The Iranian government has accused the head of the U.N.'s nuclear regulatory agency of turning Iran's nuclear scientists into human targets for the Mossad and the CIA by publishing their names in its new report on Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"The release of the names of the Iranian nuclear scientists by the agency has made them targets for assassination by terrorist groups as well as the Israeli regime and the U.S. intelligence services," said Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh in a letter to Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the regulatory agency, which is meeting in Vienna today, said Amano and the IAEA are to blame for any threat "against the lives of my fellow citizens," and said that disclosing names violates the agency's rules.
Earlier this month, the IAEA released a report claiming that Iran may still be engaged in developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA board adopted a resolution this morning in Vienna expressing "deep and increasing concern" about Iran's nuclear program.
The IAEA report names one scientist that it says is involved in the program and alludes to but does not name researchers at three universities. The IAEA declined to comment about Soltanieh's claim that it had placed the individuals at risk.
Since 2007, four different scientists allegedly associated with the nation's nuclear weapons program have died via bomb, gunshot or poisoning, while a fifth barely survived a car bombing.
The most recent victim, 35-year-old Darioush Rezaeinejad, was shot in the neck outside his daughter's Tehran kindergarten in July by two gunmen on a motorcycle. According to an unconfirmed report in an Israeli intelligence publication, Rezaeinejad was working on a nuclear detonator, and was seen daily at a nuclear lab in northern Tehran.
In most cases, the Iranian government blames the deaths and disappearances on some combination of Mossad, the CIA or Britain's intelligence service without equivocation.
On Friday, Iranian state media repeated its claim that two assassinations and one failed hit in 2010 were the work of Western intelligence, noting that last December "the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that the Mossad, the CIA, and the MI6 all played a role in those attacks."
State media did not mention Rezaeinejad or another scientist, Ardeshin Hassanpour, whose 2007 death Iranian authorities had attributed to a gas leak. The private U.S. intelligence firm Statfor reported that Mossad had killed Hassanpour.
A former senior intelligence official involved in efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear program told ABC News that assassinations of top Iranian scientists were usually assumed to be the work of Israel, but that the Israelis would never confirm or admit responsibility.
"Every time we ask," said the official, "they just smile and say, 'We have no idea what you are talking about.' "
The U.S., for its part, has officially denied any involvement in the deaths of Iranian scientists. A White House spokesman called the accusations "absurd" after the January 2010 death of nuclear physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi. He was killed when a motorcycle packed with explosives was detonated by remote control when he walked past.