Comment: Defector’s Wish to Return to Iran Not Unusual
July 14, 2010 5 Comments
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
This website has covered extensively the case of Dr. Shahram Amiri, a scientific researcher employed in Iran’s nuclear program, who disappeared during a religious pilgrimage to Mecca in May or June of 2009. Tehran maintains that Dr. Amiri was abducted by CIA agents. However, most intelligence observers, including this writer, believe that the Iranian researcher willfully defected to the West, following a long, carefully planned intelligence operation involving the CIA, as well as French and German intelligence agencies.
Like all defectors, Dr. Amiri spent several months in a CIA safe house in the United States, where he was extensively debriefed by US intelligence officers. He was then given a new identity and resettled, reportedly in Tucson, Arizona. However, a few months after his resettlement, Dr. Amiri emerged from hiding and presented himself at the Iranian Interests Section of the embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC. He simply walked in, calmly identified himself, and told stunned consular officials that he wished to return to Iran.
Although denied by the Pakistani embassy –for obvious reasons– this account has been confirmed by both the Pakistani and Iranian governments. The latter insists that Dr. Amiri was kidnapped by the CIA and somehow managed to escape his captors. This was officially denied by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who said that “Mr. [sic] Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will and he is free to go”. Secretary Clinton was correct: according to US law, defectors to the US are free to leave the country once their debriefing period has ended and they have been resettled. Her statement is also the first formal admission by a US government official that the missing Iranian scientist was in the United States.
The details behind Dr. Amiri’s 14-month disappearance are still far from clear. But his apparent attempt to return to Iran is certainly not unusual. Seasoned intelligence observers may remember the re-defection from the Soviet Union to the US of Lee Harvey Oswald, who moved to the USSR and renounced his US citizenship in 1959, only to change his mind and return to America three years later, along with his Russian wife. Another infamous Cold War re-defection case is that of Vitaly Yurchenko, a colonel with 25 years of service at the Soviet KGB, who defected to US in 1985. The details of his case are still shrouded in mystery. What is known is that, perhaps disillusioned by a lengthy debriefing process, which may have included elements of torture by CIA handlers suspicious of KGB dangling ploys, Yurchenko simply walked away from his CIA minder one day in November of 1985. Like Dr. Amiri, he simply walked in the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, identified himself as Vitaly Yurchenko, claimed he had been kidnapped and brutally tortured by the CIA, and requested safe passage to the Soviet Union.
Despite the lack of relevant information, the re-defections of both Vitaly Yurchenko and Shahram Amiri point to the complex psychology of defection. The latter can result in frustration, uncertainty, fear, disillusionment, and even eventual regret and reconsideration on the part of defectors. These are not psychologically disturbed individuals, but rather intelligent and extremely capable experts in their respective fields, whose actions may seem inconsistent due to the extremely ambiguous situations in which they find themselves.