On Wednesday, Iranian state media reported, his wish was granted. The scientist, Shahram Amiri, “has left the United States for the Iranian capital, Tehran,” Press TV, a state-run satellite broadcaster, reported, without giving details of his itinerary. The official IRNA news agency quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying he was “heading towards Iran through a third country.”
The bizarre episode was the latest in a tale that has featured a mysterious disappearance from a hotel room in Saudi Arabia, rumours of a trove of new intelligence about Iran’s nuclear facilities and a series of contradictory YouTube videos. It set off a renewed propaganda war between Iran and the US.
Iranian officials have said for months that Amiri, 32, was kidnapped in the spring of 2009, taken to the US and imprisoned and tortured. Iranian media quoted Amiri on Tuesday as saying that the US had wanted to quietly return him to Iran and “cover up the kidnapping.”
On Wednesday, Press TV said: “Analysts say US intelligence officials decided to release Amiri after they failed to advance their propaganda campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme via fabricating interviews with the Iranian national.”
American intelligence officials scoffed at such accounts. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the first official acknowledgment of Amiri’s presence in the US, said on Tuesday that he had arrived in the country “of his own free will” and could leave whenever he wished — an indication, she said, that he was hardly a prisoner of the US government.
Embarrassment to US
Clearly the latest chapter in the saga of Amiri, a specialist in radiation detection, was an embarrassment to American intelligence agencies and offered a peephole view of what is informally called the “brain drain” programme to lure Iranian scientists and engineers out of their country.