January 9, Iran announced that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a former United States Marine from Flint, Mich., convicted of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency, had been condemned to death. Hekmati, of Iranian descent, was arrested in August when he went to visit his grandmother in the Islamic Republic.
Hekmati, who served in the Marines for four years, completed a five-month tour in Iraq and took linguistics training in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, was carrying his military identification with him when arrested by Iranian authorities, in what looks like a setup by Iranian government officials eager for leverage against the Great Satan (USA).
Hekmati’s military background marked him as a person of interest to Iran. But it is his post-military translation career that may have sealed his fate. After leaving the Marines, Hekmati started his own translation company, Lucid Linguistics, specializing in Arabic, Persian, and “military-related” matters. “Our main goal is to assist organizations whose focus is on the current Global War on Terrorism and who are working to bridge the language barrier for our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” announced the site (now down), according to the New York Times.
Possibly even more intriguing to the Iranians was work done a few years later by Mr. Hekmati for Kuma Games, where Hekmati was instrumental in winning a $92,000 Defense Department contract to develop “an effective, cost-efficient, rapidly deployable and easily updatable language retention toolset for trainers and soldiers deployed around the world.”
Kuma is famous in Iran because of a game they published in 2005 that simulated an imaginary American military assault on the country. “Assault on Iran” simulated an attack on an Iranian nuclear installation. Hekmati did not work on that game, but was convicted for it anyway.
Hekmati’s resume reads like that of many other vets working in the translation industry, where he, “making a living at the intersection of the defense and industrial establishment through a string of contracting and consulting jobs.” according to Nathan Hodge at the WSJ.
It looks like Hekmati walked right into a trap. Before he visited Iran he checked in with the Iranian government to make sure there would be no problems. “Not only did the Iranian officials in Washington mislead Hekmati, but it seems that they alerted the authorities in Tehran, transforming the young man into the latest political pawn in the running conflict between Iran and the United States,” says Geneive Abdo of The Century Foundation.
The Iranian government has already posted his “confession” to a nefarious plot to brainwash the youth of the Middle East using video games, now on YouTube. But looks like the only plot Hekmati in involved in is as an unwilling hostage for Iranian spooks. Hopefully, they won’t bring the curtain down on this political theater production any time soon. Things do not look good for Amir Hekmati right now.