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Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri heads home amid propaganda war

The saga of Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who reportedly defected to the US last year, is a special case in the 31-year propaganda war between the US and Iran.

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But an Iranian news site reported that Amiri had worked at Iran's Qom nuclear site, the existence of which was declared by Iran in September – several months after Amiri disappeared – when it became aware that the US and Western intelligence agencies knew of it.

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Amiri's contradictory YouTube videos

The competing narratives have been fueled by Amiri’s own set of contradictory YouTube videos.

In one aired on June 29, which ABC reported he was compelled to make after his wife and son back in Iran were threatened, he accuses the US of kidnapping him. He speaks of his “escape” from American intelligence handlers in Virginia and his wish to return to Iran.

“I could be arrested at any time by US agents…. I am not free and I’m not allowed to contact my family. If something happens and I do not return home alive, the US government will be responsible,” says Amiri, his eyes darting repeatedly to the top of the screen. “I ask Iranian officials and organizations that defend human rights to raise pressure on the US government for my release and return to my country.”

In a later one, which ABC says was made by the CIA, Amiri – flanked by a globe and chess set – spoke of his desire to stay in America and pursue his studies.

ABC had earlier reported that Amiri’s disappearance “was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect.” Amiri had been approached in Iran through an intermediary “who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States,” and had since been “extensively debriefed” by the CIA.

State TV broadcasts Amiri's tale of abduction

The Amiri saga “is almost as weird as it gets,” says a US diplomatic source who could not be named. The official is “convinced they somehow have forced [Amiri]/lured him/bribed him/threatened to kill his family in order to get him. I suspect once he goes back, he’ll be propped up on TV and milked for propaganda value, then he’ll disappear.”

Iran’s state-run PressTV reported that Amiri had been “escorted” by “US forces” to the Iranian interest section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington this week. While still there on Tuesday, Amiri gave an exclusive interview to PressTV about his alleged abduction during the hajj last year.

“Three days after my arrival in Medina, I was heading to the mosque of the prophet. On my way, a white van stopped near me. There were three people inside. A driver, a bearded man in a suit and another man in the back seat, who was also wearing a suit,” Amiri was quoted as saying on the English-language channel.

They offered him a ride to the mosque, which “out of respect” he says he accepted. “Once I got in the van, the man who was inside said, ‘Don’t make any noise.’ I was confused at that moment, and had no idea what was happening.”

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