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The Spy Who Ran Back to the Cold
July 13, 2010 9:37 AM   Subscribe

On June 6th, Shahram Amiri - an Iranian nuclear scientist -- appeared on a YouTube video claiming he was abducted by US and Saudi authorities in Medina, drugged and flown to the US. On June 7th, a second video on Youtube appeared where he, or someone claiming to be him, said he was fine, studying in the US. (The U.S. government has no official comment but cited him as a source on Iran's nuclear program.) A 3rd video backed the first. Now Pakistan says Amiri is in hiding in its Washington embassy's Iranian interests section under asylum and making arrangements to get back to Iran. How he got there, and why, is a mystery.

For another non-objective perspective, here's Russia Today's TV news story, which they paid to make the featured story on YouTube searches.
posted by msalt (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pakistan is saying that they are not really involved, that they just host the Iranian interests section the way that Switzerland hosts the U.S. interests section in Tehran. Iran also says that former deputy defense minister Alireza Asgari was kidnapped on a trip to Turkey in 2007.
posted by msalt at 9:52 AM on July 13, 2010


Mmmhmm...
posted by wierdo at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2010


He did it for the show?
posted by grounded at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2010


Shahram Amiri will return in...


Grand Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader of Iran's Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution Guard

posted by 2bucksplus at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2010


Now it's CIA's turn for les oeufs sur la visage.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2010


I don't usually read comments on sites outside of Metafilter, but when reading the article on Yahoo, I scrolled down because I've wondered whether Americans have the same stereotypes about Persians as they do about people from Afghanistan and Iraq. I came across this gem:

"america should nuke the middle east, and the near east too. anywhere the liberal muslim communist scum socialists and all the other undesirrables... like Mexico and Fort Lauderdale. where ever big eared terrorists and their friends live should be nuked. immediately."

1) If I ever get a sockpuppet, you can bet my handle will be "liberal muslim communist scum socialist"

2) Mexico and Fort Lauderdale?! Really??
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2010


Obviously somebody had a bad spring break experience
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:11 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why is he reading from a teleprompter in all 3 videos? And how did he even manage to make the first one?
posted by DU at 10:19 AM on July 13, 2010


Mexico and Fort Lauderdale?! Really??

Wikipedia says: "Fort Lauderdale has a significantly higher percentage of foreign-born residents than the United States as a whole; the 2000 census data indicated that 21.7% of the city's population was foreign-born. Of foreign-born residents, 69.2% were born in Latin America and 17.3% were born in Europe, with smaller percentages from North America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania."

So I guess this guy feels that a US city's population being roughly 15% Latin American is grounds for a nuclear strike. Also interesting that he conflates Latin Americans with Muslims. I wonder how many racist idiots believe Central and South America are hotbeds of Muslim extremism.
posted by jedicus at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2010


The comments on the third video indicate that there's another version where the audio has been edited - a second Farsi speaker was edited out in that one. This is weird...
posted by charred husk at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2010


Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Youtuber Spy
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2010




Bin Laden...in Brasil?
posted by iamck at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2010




A spy, dissident, or refugee changing their mind and going back is really not at all that rare. Take the famous example of Saddam Kamel:

"He was married to Rana Hussein and was the brother of Hussein Kamel al-Majid (who was also married to a daughter of Saddam, Raghad Hussein).
For a time he was head of the Republican Guard but was removed from the position in 1986 in favour of Saddam Hussein's son, Qusay Hussein.
Due to his close resemblance to the Iraqi leader he played the part of Saddam Hussein in the film The Long Days, a highly propagandistic account of Saddam Hussein's life.
In 1995 he defected from Iraq with his brother and their wives and his brother gave information to UNSCOM, the CIA and MI6 about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In 1996 the group returned to Iraq believing they had been pardoned for their actions; however, the brothers were killed - by way of an execution - in a prolonged gun battle shortly after they returned."


These people often were important figures in the regime they fled - leading lives of privilege and having very high status. Now they come to the West, and discover that after the CIA is done with debriefing them, they often become an anonymous joe shmoe, even having to struggle just to survive economically, or living under a new identity, all privilege and status gone. And suffering culture shock - given that the societies they came from are often radically different from the West. Isolated from family and friends and the society they understood. So they go back, often lured back, to disaster. The only surprising thing is that it doesn't happen more often.

I have no idea what happened with this scientist, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he got cold feet at some point and wishes for an undo.
posted by VikingSword at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2010




In 1995 he defected from Iraq with his brother and their wives and his brother gave information to UNSCOM, the CIA and MI6 about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

In 1996 the group returned to Iraq believing they had been pardoned for their actions; however, the brothers were killed - by way of an execution - in a prolonged gun battle shortly after they returned."


I remember that part in the HBO Saddam Hussein movie, House of Saddam. Anyone know how factual the the movie was? Was it discussed on Mefi?
posted by exhilaration at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2010


big eared terrorists

um. spock? what the fuck is this about?
posted by angrycat at 12:30 PM on July 13, 2010


It's all a viral campaign for Travel Italia. You just wait and see.
posted by msbutah at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2010


big eared terrorists

um. spock? what the fuck is this about?


I'd guess it's a jab at our big-eared President.
posted by cereselle at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2010


Pakistan is saying that they are not really involved, that they just host the Iranian interests section

That's pretty much the way the consular treaties work. I doubt Pakistan is working with Iran, as they have an uneasy relationship (Iran is mainly Shi'a, Pakistan is mainly Sunni but with a significant Shi'a minority, and there are sectarian tensions and violence), and Pakistan is a close military and intelligence ally of the US, a relationship they do not want to fuck up. In fact, I'd bet money that the places who found out this guy had walked into the embassy were, in order, Islamabad, the Pentagon, and Tehran.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 PM on July 13, 2010


Some comments from the FT today:
He disappeared while on a pilgrimage to Mecca in May last year and later travelled to the US. Iran says he was kidnapped by Saudi Arabia and then handed over to the CIA.

But US reports say Mr Amiri chose to defect and his subsequent actions – including a series of video appearances on YouTube in which he professed his loyalty to Iran and said he was on the run from the US authorities – may have been motivated by a desire to protect his family in Tehran. Mr Amiri’s wife and seven-year-old son are believed to be in Iran.

A spokesman for the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy confirmed Mr Amiri’s presence to the Financial Times and described him as a “free” man. The Pakistani foreign ministry also confirmed that he was at the embassy. But there were contradictory accounts of how he ended up there. Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, said that Mr Amiri had sought “refuge” at the premises. But Fars, a semi-official agency with close ties to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said the scientist was “handed over” by the US.

Mostafa Rahmani, the head of the Iranian interests section, told state television that Mr Amiri arrived by taxi, accompanied by US intelligence agents, at about 7pm on Monday. “They accompanied him to the door of the interests section but left after he came in
...
The Iranian government recently summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represents US interests, and presented “documents” allegedly showing Washington had kidnapped Mr Amiri. The US state department declined to comment.
posted by shothotbot at 6:29 AM on July 14, 2010


I can sympathize with his feeling torn after bolting for the US, especially with wife and kids back home, but I have to think life's just going to get worse and worse for him back in Iran.
posted by msalt at 9:32 AM on July 14, 2010






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