Paul Greenberg

Oh, dear. Still another Iranian nuclear scientist has met with a fatal accident. Accidents will happen, especially in the Middle East and to Iran's nuclear scientists.

What a pity. And just as the mullahs are getting closer and closer to having a nuke of their own to play with.

First a lowly computer worm named Stuxnet (who deserves a Medal of Freedom) injected its mathematical self into all those centrifuges the Iranians are counting on to produce their nuclear fuel.

Now their top nuclear scientists seem to be disappearing one by one in a different kind of chain reaction.

This not-so-mysterious epidemic is proving highly selective. It seems to affect only nuclear experts in the employ of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it may not have run its course yet.

By my inexact count, this is the fourth such mishap to befall Iran's core of nuclear scientists within the past couple of years, not including various generals, technicians and miscellaneous other personnel who have been, as the Pentagon might put it, terminated with extreme prejudice.

Only the George Smileys of the intelligence world, the mild-mannered deputy assistant secretaries who direct such matters, may know the exact toll of Iranian nuclear experts at this point. Holed away in their cubbyholes at the CIA, MI-5 or Mossad, they're paid to keep up with such things or, who knows, orchestrate them. But they ain't talkin'. It's against their professional code to advertise. Call it risk management.

Both the American and British governments have formally condemned the untimely demise of the latest unfortunate victim of this epidemic. He was identified as Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemical engineer and senior procurement officer for Iran's nuclear-enrichment project at Natanz. But the condemnations may have been only pro forma. There is a protocol in these matters that must be observed.

Our spooks didn't openly celebrate when the Israeli Air Force eliminated Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak back in 1981, either. But one can be sure a few smiles were exchanged.

Let's give credit where credit is due for this Reduction in Force in Iran's nuclear program -- except that those who've earned it would just as soon not accept it. Not publicly. Perhaps just a quiet celebration -- a glass of champagne with dear colleagues in a quiet conference room somewhere. No press, no public, no publicity. A modest bunch, the cloak-and-dagger-and-Stuxnet set.

As for the usual suspects, the Israelis had nothing to say about the dear departed or his cause of death, as is their discreet way in all matters nuclear.

The Israelis don't even acknowledge they have a Bomb of their own, which for years, for decades, has been the most open military secret in the Middle East. Why noise such things about? If they ever have to use one of the things, they won't have to announce it. Surely somebody will notice.

Only this much is certain: In the event of another Holocaust, they're not going alone, Any more than blinded Samson did in Gaza.

An indiscreet Israeli military spokesman did note, on his Facebook page of course, this being 2012, that "I don't know who took revenge on the Iranian scientist, but I am definitely not shedding a tear."

Teheran's involvement in terrorist attacks around the world -- Buenos Aires, Washington, Paris, Berlin -- is well documented. It shouldn't be any surprise when this shadow war comes home to Teheran.

There's been considerable turnover in the table of organization at Iran's nuclear facilities. Vacancies keep occurring. At an explosive rate. Mr. Roshan was only the latest of Iran's nuclear scientists to leave this vale of tears abruptly.

By now the M.O. in these cases has become familiar. Somehow a magnetized explosive device attaches itself to the scientist's car, in this case a Peugeot 405 as he is being driven to work. Then ... BOOM! And a motorcyclist is seen disappearing in the distance.

These things will happen. And continue to happen.

The string of "accidents" in and around Iran's nuclear facilities seems to have a common thread, and it usually leads back to Jerusalem, which, for fanciers of irony, means city of peace. Not that the city has had all that much of it since a dashing young monarch, warrior, poet and ladies' man chose it as his capital circa 1000 B.C.

The successor state to that primitive little kingdom is still around, against all odds, and seems determined to remain extant. Despite the threats from Iran's current president to wipe it off the map.

If I were an Iranian nuclear scientist, a highly unlikely possibility considering my poor mathematical skills, I'd be mighty careful around machinery or, even better, stop being an Iranian nuclear scientist.

The occupational hazards can be formidable.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.