As thousands of Iranians took the streets to chant “death to Israel” this week, details emerged of a daring effort by British, Israeli and American spies to smuggle an Iranian nuclear scientist out.
Celebrating 40 years since the country’s Islamic revolution, crowds in Tehran shouted “death to Israel, death to the USA,” in a now-familiar refrain, but if reports are to be believed, an unnamed 47-year nuclear technician was not among them.
Instead, he was in the United States, having been extracted late last year in a joint effort between MI6, Mossad and the CIA, which took the scientist on a fraught 3,000-mile rescue mission through Turkey and finally via an inflatable boat to the UK.
In details first reported by the Mail on Sunday, Israeli Mossad agents helped the technician out of Iran to Turkey, from where he joined a flurry of other Iranians making their way across Europe to Calais.
“It was determined infiltrating him into a group of fellow migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat offered one solution,” a British secret service official reportedly told the paper, adding that the technician has extensive knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme, which Western powers worry could be used to build an atomic bomb.
The Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year, but the UK has remained a signatory, meaning that British spies – who wanted to interview the scientist – found themselves in a politically sensitive position.
“Once in France, the question of how to get him into Britain remained,” the source is quoted as saying. “We couldn’t simply fly him in. Though unusual, it was determined infiltrating him into a group of fellow migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat offered one solution.”
Another intelligence sources reportedly told the Sunday Express that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard swiftly dispatched a special team to tract the scientist once they realised that he was missing in October, but they were unable to track him, and instead he arrived in a dinghy on the Kent coast on New Year’s Eve.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the 47-year old, who has now been given safe haven in the US, had a hand in the 2012 assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, who died when a car bomb exploded as he travelled to work.