"Judging by the sophistication, the number of events, and the widespread network throughout Iran, it makes sense to see it as a combined operation,’’ he says.
A total of four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in two years, and a fifth was targeted but escaped. Over the same period of time, computers managing the enrichment efforts have been paralyzed by two computer viruses – Stuxnet and Duqu. In recent months, three explosions have sown destruction at Iranian military sites believed to be linked to the nuclear program.
The attacks are meant to strike fear among Iranian nuclear workers that they are risking their lives by working in the program – and deter potential recruits – while landing a blow to the prestige of the Iranian leadership, says one Israeli espionage expert.
"There are other messages in these campaigns: one is to terrorize those who are working in [the nuclear program] already. The second is targeted to young scientists thinking of joining," says Yossi Melman, the author of books on Israel’s espionage agencies and a columnist for the liberal Haaretz newspaper. "The third message is to the regime and population: The message is, 'We can get you anywhere, any time.' The regime is seen as weak."