Iran airs "confessions" of nuke-scientist killers

Iranian television aired what it called "confessions" by fourteen Iranian civilians - men and women - who claimed to have worked with Israeli intelligence in the murders of Iranian nuclear scientists. CBS News

(CBS News) For months, Iran has blamed Israel and the United States for the murders of five scientists involved in Iran's nuclear program. Now, Iran is broadcasting what it calls "confessions" from men who, they say, were involved.

There has been cooperation between the U.S. and Israel to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, but U.S. officials are adamant that the U.S. did not have a role in these assassinations.

This new documentary, however, gives you a sense of the public-relations campaign Iran is waging inside its borders.

Iranian TV aired images Sunday allegedly showing Iranian citizens admitting to working for Israel in the planning and assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

The program contains re-enactments of the killings by motorcycle-riding hit men, together with claims the plotters had traveled to training camps in Israel - paid for by the U.S.

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It isn't the first time that Iran has accused the U.S. and Israel of conspiring to ruin its nuclear program.

But this latest broadcast may be less revealing about Iran's nuclear program and more revealing about what's happening inside Iran now.

"Their goal at this time, I think, is to change the story and create this atmosphere of tension that would in some ways legitimize, or make excuses for, the dire economic reality that exists in Iran today," Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, told CBS News.

It was released the same week that the U.S. tightened the financial noose by adding to sanctions on Iran's oil.

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The White House claims sanctions already cost Iran more than $9 billion every three months, draining the lifeblood out of its struggling economy.

Israel's prime minister publicly expressed doubt about the usefulness of U.S. sanctions: "We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota," Benjamin Netanyahu said during an appearance with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

And a string of U.S. officials - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as well as National Security Adviser Tom Donilon - have all made recent visits to Israel to discuss the threat that Iran may present if it develops nuclear weapons. There is concern that Israel may take unilateral action against Iran - and drag the U.S. into a war.

Ministers from Europe and Iran met last week to discuss the nuclear program and failed to set a date for the next round of conversations.

U.S. officials said Iranians need to show more seriousness about these talks.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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