An Iranian nuclear espionage mystery

ABC News reports:

The CIA has lost one of its most valued former spies.

Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who defected to the US, is now on his way back home to Tehran after a very messy and public re-defection. ABC News obtained exclusive photos of Amiri leaving Washington’s Dulles International Airport late Tuesday night on a commercial flight to Doha, Qatar, en route to Iran.

Amiri was escorted directly to the jetway entrance by a security officer. He was flanked by what appeared to be a U.S. official and a representative from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. He boarded the Qatar Airways flight ahead of the other passengers, and spoke only to his companions. After more than a year in the US, Amiri claimed he had never really defected. In a series of videos released on the internet, he insisted that he had been kidnapped, drugged and tortured by the CIA. The US flatly denies that it ever held Amiri against his will.

The Washington Post columnist and unofficial spokesman for the CIA, David Ignatius, attributes Amiri’s departure to a change of heart.

The CIA has struggled for decades with how to handle defectors better so that they are happy in a strange new land. The agency periodically tries to improve its tradecraft in working with these skittish guests. But defectors are trouble. They are like small boats in a heavy sea, not sure which way is home.

But Ignatius concedes that it is hard to understand why the Iranian scientist would have defected while leaving his wife and child behind. That detail, along with the deaths of Ardeshire Hassanpour and Masoud Alimohammadi, might seem to reinforce the claim that Amiri was in fact abducted and that all three cases be seen in the context of a US-backed, Israeli-led covert war targeting Iran’s nuclear programme.

What seems more likely however, is that the Iranians took the CIA for a ride — that Amiri’s “defection” took place so the Iran could glean more about the extent of American knowledge about its nuclear program and that the information he gathered was worth more valuable than the information he gave away.

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  1. Ignatius is an idiot or a sophist. I don’t know if the CIA contacts he has have so warped his thinking or what, but every week on the Diane Rehm show, he obfuscates like Dershowitz.