Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri arrives home. What next?
The arrival of Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who reportedly defected to the US, closed a bizarre chapter in the 31-year US-Iran propaganda war. Now that he's home, Iranian officials are likely to ask him more probing questions.
Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist at the center of a US-Iran propaganda war, arrived to a hero’s welcome in Tehran early on Thursday morning, repeating claims that he was kidnapped by US agents more than a year ago and pressured to divulge nuclear secrets.Skip to next paragraph
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American officials say Mr. Amiri defected of his own free will and reportedly provided useful intelligence, but missed his wife and 7-year-old son still in Iran. Upon his return home he was greeted by garlands of flowers, senior officials, and his tearful family.
Amiri's departure from the United States may end one chapter in his mysterious saga, but it will almost certainly open another chapter in Tehran. Officials will want to know more about how Amiri ended up in the US, as well as why, and what information he may have given away.
Amiri burnishes his 'kidnapped academic' story
At an airport press conference, Amiri’s comments appeared to be aimed at burnishing the "kidnapped academic" story for Iranian officials – who at least in public have dismissed Amiri’s nuclear knowledge as inconsequential. Iran’s official media supported that version of events, portraying Amiri as a “scholar” who was ready to tell more about his 14-month “captivity” in the US.
“I have documents proving that I was not free [in the US] and could not contact anybody, and was constantly being watched by the CIA’s armed agents,” Amiri said at the press conference, according to a translation by the state-run PressTV.
“In the US, I was subjected to [the] heaviest psychological tortures by CIA interrogators,” Amiri alleged in his remarks, as his son sat on his knee. “This was part of a political propaganda campaign against the Islamic Republic. They wanted me to tell the American media that I had defected to the US and had some documents along with a lap-top computer that contained the most confidential [data] about Iran’s nuclear program.
“They threatened to hand me over to Israel unless I did whatever they wanted me to. They also said there are secret prisons in Israel, and there will be no trace of you anymore,” Amiri said, who also alleged that Israeli agents took part in some interrogations. “It was evident that they were secretly planning to transfer me to Israel.”
One source in Tehran who has been critical of Iran's regime says the kidnap story was “bogus.” None of the estimated 3,000 people detained – some kidnapped – by the CIA through its post-9/11 "extraordinary rendition" program had ever been known to escape.
If Amiri was important enough to kidnap against his will, the source suggested, he never would have had the freedom of movement or choice that he apparently had while in the US.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Amiri had arrived on his own volition, and was also “free to go.”
“It’s like children fighting over a toy,” says the Tehran source of the mutually hostile US-Iran rhetoric.
US media reports CIA offered millions to Amiri
Upon arrival in Tehran, Amiri sought to dispel US media reports that he had for several years been a “CIA spy” whose defection was an “intelligence coup” for Americans trying to learn more about Iran’s controversial nuclear program.