Amiri vs USA or Narseh vs Rome


The latest round of spy stories - more specifically, the Iranian nuclear scientist who oscillated between being abducted and being a defector - reminds me of an old episode from the Roman - Persian war.

AmiriIn short, this story has two versions. The common thread is that Shahram Amiri, who has flown from the US to Tehran, an Iranian scientist and university researcher was flown from Saudi Arabia to US.

The US, through Secretary of State Clinton, has declared that he defected and was now returning to Iran of his own free will. Shahram has made contradictory statements and it is very difficult – if not impossible - to determine whether he made some declarations under duress or he is just very confused. The events of June 7 are probably the most confusing, as described by BBC:

A man claiming to be Mr Amiri appears in a video posted online, claiming he was kidnapped by CIA agents during the Hajj. "They took me to a house located somewhere that I didn't know," he says in the video. "They gave me an anaesthetic injection." He says he is living in Tucson, Arizona, and says he has been subjected to eight months of "the most severe tortures and psychological pressures". But another video message appears on YouTube on the same day, recorded apparently by the same man, entirely contradicting this version of events. In this video, he says he is in the US to continue his education, adding: "I am free here and I assure everyone that I am safe." He says he is "not involved in weapons research and have no experience and knowledge in this field".

Here’s what we were able to piece together from BBC:

US version (from bbc)

The US said he had been in the country "of his own free will" and denied he was tortured.

In the US, unnamed officials and security sources said that Mr Amiri defected and was put into a programme similar to a witness-protection scheme. Later, he apparently became concerned for family members he had left behind, had a breakdown and decided to return to Iran, US reports claim. A US official told the BBC: "He provided useful information to the United States. The Iranians now have him. In terms of win-loss, it's not even a close call." The official said Mr Amiri was not held in the US against his will, had lived there freely and had chosen freely to return to Iran. In its online edition, The Washington Post newspaper quoted unnamed officials saying Mr Amiri had been working for the CIA for more than a year and was paid $5m (£3.3m). In June, the Iranian government announced that it had handed evidence to the US that the scientist had been abducted. It came shortly after Mr Amiri appeared in two videos posted on the internet giving conflicting stories about how he had arrived in the US. He said in the first that he had been kidnapped by CIA and Saudi agents while on a pilgrimage. In the second message, he said he had gone to the US to improve his education and was living freely in Arizona.

Iranian / Shahram version

In a third message posted on the internet later that month, Mr Amiri said he had escaped from US custody and was on the run in Virginia. In an interview with Iranian state Press TV before he left the US, Mr Amiri said he was in Medina when three men in a van posing as fellow pilgrims offered him a ride. "As I sat down, the man in back held a gun toward me and told me to keep quiet," he said. "They took me to a secret place and injected me, and when I woke up I saw myself in a huge airplane," and was taken to the US. The US state department repeatedly denied it had kidnapped him, but never said that he was not in the country. However on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged publicly for the first time that the scientist was indeed in the US.

Shahram Amiri, who has flown from the US to Tehran, also denied being heavily involved in Iran's nuclear programme. He disappeared last year and resurfaced this week in the Pakistani embassy in Washington asking to be repatriated. The US said he had been in the country "of his own free will" and denied he was tortured. Wearing a beige suit, a smiling Mr Amiri was greeted at Tehran's international airport early on Thursday morning by his tearful son and wife, along with other family members and Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi. Speaking at a news conference afterwards, he repeated his earlier claims that he had been abducted by US agents while undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina. Mr Amiri said he was placed under intense pressure by his interrogators to co-operate in the first months following his alleged kidnapping. "I was under the harshest mental and physical torture," he said, adding that Israeli agents had been present during the interrogations and that the CIA had offered him $50m (£32.8m) to remain in the US. "The Americans wanted me to say that I defected to America of my own will to use me for revealing some false information about Iran's nuclear work. But with God's will, I resisted."

Mr Amiri offered no evidence, but said he would eventually. "I have some documents proving that I've not been free in the United States and have always been under the control of armed agents of US intelligence services." He also denied he had been heavily involved in Iran's nuclear programme, saying he was a "simple researcher who was working at a university". "I'm not involved in any confidential jobs. I had no classified information. "I had nothing to do with the Natanz and Fordo sites," he said, referring to Iran's two uranium enrichment plants.

