Sometimes, however, Iranian officials will downplay the deaths, as if casting doubt on the ability of hated foes to strike at will. The same state website that published an article in July decrying the murder of Rezaeinejad as a Western assault on Iran's nuclear program published a second story ten minutes later saying his death really wasn't such a big deal after all. Iranian intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi was quoted saying it was unclear who killed Rezaeinejad and that he wasn't a nuclear scientist anyway. "The assassinated student was not involved in nuclear projects and had no connection to the nuclear issue."
In early 2007, Ardeshir Hassanpour, an Iranian nuclear scientist working at a nuclear plant in Isfahan, died from what Iranian state media called "gas poisoning." While the private U.S. intelligence firm Statfor reported that Mossad had killed Hassanpour, the Iranian government said that Hassanpour was not involved in nuclear research and had died in an accident.
Iranian opposition groups, meanwhile, say that sometimes the Iranian government kills dissident scientists -- who may or may not have anything to do with nuclear weapons -- and then blames the murders on the West.
In January 2010, a motorcycle parked outside the house of nuclear physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi was detonated by remote control when he walked past.
The regime blamed his murder on a "triangle of wickedness," meaning the U.S., Israel and their "hired agents." "Zionists did it," said Ahmadinejad. "They hate us and they don't want us to progress."
But Western intelligence agencies had conflicting information about whether Mohammadi, a particle physicist, was really contributing to the nuclear program. An Iranian opposition group said Mohammadi had been killed by the regime because he was a supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom many believe actually won the 2009 Iranian presidential election before vote-tampering handed the victory to Ahmadinejad. A German-based opposition group released a photo of an alleged Arab hitman who had supposedly carried out Mohammadi's assassination on regime orders.