YERUSHALAYIM – As part of the rapprochment between the United States and Iran, it has emerged that the U.S. and Iran secretly negotiated a series of prisoner exchanges, The Times of Israel has learned.
In the most significant of the exchanges to date, the U.S. in April released a top Iranian scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, who had been arrested in 2011 for attempting to obtain equipment that could be used in Iran’s military-nuclear programs.
The prisoner deals and the recent agreement in Geneva to curb Iran’s nuclear program come as a result of several years of behind-the-scenes contacts between the two countries conducted in Oman, according to Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon.
Iran has released three American prisoners, and the U.S. did the same.
Atarodi was the fourth.
Solomon, who has been monitoring the “unwritten prisoner-exchange deals,” told The Times of Israel, “It’s clear what the Iranians got” with the release of Atarodi. “What’s unclear is what the U.S. got.”
Solomon believes that before his arrest, Atarodi played a key role in Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. Atarodi, he said, has co-authored more than 30 technical articles, mostly related to microelectric engineering, and in 2011 won the Khwarizmi Award for the design of a microchip receiver for digital photos. “That same technology,” he said, “can be used for missile guidance and the analysis of nuclear tests.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Atarodi came to the U.S. at the behest of the logistics wing of the IRGC [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps],” Solomon said.
In response to the report on the Iranian prisoner release, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel and a longtime advocate for Jonathan Pollard, noted, “When Israel has asked the U.S. for the release of its agent, Jonathan Pollard, the Obama administration has responded that the president does not interfere in the decisions of the judiciary.
“Apparently that is not the case. When it wants to, the Obama administration finds the way to interfere in the decisions of the judiciary and to release prisoners of enemy states, both as a gesture of good will and for political reasons.
“It would behoove the government of Israel and the American Jewish community leadership to take note and to do what it has to do to press for the release of Jonathan Pollard, as soon as possible.”
This article appeared in print on page 6 of today’s edition of Hamodia.