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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Iran's disappearing nuclear scientists

On Tuesday night, I reported on the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear physicist, Shahram Amiri, who has been missing since May, and who may have been behind the disclosure of the Qom nuclear facility to the Western powers. Real Clear World reports on the disappearance of another Iranian who may be connected to Iran's quest for nuclear energy weapons, a man whose last name is Ardebili - no first name given.
The second case which seems to be worrying Iranian authorities more is the case of a man by the surname of Ardebili. According to Iran's Foreign Ministry, he was a businessman who was recently arrested in Georgia. The story takes a strange twist when according to Iran's Foreign Ministry, subsequent to his arrest, he was handed over to American authorities. In its article, Sharq Al Wasat describes Ardebili as another nuclear scientist. Iranian authorities deny this. However, why would Georgia risk its relations with Iran by arresting a simple businessman, as Iranian authorities describe him? And why would America want him to be passed over to their jurisdiction? Although the power of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not one to be ignored, there is also the possibility that the reason for his arrest could have been more than a case of financial dishonesty.
Which Ardebili is it? Wikipedia may be pointing in a completely different direction that may not be connected with Iran's nuclear program:
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili (also spelt Ardabili, Persian: عبدالکریم موسوی اردبیلی , born January 28, 1926) [pictured. CiJ] is an Iranian marja and politician.

He is commonly referred to as Mousavi Ardebili.

Mousavi Ardabili was the head of the Judicial system of Iran until the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran. He was followed by Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.

He had also established Mofid University.
Yazdi is reported to be close to Ahmadinejad and is a member of the Guardian Council.

Here are more details on Ardebili:
Born in Ardebil in 1926, AbdolKarim MusaviArdebili began his religious career in 1942 in Qom, where he was a student of Ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Hosain Borujerdi. In 1948 he went to Najaf, Iraq, to pursue his education further, and he stayed there for nineteen months. In the 1960s in Qom he copublished the journal Maktab-e Islam (School of Islam), and also pursued political activities in his hometown of Ardebil. In 1971 he moved to Tehran to conduct sermons at a mosque. A founder, after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, of the now defunct Islamic Republican Party, MusaviArdebili also established the Bonyad-e Mostazʾafan (Foundation of the Oppressed). He was the prosecutor general from 1980 to 1981 and head of the supreme judicial council and the Supreme Court from 1981 to 1989. In 1988 he was appointed to the Expediency Council. Other positions held by Musavi-Ardebili include his appointment by Khomeini to the constitutional review panel in 1989 and his membership in the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Generally he has adopted moderate positions in the factional disputes among politicians since the early 1990s and has devoted his attention to a private high school that he founded.
Ardebili also opposed Iran's post-election crackdown.

If this is the Ardebili involved, it sounds more like he would want to flee Iran because of political activity than because of involvement in its nuclear program. On the other hand, this Ardebili really is a prominent Iranian businessman:
Ardebili was born in Tehran in 1952. He acquired an MBA of Oklahoma State University. He joined the oil ministry and in 1985 he became Iran's OPEC governor, a position he has kept until now. Later he was promoted to deputy oil minister.

From 1990 to 1995 Ardebili was Iran's ambassador to Japan. In 1995 he became advisor to the foreign minister, a position he has kept until now. In 1996 he was elected chairman of OPEC's Board of Governors, a position he kept until 1999. In 1997 he was also made senior advisor to the oil minister.

Ardebili has been a member of the board of trustees of the International Bureau of Energy Studies (IBES), and chairman of IBES' Tehran chapter. He was a member of Iran's delegations to the ECO summit meetings in Pakistan in 1995, Turkmenistan in 1996 and 1997, and Kazakhstan in 1998. As Iran's OPEC governor he has been a key member of Iran's delegations to the OPEC ministerial meetings since 1985.
More on this Ardebili here.

While he could be useful to the United States in planning sanctions involving refined petroleum products, this Ardebili also seems to have no connection with Iran's nuclear program. Why Georgia would risk its relations with Iran by turning him over to the United States is a separate question, particularly in light of the Obama administration's treatment of Georgia. Anything I could say on that subject would be completely speculative.

In conclusion, after searching the first 100 Google results for Ardebili, I found only these two Ardebili's who might be the subject of the Real Clear World report. Neither of them shows an apparent connection to Iran's nuclear program. Could I be wrong? Sure. But if this Ardebili is the big fish Real Clear World is describing, he probably should have shown up in my Google search.


At 4:36 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

One of them probably is. It would be a blow to the prestige of the regime if one of its leading figures defected to the West. All is not sunlight and green meadows in Iran's Islamic paradise.


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