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.
Iran nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri is reportedly headed back
home after declaring that he had been kidnapped by American agents
in Saudi Arabia and brought to the US against his will.
Just months before, US officials had called Mr. Amiri's arrival
in the US a defection and hailed it as an "intelligence coup" for
the CIA. More recently, according to ABC news, officials said Amiri
had supplied nuclear secrets for years and had "provided evidence
that Iran continued a program to produce nuclear weapons."
Even by the high standards of a 31-year propaganda war between
the US and Iran, the Amiri saga is a special case.
Iran's state-run media claimed Amiri's return as a victory for
the country, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was
nonchalant on Tuesday, saying Amiri had "been in the United States
of his own free will and he is free to go."
"On the propaganda score, I would give a marginal victory to Iran
at the moment," says Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for
Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland. "There are
more questions to be answered by the Americans, I think. But it's
not an [Iranian] triumph."
"The more [the Iranians] talk about it, the more propaganda they
make about it, the more I think they're trying to ... disguise
something that went wrong," adds Dr. Ansari, who says everyone is
'Baffling' case leaves many questions unanswered
Analysts say there are more questions than answers in a
"baffling" case, which makes it easy for both sides to claim
Senior Iranian officials have presented to the Swiss Embassy in
Tehran - which handles American interests in Iran - what they
described as "evidence" that Amiri was victim of a US and Saudi
kidnap operation during the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June
The US denies the charge, and until this week did not acknowledge
Amiri's presence in the country. Officials have so far presented
nothing - such as a visa application, or a copy of a plane ticket -
to indicate that Amiri arrived in America through normal channels.
Student visas for Iranians require university acceptance, proof of
sufficient funds, and are typically a long and involved process.
Likewise, Iran has downplayed the 33-year-old's nuclear
credentials, claiming for months that he was never an employee of
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, and regularly referring to Amiri
on official broadcasts simply as an "abducted academic."
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.
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
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. …