Too Many High-Profile Iranians Are Missing, including Nuclear Scientists

Iran’s political and intelligence leaders are gravely concerned by the disappearance abroad of four high-profile officials in mysterious circumstances. Two are nuclear scientists and may be privy to Iran's darkest secrets.

Tehran suspects that the US, aided by he Israeli Mossad and Saudi intelligence, are behind the disappearances. Iranian foreign minister Manoucher Mottaki openly accused the United States of involvement in one case, that of Shahram Amiri, a member of Tehran University's nuclear physics department which had a hand in the construction of the nuclear facility near Qom.

Amiri dropped out of sight last May while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. In a statement issued after a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Oct. 7, Mottaki said documents in hand proved “US interference”.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly denied any information about “this individual” while the Saudis dismissed reports that he had applied for political asylum.

The fuss the Iranians are making about the scientist's disappearance indicates he must be a valuable source of information about their concealed nuclear projects. They are still smarting over the case of Alireza Asgari, the deputy minister in charge of Iran's nuclear ties with Syria, who dropped out of sight in Istanbul in March 2007. Tehran has always suspected he headed straight for a flight to the United States and is in Washington up to the present day, unrecognizable after undergoing plastic surgery to alter his appearance.

The Iranians believe he is attached to a Pentagon team working on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The circumstances of the two disappearances are very similar. (More details of the Shahram Amiri case appear in HOT POINTS below)

A diplomat in Pakistan, a purchasing agent in Georgia

Amiri and Asgari are not the only missing high-profile Iranians.

One of their diplomats in Islamabad has vanished, apparently kidnapped by a radical Sunni group.

His name has never been disclosed, but his alias in Pakistan was Mahmoud Ziaee and his job, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals, was the supervision of clandestine liaison between Tehran and Pakistani nuclear scientists.

The third Iranian official to vanish is Mohammad Ardebili. He has not been seen since he was sent to Georgia to buy enriched uranium and processing equipment. Iran still does not know whether the man defected willingly or was abducted by CIA agents.

Tehran lost a second Iranian scientist two months ago. Under the alias of Heidar Samari, he was employed at the nuclear facility in Isfahan at which raw uranium is converted into a gas before its transfer to Natanz for enrichment by centrifuges.

Tehran is deeply concerned that US or Israeli intelligence has identified some of Iran's senior nuclear scientists and is targeting them for possible abduction or as defectors. In recent months, severe restrictions have been placed on their movements even inside the country. They only travel abroad under close supervision. The scientists and their families have been moved to special living quarters which are kept under constant surveillance.

Tehran was deeply shocked by reports that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu provided Moscow with a detailed list of Russian scientists assisting the Iranian nuclear program. Heads of the regime were not reassured by the denial issued Tuesday, Oct. 6, in a statement by a very senior Russian, National Security Council Chairman, Nikolai Patrushev, former chief of the FSB, the Russian secret service.

Tehran is leaning hard on Moscow for a copy of the list, but continues to encounter blank denials of its existence.

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