- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Interesting news from ABC (h/t Andrew Sullivan), that the CIA reportedly convinced an Iranian nuclear physicist named Shahram Amiri to defect to the United States about a year ago. Amiri was reportedly part of Iran’s nuclear research program and has now been relocated in the United States.
Three quick thoughts: First, even if he was a very talented physicist, a single defection like this isn’t going to stop Iran’s nuclear research program in its tracks, or even slow it down very much.
Second, assuming he was intimately involved in Iran’s nuclear program, this ought to increase our confidence in its current state of development. There’s been lots of disagreement about when Iran might actually be able to assemble a nuclear weapon — if in fact they intend to do so — and if this guy’s information is any good, then some of that uncertainty ought to be reduced. Is it time for a new National Intelligence Estimate?
Third, I wonder what Americans would think if other intelligence services engaged in energetic efforts to get leading scientists in our nuclear weapons labs to defect? Based on our reaction to prior cases of nuclear espionage (going back to the Rosenbergs), my guess is that we’d regard it as an act of considerable hostility. I’m not saying we were wrong to recruit this guy, but doesn’t it undercut that "open hand" that we’ve supposedly been extending to Iran? I’ll bet that’s how Tehran sees it.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |