Are there justifiable assassinations, and is it possible to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable assassinations. I'm thinking of two particular types here. One kind of killing is Obama's drone attacks in Pakistan against Taliban and al Quaida leaders, e.g. the attacks in 2011 that killed Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Ilyas Kashmiri. Are these really assassinations or are they part of legitimate combat operations in either the War in Afghanistan or the War on Terror or both, if the War on Terror can be said to have legitimate combat operations? A second would be the assassination of nuclear physicists/engineers/technicians alleged to be involved in Iran's covert nuclear weapons program. The latter looks a lot less like combat operations than the former. No one would suggest that either the U.S. or Israel was at war with Iran, although of course we're even less at war, technically, with Pakistan where many U.S.-launched drone attacks occur, albeit perhaps with the covert cooperation of the Pakistan government. I'll define assassination for the purpose of this discussion as the premeditated extrajudicial summary execution of a military leader or civilian, authorized by a state against an individual of another state, just to exclude political assassinations conducted against fellow citizens in the same state. I don't know if the drone attacks are easier to justify morally, but it seems to me on its face that the Iranian nuclear scientist assassinations are very difficult to justify. Assume for a moment that the Israelis are behind it: 1. Israel and Iran are not at war 2. Iran is not an aggressor nation under any meaningful definition of the term threatening war against Israel 3. The assassination targets are not combatants, military leaders, or politicians in charge of military policy. Iran is in breach of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. But are assassinations justifiable as a means of treaty enforcement, and if so, on what legal or moral grounds? In the case of drone attacks, the ones happening outside a war zone seem problematic. Again, we're not at war with Pakistan or its citizens. We're taking a covert war against Taliban fighters and al Qaeda leaders into the territory of an ally nation. Maybe this effort is analogous to the secret bombing campaign against Cambodia in 69-70 and not something that falls easily under the rubric of assassination, although again the differences between our relationship with Pakistan in 2011 and Cambodia in 1969 are worth noting. Also note that drone attacks cause a fair amount of civilian casualties, more so than a car bomb attack on a nuclear scientist, although those have killed non targets as well. Anyway, is there a clear line between drone attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan and car bomb assassinations of nuclear scientists in Iran that makes one type morally justifiable, or are they both on the same side of the line, whether morally justifiable/unjustifiable?