|Willy Messerschmitt's Helwan Fighter|
Operation Damocles, 1962-63
The first of those, in 1962-63, was exposed when the Swiss arrested a Mossad agent involved; that led to a quarrel between David Ben-Gurion and the legendary (now: his identity was a state secret then) first head of Shin Bet and from 1951 also head of Mossad, Isser Harel, and Harel's resignation. The attacks on the German scientists, reportedly called Operation Damocles, was in response to Egyptian President Nasser's efforts to acquire a missile and aircraft industry using ex-Nazi scientists. (Horrors. It's as if we had hired Wernher von Braun to run our space program. Oh, wait.) Nasser made a lot of belligerent boasts that his missiles would be able to hit any target "south of Beirut," which Israel quite reasonably interpreted as meaning themselves. Since both rocketry and aircraft manufacture were banned to the Bundeswehr, a lot of German scientists were looking for work. The iconic Willy Messerschmitt himself, in fact, had set up shop in Spain (then of course still under Franco), and agreed to produce a light fighter jet design he developed there as the Helwan HA-300 in Egypt.
|Nasser (dark suit), and Al-Qahir|
As already noted, the assassinations of German scientists were eventually linked directly to Mossad. The Egyptian missile program never got much beyond the V-2 stage. Today most of the prototypes (some of which may have been mockups for military parades) are on display in town squares, traffic roundabouts, or even children's playgrounds.
How much did the Israeli assassination project against German scientists contribute to the failure of Nasser's rocket dreams, and how much was it due to impracticality and lack of funds? We'll have to wait for the Egyptian military to declassify the files. Don't hold your breath.
The Iraqi Nuclear Program
Pretty much all of you will know about Israel's strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Less well remembered is the killing of an Egyptian nuclear scientist said to be heading the Iraqi program, Yehia El-Mashad, in a Paris hotel in 1980. The French suspected Mossad, but there was no smoking gun.
A decade later, somebody shot "Iraqi supergun" designer Gerald Bull in Brussels in 1990. He'd made plenty of enemies in his day, but most people blamed Mossad.
So the string of assassinated nuclear scientists and other "accidents" in Iran lately leads a lot of observers who aren't knee-jerk blamers of Israel to see a half-century pattern of sorts.