Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Remarkable Mr. Amiri

I really, really want to know what the fuck is up with Shahram Amiri, the Iranian scientist. He's heading back to Tehran today and has released an interview in which he claims US and Saudi "terror and kidnap teams" nabbed him while on hajj to Saudi Arabia and the CIA has been torturing, drugging, and bribing him to reveal Iranian secrets.

He never held a government job. He's 33 years old and was a researcher at Malek Ashtar university of defense technology. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran denies any ties with him.

He released one webcam video from an Internet cafe in Tucson in which he claimed to have escaped; hours later, released a second, professional video in which he stated he was studying for his doctorate. And why was he in Arizona? My best guess was that, for some reason, he was taken to Fort Huachuca, the US Army's Center for Intelligence. So how did a panicky, 33y.o. (or 32, by some reports) Iranian nuclear researcher break out of a Stateside military base, elude the CIA, and hitchhike 74 miles in a state that ratified paranoia against immigrants?

Iran's claiming his return as their victory, Secretary Clinton reiterated he was here on his own volition and free to go at any time. Speculators speculate he was actually trying to defect to the US, and a former CIA operations officer thinks Iran's gov't got hold of Amiri's family and coerced his return.


Okay, more information is coming out. I still don't know what's going on for sure, but reading newspapers around the world gives a lot of perspective.

An Indian news website reports the CIA paid Amiri $5 million for the information he shared with them. They also suggest he no longer has access to this money, since Iran is under financial sanctions from the US. This information pertained to Iran's nuclear defense program, apparently.

WIRED reports, now that Amiri's back in Tehran, Iran is adamantly denying that he's a scientist at all, emphasizing he is merely a university-based researcher, a "scholar."

Yet another nameless US official involved in the case claims the US got the better end of the deal. "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," the official said of Amiri.

Tehran makes no bones about asserting Amiri definitely was kidnapped and lends no credence to--indeed, entirely fails to mention--US claims that he traveled here of his own volition.

Radio Free Europe explores multiple facets to the story: Amiri may have come to the US on his own, had to release videos to Iran suggesting he'd been kidnapped to cover his ass and protect his family as  well as secure his return to his native land. They also indicate this incident may be a blow to the CIA and a propaganda victory for Iran.

Lastly, this Wall Street Journal article seems to tie up a few loose ends, such as why he was in Arizona and why the second video contradicted the first. I think this heralds the coming end to the mystery and soon it'll be a non-issue. Or he'll be executed in Iran.

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