Unconfirmed reports that he worked for Iran's atomic energy organisation were "a tool the US government brought up for political pressure". Mr Qashqavi thanked the scientist for his "resistance to pressure". He rejected suggestions that Mr Amiri's return was linked to a possible deal to release three US hikers who have been detained in Iran since 2009.

The list of relevant video clips below can be navigated with the left / right buttons. Here’s what Washington Post published on this issue:

The case has emerged as a source of embarrassment for both governments. The Obama administration faces the departure of someone whose defection had been considered an intelligence coup. Iran described Amiri's desire to the leave the United States as a setback for American efforts, but Amiri may have compromised the secrecy of Iran's nuclear endeavors. (..)

Defectors who return to their native countries risk severe reprisals. In one of the most notorious cases, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected to Jordan in the mid-1990s and began providing information on Iraq's banned weapons programs. He returned after being promised that he would not be punished, but within days he was killed.

It is difficult for me to take Iran’s side in this matter. I grew up in a dictatorial Eastern European regime, where everybody felt like being imprisoned and everyone’s dream was to defect. Despite USA’s fuck-ups, I still see in her a symbol of the primacy of the individual over the state. As such, I tend to buy into USA’s version of the events, despite evidence of the program of “extraordinary renditions” having been expanded under Obama. Besides, if he really was abducted and held against his will, how could he have possibly gained access to a webcam to make his video?

Perhaps a little bit of history would enhance our vision.

Diocletian and Narseh

The fall of the Roman Empire and the often drawn parallel to today’s USA. We will have a look at it in a separate article. Until then, just a quick look at Diocletian’s war with Persia. According to wikipedia,

In 294, Narseh, a son of Shapur who had been passed over for the Sassanid succession, came to power in Persia. Within Persia, however, Narseh was destroying every trace of his immediate predecessors from public monuments. He sought to identify himself with the warlike kings Ardashir (r. 226–41) and Shapur (r. 241–72), the same Shapur who had sacked Roman Antioch and skinned the Emperor Valerian (r. 253–260) to decorate his war temple.

Narseh declared war on Rome in 295 or 296. He appears to have first invaded western Armenia, where he seized the lands delivered to Tiridates in the peace of 287.[124] Narseh moved south into Roman Mesopotamia in 297, where he inflicted a severe defeat on Galerius in the region between Carrhae (Harran, Turkey) and Callinicum (Ar-Raqqah, Syria)[125] (and thus, the historian Fergus Millar notes, probably somewhere on the Balikh river).[126] Diocletian may or may not have been present at the battle,[127] but he quickly divested himself of all responsibility. In a public ceremony at Antioch, the official version of events was clear: Galerius was responsible for the defeat; Diocletian was not. Diocletian publicly humiliated Galerius, forcing him to walk for a mile at the head of the imperial caravan, still clad in the purple robes of the emperor.

Galerius was reinforced, probably in the spring of 298, by a new contingent collected from the empire's Danubian holdings.[131] Narseh did not advance from Armenia and Mesopotamia, leaving Galerius to lead the offensive in 298 with an attack on northern Mesopotamia via Armenia.[132][notes 8] It is unclear if Diocletian was present to assist the campaign; he might have returned to Egypt or Syria.[notes 9] Narseh retreated to Armenia to fight Galerius' force, to Narseh's disadvantage; the rugged Armenian terrain was favorable to Roman infantry, but unfavorable to Sassanid cavalry. In two battles, Galerius won major victories over Narseh. During the second encounter, Roman forces seized Narseh's camp, his treasury, his harem, and his wife.[136] Galerius continued moving down the Tigris, and took the Persian capital at Ctesiphon before returning to Roman territory along the Euphrates.

Narseh sent an ambassador to Galerius to plead for the return of his wives and children in the course of the war, but Galerius had dismissed him.[138] Serious peace negotiations began in the spring of 299. Diocletian and Galerius' magister memoriae (secretary) Sicorius Probus were sent to Narseh to present terms.[138] The conditions of the peace were heavy; (..)

The US claims that Amiri had a breakdown thinking of his wife and children seems to have a historical precedent.. IdeaHee hee

Sources / More info: wiki-diocletian, bbc-shahram, bbc-timeline, bbc-transcripts, bbc-explanations, bbc-profile, bbc-propaganda, wp-videos, wp-home, yt-iranian

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