Before Tuesday, the US had refused to admit that the missing Iranian nuclear scientist, Shahram Amiri, had ever been present in the United States. The NY Times wrote in detail on this here. On Wednesday he was headed back to Tehran after being missing for over a year. Amiri claims that the CIA had kidnapped him, while on a religious holiday in Saudi Arabia, and that they were attempting to force him to speak out against Iran’s nuclear program. The US claims he defected of his own accord and that his return to Tehran was due to his family being threatened in his homeland. The media in Iran is quick to condemn the US as hostile kidnappers, and the CIA is currently quiet as stories circulate of Amiri being recruited to provide nuclear program details, and that this only fell apart after news of threats to the scientist’s family had reached him.
Who is lying? Perhaps everyone is avoiding the truth here. Could this nuclear scientist, of a US rival nation, have abandoned his birth land and given himself over to the capitalism that could permanently better his immediate life and that of his family? Did the man truly fall victim to CIA abductors and a year of torturous imprisonment without squealing on Iran?
Maybe, in a La Carre-like scenario the US has released this man, on the premise that he was kidnapped unwillingly, so that he could return to Tehran and still retain the trust of his own people as he worked as a US turned Triple Agent. Philosophically, who has the truer goal here regarding Amiri? Should Amiri betray his own people for the betterment of a hostile-free nuclear world, or should he refuse the US at every point and remain loyal to the western country’s advesary? What would any of us do if the CIA offered us a choice (which Amiri claims he never had)?
* Above by R.J. Huneke * Argument is taken up by Aaron Meltzer Below *
The individual Iranian scientist is relatively unimportant. It is interesting from the point of view of espionage, but all it shows is something we knew all along: that the United States and Israel are waging a war of espionage against Iran's attempt to build an atomic bomb. In the broader picture, it appears to have worked in slowing down Iran as numerous reports have stated that form the data we have gathered about the Iranian effort, the centrifuges and such have not been working at full capacity. Furthermore, a while ago, I believe in President Bush's term, the Israelis stated that the Iranians were six months away from building a bomb. The fact that it has been over six months means either the Israelis were wrong, or that the Iranians have been slowed down, as has been suggested recently.
However, all espionage can do is slow the Iranians down. Without some sort of internal collapse or a military strike, it looks like Iran will build an atomic bomb. Given the strikes and protests at the bazaars, a key part of the Iranian economy, it looks like some sort of toppling of the Iranian regime is possible given its current course. However the problem is which one occurs first, and if Iran does build an atomic bomb and then collapses, we have no way to be sure that bomb is kept out of the hands of those who would use it for terrorism. That said, that scenario depends on a lot of if's, so it is no use thinking about such a scenario for now.