Drudge has the siren up, but the news itself is less interesting than the timing of it.

[Shahram] Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, according to the Iranian government. He worked at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, which is closely connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the Associated Press…

According to the people briefed on the intelligence operation, Amiri’s disappearance was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect. The CIA reportedly approached the scientist in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States.

Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection by the CIA, according to the people briefed on the situation. They say Amiri helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program…

One Iranian web site reported that Amiri had worked at the Qum facility prior to his defection.

A couple of things. One: This is just the latest reminder that the CIA’s doing some bang-up work these days (no pun intended). Hats off to Panetta and crew. Two: This isn’t news. Amiri was suspected of having either defected to the west or been kidnapped by western spies right after he went missing, for obvious reasons. The Sunday Telegraph reported four months ago that it was indeed a defection and that he’d given up the goods on Iran’s nuclear program — specifically, the inner workings of the formerly secret site at Qom that was revealed last summer. The CIA already knew that the site existed but evidently didn’t know what was going on inside. Enter Amiri, who helped fill in the blanks.

So why is old news being re-reported by ABC as some kind of bombshell scoop? Probably because of the story this past weekend about suspicions mounting among western intel that Iran’s planning to build at least two more nuclear sites. The White House naturally wants Iran to be paranoid that we know more than we’re letting on, so here’s a timely reminder that their top guys are indeed touchable. And of course, this helps bring a bit of extra public pressure on Russia and China to approve new sanctions. It’s one thing for a western government to claim that Iran’s behaving badly, quite another to produce an Iranian nuclear scientist to confirm that, yes indeed, they’re behaving badly.

So that’s what this is about, I think. For your viewing pleasure, here’s The One at today’s joint presser with Sarkozy insisting that western patience is really truly running thin after eight endless years of this nonsense and that we might, perhaps, have to impose new economic punishment on Iran, which hopefully the UN will go along with and hopefully will be more than a token gesture and hopefully will get Iran to abandon its program. Etc.

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