U.S. officials have confirmed that a top Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the United States.
The nuclear physicist, Shahram Amirit, disappeared last summer three days after he arrived in Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage. Officials confirmed Wednesday that he defected to the United States in a covert CIA operation, leaving behind his wife and children. The CIA refused to comment on the report.
Nearly two months later, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had accused the United States of abducting the scientist, and added that Saudi Arabia “must [also] be held accountable in this regard.”
Information Confirmed What was Already Known
Amiri apparently worked at or near Fordow, a nuclear facility outside the Iranian holy city of Qom, according to officials briefed on the operation by intelligence personnel. Amiri, a man “in his 30s,” was resettled in the U.S. and is working for the CIA, reported ABC News, which added that the information he provided helped confirm what the CIA “already knew” about the Qom facility.
The award-winning nuclear physicist was described as a scientist at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, which the United Nations identifies as one of several nuclear research facilities in the country overseen by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Two additional nuclear sites in which uranium is being enriched have also recently come to light, as it becomes increasingly clear that Iran maintains a tightly-compartmentalized system of managing its nuclear development program in order to minimize security leaks.
ABC News added that the CIA has been sending agents for more than a decade to Iranian-American communities in the United States hoping to recruit relatives from Tehran.
Israel has repeatedly urged the international community to increase economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to force the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear development activities. It is believed by many intelligence agencies, including Israel’s Mossad, that Iran is building an atomic weapon. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also repeatedly threatened to wipe the State of Israel “off the map of the world.”