Iranian nuclear scientist goes home to the Ayatollah empty-handed

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 By

A mural of the ayatollah Khomeni in Teheran, Iran

Iranian nuclear defector Shahram Amiri left $5 million behind and mysteriously returned to Iran, where the government is milking the propaganda opportunity. Babel Travel/Flickr photo.

An Iranian nuclear scientist who defected to the U.S. in 2009 returned to a hero’s welcome in Iran Thursday. Shahram Amiri claims he was kidnapped by the CIA. U.S. officials say he defected on his own free will and apparently got homesick. Some speculate that Amiri has been an agent controlled by the Iranian government all along. The U.S. believes it came out ahead by by getting information about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Amiri left $5 million in CIA cash behind. Irregardless, the Iranian government is milking the affair for all the propaganda it can get.

Iranian nuclear scientist said he was kidnapped, tortured

Iranian nuclear scientist Sharhram Amiri, who Tehran claims was kidnapped and tortured by U.S. agents, arrived at Imam Khomeini International Airport and was greeted warmly by Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. CNN reports that an official in the know said despite the CIA cash advance, the U.S. came out ahead in the deal, with data about Iranian nuclear sites and Iranian nuclear weapons. Speaking about Amiri, the official told CNN,”We have his insights — original information on the Iranian nuclear program that proved useful — and now the Iranians have him. Plainly, we got the better end of things.”

Iranian nuke defector snitch leaves $5 million dollars behind

The Iranian nuke defector left behind most of the $5 million CIA cash advance he got for information about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. ABC News reports that the CIA commonly puts this kind of money in escrow so that an informant is rationed funds at the agency’s discretion. Keeping the money in escrow prevents a snitch from grabbing the money all at once. How much money the Amiri collected before his changed of heart is uncertain, but most of the cash remains in escrow. Anything he got is now beyond his reach, thanks to sanctions against Iran.

Iranian government gloats and crows

The Iranian nuclear scientist showed clear signs he was being exploited for propaganda by the Iranian government. The Guardian reports that Amiri told reporters in Tehran he had been tortured during his 14 months in the U.S. and pressured to lie about Iran’s nuclear program. He also denied having any expertise in the field. Iranian media, which is controlled by the state, gave blanket coverage to his return and reported that he had been invited to address the parliament’s committee on national security. The Iranian newspaper Siasat-e Ruz wrote about the failure of western intelligence, the end of CIA dominance and the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iranian nukes: who’s fooling who?

Last month, two videos surfaced on the Internet of a man claiming to be Amiri who said he escaped from U.S. agents and was hiding in Virginia.The CNN article quoted a CIA official who wondered how, if he were being held against his will, he would have been able to produce the videos. The Guardian article said Iranian bloggers suggest Amiri was a “controlled” agent and pointed to previous examples of undercover operations to discredit opposition activists. “If it was something they wanted to sweep under the carpet, they wouldn’t have given it this huge amount of media coverage,” the Guardian quoted one Iranian analyst.

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