Senior Iranian scientist defected to CIA: report

Shahram Amiri

Shahram Amiri

ABC News appears to confirm earlier rumors, which intelNews reported on last December, that a senior Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the CIA. The Iranian government had initially accused American and Saudi intelligence agencies of kidnapping Shahram Amiri, a central figure in the Iranian nuclear research program, who disappeared last June during a hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. However, as intelNews reported last year, French intelligence sources  claimed that Amiri’s defection was facilitated through a carefully planned intelligence operation involving the CIA, as well as French and German operatives. Moreover, the alleged defector was said to have secretly briefed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Frankfurt, Germany, before they traveled to Iran to inspect a previously undeclared Iranian nuclear facility near the city of Qum. According to ABC News, which cites “people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials”, not only has Amiri defected to the CIA, but he has already been “extensively debriefed” since his defection. The Iranian scientist has left the CIA safe house facilities in which he was held, and has been resettled in the United States. The report hints that Amiri’s defection was not an unexpected gift to the CIA, but was rather the culmination of an extensive CIA plan to entice Amiri to defect. The Iranian scientist was apparently “approached […] in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States”. ABC News describes Amiri’s defection as an “intelligence coup”. If its defection claims are proven accurate, then the characterization “intelligence coup” may not be far off the mark. Amiri’s alleged defection may in fact represent the crowning achievement of the CIA’s covert efforts against the Iranian nuclear program, which, according to The New York Times, was approved by President George W. Bush in early 2008 and “hand[ed] off to President […] Barack Obama”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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