Alleged Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri has
returned to Iran after 13 months in the U.S. It's still unclear what happened during his stay and why he returned home
. We may
never know the full truth, but several new reports point to the
possibility that he was an Iranian double agent all along. Under this
theory, Amiri would have faked his defection to the U.S. (or allowed
himself to be abducted, depending on whose story you believe), where he
either fed the U.S. false information or acquired information to send
back to Iran or both. Here's what we know.
- Why He Might Be a
Double Agent PBS's Babak Sarfaraz considers
the possibility that "his defection was fake and that Amiri was in fact
tasked with the mission of acting like a genuine defector in order to
embarrass Iran's adversaries, gain knowledge of their 'methods and
techniques,' and score a noteworthy political and diplomatic victory.
Already, hardline [Iranian] papers are touting it as a major
'intelligence coup' on their front pages. Though it is likely that Amiri
divulged some state secrets to his interrogators -- as it is assumed he
did concerning the Fordo nuclear plant -- if he was indeed a double
agent, his superiors must have weighed the cost and benefits of his
'defection' and concluded that there was more to be gained by his going
over to the other side than not. It is also possible that they suspected
the West knew about Fordo already."
- Hero's Welcome in Tehran
The New York Times' William Yong reports, "An Iranian nuclear scientist
who American officials say defected to the
United States and then had second thoughts was given a hero's welcome
when he returned to Tehran early Thursday morning. ... A wreath of
flowers was placed around his neck as he was greeted at Imam
Khomeini International Airport by family members, including his 7-year
old son, red-eyed from crying, and a grinning Foreign Ministry
- CIA Paid Amiri $5 Million The Washington
Miller and Thomas Erdbrink report that he "was paid more than $5
million by the agency to provide intelligence on Iran's nuclear program,
U.S. officials said. Shahram Amiri is not obligated to return the money
but might be unable to access it after breaking off what U.S. officials
described as significant cooperation with the CIA and abruptly
returning to Iran."
- Amiri Probably Didn't Just Change His Mind
The official U.S. position is that Amiri defected, changed his mind,
and returned home. PBS' Babak Sarfaraz dissents,
"it is a very rare for defectors to return to their home countries; this
is especially true of a brutal regime like the Islamic Republic, where a
repatriated defector would likely face extensive, interrogation,
torture, or even execution. (Saddam Husssein's son-in-law Hussein Kamel
al-Majid, for instance, was executed after he returned to Iraq from
Jordan.) The least that a lapsed defector could expect would be a
lifetime of opprobrium and festering suspicions. Amiri, who has worked
within the Iranian system for many years, would surely be aware of these
- Amiri's Ever-Changing
Story The Iranian has made increasingly dramatic condemnations of
the U.S. since he began his journey home. He first alleged that the CIA
kidnapped him in Saudi Arabia. Later he said he had been "emotionally"
but not physically tortured by the U.S. Now he claims that he was
physically tortured by the U.S. and that Israel intelligence was somehow
involved, the BBC reports. "Mr Amiri offered no
evidence, but said he would eventually. 'I have some documents proving
that I've not been free in the United States and have always been under
the control of armed agents of US intelligence services.'"
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