From the Iran file

Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon’s new book is The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals that Reshaped the Middle East. Solomon has broken many stories on the Iran beat for the Journal. His new book is must reading on the critical national security challenge presented by the regime of the mad mullahs that is on a glide path to the acquisition of nuclear weapons with the invaluable assistance of the Obama administration.

Solomon’s new book is reviewed in the current issue of the Jewish Review of Books, which I just received in the mail yesterday. I think I have attentively followed the news regarding Iran, but I somehow failed to absorb the details of the story with which Jordan Chandler Hirsch opens his review:

In April 2009, a young Iranian, Shahram Amiri, disappeared in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly there to perform the hajj, Amiri had in fact brokered a deal with the CIA to provide information on Iran’s nuclear program. Leaving his wife and child behind in Iran and a shaving kit in an empty Saudi hotel room, Amiri fled to America, received asylum, pocketed $5 million, and resettled in Arizona. Formerly a scientist at Malek Ashtar University, one of several institutes harboring Iran’s nuclear endeavors, Amiri conveyed the structure of the program and intelligence about a number of key research sites, including the secret facility at Fordow.

The story might have ended there. But according to Jay Solomon, chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and author of The Iran Wars, what happened next “emerged as one of the strangest episodes in modern American espionage.” A year after Amiri defected, he appeared on YouTube, claiming that the CIA had drugged and kidnapped him. In fact, Iranian intelligence had begun threatening his family through their intelligence assets in the United States [Ed. note: Solomon reports in the book that Iranian threats against Amiri’s wife and son left in Iran had been conveyed to Amiri through “a sophisticated network of assets maintained in the” United States]. Buckling under that pressure, Amiri demanded to re-defect. In July 2010, he returned to a raucous welcome in Tehran, claimed he had been working for Iran all along, and reunited with his son. Of course this was not the end of the story. Amiri soon disappeared, and in August 2016, shortly after Solomon’s book was published, he was hanged.

Solomon reported on Amiri for the Journal in a 2010 article that is accessible online here. This past August David Sanger reported on Amiri’s execution for the New York Times in “How an Iranian’s spy saga ends, 6 years later: He’s executed.”

Hirsch’s JRB review of Solomon’s book is posted online here.

Via Mosaic Editors’ Picks.

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