Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who disappeared while in Saudi Arabia in June 2009 and reappeared in the US last month where he asked to return to Teheran is now suspected by US intelligence officials of being a double agent, British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph reported Sunday.
Iran — and at one point, Amiri — claimed the CIA had kidnapped him; the United States denied the allegation on Tuesday. Amiri disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, surfacing in videos but otherwise remaining out of sight until he turned up at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington on Monday evening, asking to be sent home.
Iran scientist on way home to Teheran
Missing Iranian scientist found in US
That prompted the Obama administration's first public acknowledgment that Amiri had been in the United States. "Mr. Amiri has been in the United States of his own free will and he is free to go," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
While Iran has viewed the entire episode as an abduction, Amiri's
disappearance last year fueled reports that he had defected to the
United States and was providing information on Iran's nuclear program.
return and a string of videos that emerged over the past month has
raised questions. In one video that seemed to be made in an Internet
cafe and was aired on Iranian TV, he claimed US and Saudi "terror and
kidnap teams" snatched him. In another, professionally produced one, he
said he was happily studying for a doctorate in the United States. In a
third, shaky piece of footage, Amiri claimed to have escaped from US
agents and insisted the second video was "a complete lie" that the
Americans put out.
Amiri's strange behavior has prompted the
suspicions that he may have faked defecting to plant false information
among US intelligence about the state of Iran's nuclear program.
The New York Times
reported Friday that
Amiri was one of the sources who contributed to a controversial 2007
National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran had stopped work on
its nuclear program.
Amiri received a hero's welcome upon
returning to Iran last week but CIA officials have stated that he will
likely face intense questioning about his defection from Iran's Ministry
of Intelligence and Security.
Other US intelligence sources find
Amiri's defection suspect. According to the the Sunday Telegraph
officials are calling into question why Iranian authorities would allow
someone working in such a sensitive field to travel to Saudi Arabia
alone, and why somebody planning on leaving Iran permanently would leave
his family behind.