An Iranian nuclear scientist at the center of a bizarre espionage drama arrived in Tehran early today to a hero's welcome, including personal greetings from several senior government officials. His 7-year-old son broke down in tears as Shahram Amiri held him for the first time since his mysterious disappearance in Saudi Arabia 14 months ago.
Amiri told reporters, "I am so happy to be back in the Islamic republic," and he repeated his claims of having been abducted by U.S. security forces. He said CIA agents had tried to pressure him into making propaganda against his homeland and offered him $50 million to remain in the United States.
Amiri also said that he knew little of Iran's main nuclear enrichment site. "I'm a simple researcher. A normal person would know more about Natanz than me."
Awaiting Amiri at Imam Khomeini International Airport were Hassan Qashqavi, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official, and other ministers.
State-run Iranian television broadcast nonstop stories Wednesday about the 32-year-old scientist who disappeared in Saudi Arabia last summer and surfaced Monday night in front of a nondescript storefront where Iranian representatives work in a space officially operated by Pakistan's embassy. Amiri told officials that he had been abducted by U.S. intelligence operatives and had spent much of the past year in Tucson, Ariz., being questioned about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Amiri's reappearance came just weeks after a series of Internet videos added to the intrigue surrounding the case. In the videos, Amiri claimed alternately to have been kidnapped by the CIA and to have come to the U.S. on his own accord.
The case has been a source of embarrassment for both governments. The Obama administration lost someone whose defection was considered an intelligence coup, but Amiri may have compromised Iran's nuclear endeavors.