The U.S. special services are keen on recruiting nuclear experts, with the purpose to make them defect from the North Korea and Iran – and thus weaken the capabilities of these countries in terms of building up the nuclear arsenal. The Guardian wrote this, repeatedly referring to many informed sources, which include scientists and former U.S. intelligence officers.
The outlet assumes the CIA’s current efforts to recruit the scientists are ‘perhaps its most audacious and elaborate incursion into academia’, which eventually aims to ‘lure Iranian nuclear scientists out of their homeland and into an accessible setting, where its intelligence officers could approach them individually and press them to defect’.
Describing the ways of how it works, the British outlet explained it as follows: ‘The CIA is involved with conferences in various ways: it sends officers to them; it hosts them through front companies in the Washington area, so that the intelligence community can tap academic wisdom; and it mounts sham conferences to reach potential defectors from hostile countries. The CIA monitors upcoming conferences worldwide and identifies those of interest. Suppose there is an international conference in Pakistan on centrifuge technology: the CIA would send its own agent undercover, or enlist a professor who might be going anyway to report back. If it learns that an Iranian nuclear scientist attended the conference, it might peg him for possible recruitment at the next year’s meeting.’
‘With Iran’s agreement in 2015 to limit nuclear weapons development in return for the lifting of international sanctions, recruitment of defectors from the programme by US intelligence lost some urgency. But if President Trump scraps or seeks to renegotiate the deal, which he denounced in a September speech to the United Nations General Assembly, CIA-staged conferences to snag key Iranian nuclear scientists could make a clandestine comeback’, The Guardian wrote.