Who is 'Kidnapped Scientist' Shaharm Amiri?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Iranian nuclear scientist who says he was kidnapped by the CIA has taken refuge in the Iranian interests section of the Pakistani embassy in Washington D.C. There are conflicting stories about the man, including YouTube videos from the scientist himself. One video claims that he was drugged and woke up on a plane headed to the U.S., while another shows him saying he was studying in the U.S.

BBC correspondent Jon Leyne reports on what this means for U.S./Iran relations.

John Hockenberry weighs in:

The case of Shahram Amiri who showed up on the doorstep of the Pakistani embassy’s Iran section just may be an “Obama-shell.” He claims that he was kidnapped while on a holy pilgrimage to Mecca by the Saudis and then turned over to the CIA in 2009. He is alleged to be a nuclear scientist. He is asking to go back to Iran and his knowledge of who (if anyone) abducted him is probably at least as explosive as anything he knows about the development of nuclear bombs in his country. If true, this would be a kidnapping on President Obama’s watch. What does it say about the Obama policy to emphasize diplomacy in dealing with the world including, presumably, Iran? The U.S. is denying that Mr. Amiri was abducted, but his sudden appearance compounded with conflicting YouTube videos explaining his disappearance and reemergence are complicating the matter. Is he a nuclear scientist?

Perhaps the most sensitive part of this whole story is the idea that Islamic pilgrims on the Haj would be targeted for kidnapping by security forces. It would tend to discredit Saudi authorities which have the responsibility to protect pilgrims, not abduct them. That the Saudis would do the bidding of the CIA in such a religiously sensitive place is perhaps the most explosive allegation of all. The case of Shaharm Amiri, of course, could easily return to the shadowy world of “he said--they said,” but for now we have a hint of how far the Obama administration and the Saudi authorities might be willing to go in their quest to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

 

Guests:

Jon Leyne

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