In this regard, the diplomatic front is the leading one. Through various diplomatic pressures and sanctions, the US and its friends have made some headway on this front, but that has not been sufficient or strong enough to persuade Iran to stop its program. Nevertheless, despite this they will carry on with this front, as seen by the recent moves by the US to introduce a fourth sanctions package through the UN Security Council.
The diplomatic front is, of course, the obvious front. The covert or secret front is the other. This front is being fought in the shadows with intrigue, deception, misinformation and the like. Being so, not much is known or disclosed about this shadow war, save occasional tidbits of news and information in the international media.
One such news story appeared last week in major papers. It concerned the disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist and raised many questions. The scientist is Shahram Amiri, who reportedly worked at Tehran's Malek Ashtar University, linked to the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Although Iranian officials have not publicly identified Amiri as a nuclear scientist, referring to him only as an Iranian citizen, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki took the unusual step of complaining to the head of the UN about the disappearance. He further stated that Amiri had been arrested and accused the US of playing a role.
“We've obtained documents about US involvement over Shamram Amiri's disappearance,'' said Mottaki, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
Amiri traveled to Saudi Arabia on May 31 for umrah, his wife told the unofficial news agency ISNA. The last time she heard from him was on June 3, when he called from Medina. She said he told her that during his arrival in Saudi Arabia, he had been questioned extensively by police at the airport -- “more than any other passenger'' -- according to ISNA.
According to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi, Iran has asked Saudi Arabia for information on his whereabouts but so far received no reply. Concerned about his fate, Amiri's relatives have demonstrated outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, demanding information.
So, Amiri's fate is not known at this stage. However, some believe that he might have defected or may have been abducted by intelligence agencies.
Amiri's case is, of course, the last in several disappearances of important Iranian officials. For instance, there is the case of Ali Reza Asgari, who was a former Iranian deputy defense minister and a senior official of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. He went missing in 2007 while in Turkey and was never heard of again. In this regard, most accounts theorize that he defected to the US. In fact, while talking about Amiri, Minister Motttaki also referred to Asgari.
Furthermore, to stress that a shadow war is under way, I might refer to a report which appeared in the Fars news agency earlier this year. In that report, the chief of the counter-espionage unit of Iran's Intelligence Ministry warned the Barack Obama administration not to insist on the same approach the George W. Bush administration adopted against Iran with regards to the intelligence war. Then, the official, whose name was not mentioned, also pointed out that in fact there had been an intelligence war against his country and that US intelligence had been trying to recruit Iranian doctors, designers and artists to work as US agents but was not successful at all, adding that US agents had been active in neighboring countries such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
All in all, it is quite obvious that a shadow war is on between the US and its allies (namely Israel) and Iran. Who is winning this war, we cannot say. What we can say is that the ups and downs of this war could affect the final result regarding the Iranian nuclear program.