Assassination of Key Individuals

The assassination of key individuals, to achieve military or political objectives, can achieve change – but with unpredictable consequences.

Governments sometimes try to remove a leader whom they believe to be a security threat, by arranging an assassination.  Such tactics are a gamble:

●  They worsen diplomatic relations with the perpetrator, even though it might be difficult to prove that an assassination attempt has taken place.

●  A replacement for an assassinated leader might not be any easier to deal with.

Several countries have engaged in the assassination of key individuals:

●  A Washington Post report, US Strikes Iraq for Plot to Kill Bush, described Bill Clinton’s retaliation for an alleged attempt to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1993, for example, although Iraq denied that the attempt had been made.

●  The Israeli Intelligence agency, Mossad, has also been accused of assassination attempts – as reported in an ABC News report: Mossad Tried to Kill Saddam With Exploding Book.

●  The Salisbury poisoning of a defected Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, was an operational failure which inflicted serious damage to UK relations with Russia.  President Putin may have achieved his main objective, though, because it sent a clear signal that disloyalty to the Kremlin would be punished even if the person concerned had left Russia.

More recently, assassinations have been carried out by making drone strikes ( – which are not wholly covert because the country of origin might be traced from fragments of the missile.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/7342.htm.