinton said “I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.

On Wednesday a motorcycle reportedly pulled up alongside a vehicle in which Iranian Professor Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, officially an oil industry expert at Sharif University of Technology, was traveling. The rider reportedly attached "magnetic explosives" to the vehicle, and sped away before the vehicle exploded – killing Roshan and two passengers in broad daylight on a crowded Tehran street, reports from Iran said.

Western intelligence officials said that Roshan was connected to Iran's nuclear program. His assassination resembles a pattern of killings targeting key figures in Iran's nuclear program in recent years. On Thursday, Iran said it had “clear proof” that the assassination had been carried out by “foreign elements,” and asked the UN to condemn it. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's UN Ambassador, wrote that Iran had a full right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, and that the assassinations were an attempt to cheat Iran of that right.

Iran has not specified the “foreign elements” it believes are responsible for the assassinations, but Iranian officials quoted in local media said that Israel and the U.S. were behind the latest assassination. Jerusalem has not commented on the assassinations, but on Wednesday, IDF spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai wrote on his Facebook page that he “certainly won't shed a tear for” Roshan.

However, several commentators said that a covert Israeli or U.S. operation to stop or slow Iran's nuclear program was not the only possible explanation. Among the other possibilities was an internal Iranian uprising, led by any one of a number of groups fighting against the regime, for various reasons. Among the more prominent of these groups is the People's Mujahedin of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen Khalq, an underground of some 10,000 insurgents that has worked against the Islamic regime in Tehran for many years. It is widely credited with revealing Tehran's nuclear program in 2003. Other commentators said that Iranian government could be responsible for the deaths, which may be the result of political intrigue or revenge – and that the scientists who have been killed were not necessarily that important to the Iranian program.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has dispatched another ship to the Persian Gulf. The USS Abraham Lincoln, having concluded a port visit to Thailand, is in the Indian Ocean and on its way to join the USS Carl Vinson, which replaced USS John C. Stennis, after that ship left the region several weeks ago. The ships are accompanied by a strike force.

Pentagon officials were quick to assure that there were no extenuating circumstances in the deployment of the second ship. “'It is not unusual to have two carriers in the CENTCOM theatre at the same time,” a Pentagon official told reporters. “We routinely operate our ships - all of our ships, all of our types of ships - inside the Arabian Gulf and that will continue.”

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