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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Iranian defector: huge headlines, no story

The headlines blare "Iranian nuclear scientist defects" (quite possibly for a large sum of money, something of course not admitted but suggested by this: "Since the late 1990s, the CIA has attempted to recruit Iranian scientists and officials" as well as mention of "an offer of resettlement.").

But the story, after all is said in done, is as inconsequential as possible, and boils down to this:

Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection by the CIA, according to the people briefed on the situation. They say Amiri helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program.
And what are "U.S. intelligence assessments"? That "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons." I'm not sure how exactly you would not "keep open the option to develop nuclear weapons" - kill all the nuclear scientists in your country and ban the teaching of nuclear physics? Other than that insightful observation from the CIA, what we see from this "extensive debriefing" is that there is no "smoking gun" or even the faint smell of gunpowder, because you can bet your life if this person had revealed anything that could even remotely be construed to suggest that Iran is actually engaged in a nuclear weapons program, that would be the headline, rather than the defection itself (which happened quite a while ago).

Of course, Donald Rumsfeld was indeed right when he said "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." The fact that this particular scientist had no secret revelations proves nothing, he may simply not have been part of or knowledgeable of the alleged secret programs. Although the fact that there was "a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect" certainly suggests that the CIA thought he wasn't just any random nuclear scientist, but one who actually would know something, if there was something to know. Conclusion: there isn't. Or rather there is, which is that there is no "secret program."

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