But pro-democracy forces in Iran, which have been under extreme pressure since the disputed 2009 presidential election, say the assassinations are likely to backfire against the West—enhancing the military state by legitimizing the nuclear program in the eyes of the Iranian people. It doesn’t seem to matter to them if the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization, an opposition group (known as the MKO) which is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, is responsible, or the Israelis, or anyone else.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as vice president under President Mohammad Khatami and was imprisoned for several months after the 2009 elections, told The Daily Beast that people consider such acts outside the realm of capabilities of opposition groups like the MKO.
“This type of operation looks more like it was done by Israelis,” said Abtahi, adding, “Iranian people would consider such an action as an insult, and to be honest, it would create more legitimacy for the military powers inside Iran.”
“In Iran, there is solidarity about national assets and reactions to such actions are very negative,” he added. “Even if the nuclear program’s increasing costs had started to damage its legitimacy, this would increase its legitimacy. It would generate an even higher demand inside the country to pursue the program.”