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I am not General Beg

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In June, I received an invitation to the Second International Congress of 17,000 Iranian Terror Victims, to be held in Tehran at the beginning of September. The email was addressed to General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former head of the Pakistani army. I wrote back to say that, although in no way affiliated with the armed forces of Pakistan, I’d like to come. Four days later I got my own invitation and a promise to arrange my visa.

Two days before I was due to fly to Tehran from Barcelona, I was told to go to the Iranian embassy in Madrid. At first the embassy staff told me a visa couldn’t be issued till the following week. Then they said I could have one immediately for a fee of €80, before finally giving it to me for nothing.

On the flight I met someone else going to the conference, a former right-wing Spanish politician turned military adviser to Hugo Chávez turned university professor. He told me he didn’t know much about terrorism against Iran, but had advised the Iranian ambassador to Spain that the Islamic Republic should get a nuclear weapon. His counsel had been rejected on spiritual grounds, he said.

At the conference I spoke with the father of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who worked at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant and was killed by a magnetic car bomb in Tehran in 2012 at the age of 32. His father said that he had believed a peaceful nuclear programme would help ensure Iran’s self-sufficiency. He was the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed in two years.

In February 2012 NBC news quoted anonymous US officials who said that the attacks were ‘being carried out by an Iranian dissident group’ – the Mujahedin e Khalq – ‘that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service’.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, the Israeli defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, was asked if we will ‘see further deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists’. He replied that he was ‘not responsible for the lives of Iranian scientists’. The Times of Israel interpreted the remark as a ‘less-than-veiled threat that covert assassination missions blamed on Israel could resume’.

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