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Did Israel assassinate Iran's 'missile king'?

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The Israeli government has been at the forefront of calls for military action to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. It does not accept the conclusions of a US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in late 2007 – and reportedly reaffirmed earlier this year – that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons work in the autumn of 2003, and has made no subsequent decision to go for a bomb.

The latest NIE report included data from "cutting-edge surveillance techniques," and the results of a six-year effort by US soldiers "working with Iranian intelligence assets," according to a report last June by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker.

The techniques involved surreptitiously replacing street signs in Tehran with similar looking ones implanted with radiation sensors, "say, near a university suspected of conducting nuclear enrichment," the New Yorker reported.

"American operatives, working undercover," also exchanged bricks from a "building or two" in central Tehran thought to house enrichment activities, "with bricks embedded with radiation-monitoring devices," wrote the New Yorker.

Close to a bomb?

None of those actions, and others described in the magazine, revealed an ongoing nuclear weapons program. The IAEA report largely confirmed that analysis, with the data it spelled out in unprecedented detail last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said on Sunday that the IAEA report was limited to information that "can be proven; facts that can be presented in court."

"In practice there are many other things we see, and hence the leading states in the world must decide what do to in order to stop Iran," said Netanyahu. "The efforts thus far did not prevent Iran from progressing towards a bomb, and it is closer to acquiring it, sooner than people think."

Israeli newspapers on Sunday carried reports intimating that the Jewish state was behind the latest blast in Iran and other events going back to a 2007 explosion at another missile base.

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