TEHRAN, Iran - A hard-line Iranian newspaper called Thursday for retaliation against Israel, a day after the mysterious killing of a nuclear scientist in Tehran with a magnetic bomb attached to his car.
Provocative hints from Israel reinforced the perception that the killing was part of an organized and clandestine campaign to set back Iran's nuclear ambitions, which the U.S. and its allies suspect are aimed at producing weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes only.
According to the New York Times, some experts believe the secret campaign could backfire by jeopardizing future talks and motivating Tehran to increase its efforts to reach nuclear ability.
A column in the Kayhan newspaper by chief editor Hossein Shariatmadari asked why Iran did not retaliate. "Assassinations of Israeli military and officials are easily possible," he wrote.
The attack which instantly killed the scientist and his driver on Wednesday was at least the fourth targeted hit against a member of Iran's nuclear brain trust in two years. Tehran quickly blamed Israeli-linked agents backed by the U.S. and Britain.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denied any U.S. role in the slaying, and the Obama administration condemned the attack.
However, the day before the attack, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was quoted as telling a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a "critical year" for Iran in part because of "things that happen to it unnaturally."
The blast killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the centerpiece of Iran's expanding program to make nuclear fuel. Roshan, 32, had planned to attend a memorial later that day for another nuclear researcher who was killed in a similar pinpoint blast two years ago, Iranian media said.
While some question the covert campaign against Iran, other experts say it is still preferable to airstrikes, according to the Times.
Patrick Clawson, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the newspaper: "Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it. It doesn't provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high."