Key Iranian Nuclear Scientist Defects to US

CIA officials see 'intelligence coup' in Shahram Amiri
By Will McCahill,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2010 7:44 PM CDT
This 2009 photo shows the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, just outside the southern port city of Bushehr, Iran.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – A key Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared last year while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, in fact defected to the CIA, which has resettled Shahram Amiri in the US, sources tell ABC News. The sources call the defection “an intelligence coup” for the agency, which has long sought inside information on Tehran’s alleged quest to obtain nuclear weapons.

The defection of Amiri, a physicist in his early 30s, was the result of a long-running CIA operation aimed at recruiting Iranian scientists; Iranian authorities reacted to his disappearance by blaming the US. But, one analyst warns, “the significance of the coup will depend on how much the scientist knew in the compartmentalized Iranian nuclear program. Just taking one scientist out of the program will not really disrupt it.”

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