Iranians condemn American to death

January 9th, 2012

An Iranian court has convicted an Iranian American, Amir Mirza Hekmati, of spying for the CIA and has sentenced him to death. International relations professor Joseph Wippl, a former 30-year CIA operations officer, offers the following comment:

“The question is, was Hekmati working for U.S. intelligence? He has admitted he did but his confession may have been made under duress. However, if Hekmati was working for U.S. intelligence, he was sent without official diplomatic cover (impossible in Iran anyway since the U.S. does not recognize Iran) into Iran.

“In theory, if guilty, the Iranians are within their rights; for that matter, any country would be in a similar situation. For instance, the gaggle of Russians arrested two summers ago and then exchanged for U.S. sources imprisoned in Russia.

“In practice, even if guilty, Iran will not execute Hekmati but rather keep him in order to make a deal of some sort in the future. If Hekmati is innocent, and, according to the U.S., he was not engaged in espionage, the Iranians have a hostage they can also exchange when appropriate but probably something far less of importance.

“There is no espionage operation against a fairly closed country that would not entail significant risk. Tradecraft is important but the decisions made prior to the operation are even more important.”

Contact Wippl at 617-353-8992; jwippl@bu.edu

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