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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 07th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Report: Iran general gives nuclear info
Report: Iran general gives nuclear info PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 08 July 2007

Ali Reza Asghari
Ali Reza Asghari

US closer to cracking Iran's nuclear secrets

Defecting intelligence general reveals new ways in which Iran is trying to enrich uranium, build nuclear bomb. Has no new information regarding Ron Arad

Ronen Bergman Published:  07.08.07, 09:34 / ynetnews 

Iraqi general, Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in Istanbul last February, has defected and is being held by the United States, Yedioth Ahronot published Sunday.

Asgari was considered by the US one of the top intelligence officials in Iran.
His defection was made possible thanks to an intricate CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) operation, climaxing in him joining Western intelligence officers in Istanbul, who than had him and his family transferred to the US.

Asgari, who according to reports is being held in a top-secret military installation, has been able to shed a new light on much of the Iranian regime's most inner workings, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear development project.

Up until now, Iran – according to known intelligence – has been building two nuclear plants, in Arak and Bushehr, and has been using centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Iran, Asgari told his interrogator's is working in another, stealth path, toward achieving its nuclear goal.

This third method involves attempts to enrich uranium by using laser beams along with certain chemicals designed to enhance the process. These trials are held in a special weapons facility in Natanz.

Istanbul Ceyland Hotel. He never arrived Istanbul Ceyland Hotel. He never arrived

Keeping quiet 

Iran, said Asgari, is making special efforts to hide this path from the West, keeping it as a fallback in case international sanctions or a military strike should shut down or destroy the existing plants.

This new information has those who know its details in full worried.

The fact the Iranians are trying to find new ways to enrich uranium is not new onto itself, but the progress made, at least according to the information given by Asgari, is much greater than was suspected.

"You have to applaud the Iranian intelligence for being to keep this a secret for so many years," said a US source.

Western intelligence agencies are now busy analyzing the information Asgari provided them with, and estimating just how long is it before Iran has a nuclear bomb.

This, said the US source, is one of the reasons why the information given by Asgari, implementing Iran in various global terror activities, has remained under wraps.
Iran, added the source, had caught on to Asgari's defection, and had taken preventive actions to protect its intelligence assets, in anticipation of the information he may reveal.

Asgari, has failed, however, to help Israeli intelligence solve one of its most burning questions – what ever happened to Ron Arad.



Historical files below:

From The Times UK, March 8, 2007

Elite Iranian general defects with Hezbollah's arms secrets

Ali Resa Asgari
Philippe Naughton

A former Iranian general considered to be the "father of Hezbollah" and who disappeared on a trip to Turkey last month appears to have defected to the West.

Iranian officials said earlier this week that Ali Reza Asgari, a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States during a private trip to Istanbul.

But the Washington Post, citing a senior US official, reported today that the general was co-operating with Western intelligence services and providing information on the Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim militia in Lebanon, and Iranian links to it.

The official, who was not named, did not divulge Mr Asgari's whereabouts or specify how was questioning him. But he told the Post that the Iranian was co-operating fully and said that the information he was offering "is fully available to US intelligence".

Asgari was a deputy defence minister under the government of reformist president Mohammad Khatami until early 2005.

The newspaper quoted former officers with the Israeli spy agency Mossad as saying that he was instrumental in setting up Hezbollah in the 1980s, at around the same time as a 1983 bomb attack on a US Marine barracks in Beirut. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he is thought to have oversaw Iran's funding and training of the organisation.

The Post said that another US official had denied a report in an Israeli newspaper that Asgari was now in the United States. That official suggested that Asghari’s disappearance was voluntary and orchestrated by the Israelis - although an Israeli government spokesman denied that.

The London-based newsaper Asharq al-Awsat reported yesterday that the Iranian was being debriefed at a location in Northern Europe.

The Washington Post report also quoted Danny Yatom, a former Mossad director who is now an Israeli MP, who believes that Asgari defected.

"He is very high-calibre," Mr Yatom said. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon."

Asgari's value to Western intelligence agencies would be from his intimate knowledge of Hezbollah and from his wider knowledge of Iran's military.

Iranian officials have said that he had no knowledge of Iran's nuclear programme. The senior US official told the Post that he was not being questioned about that issue.

The theory that Asgari defected was backed by Menashe Amir, an Israeli analyst of Iranian affairs, who said that Asgari's family had been with him.

“According to part of the information, his wife and children managed to leave Iran before his disappearance,” Mr Amir told Israel’s Army Radio, without elaborating on his sources. “It’s very possible that he decided to defect.”


Historical perspective

From The Times UK, March 9, 2007

Elite Iranian general defects with Hezbollah’s arms secrets, Richard Beeston and Michael Theodoulou

An Iranian general who went missing on a visit to Turkey last month appears to have defected to America, taking with him a treasure trove of his country’s most closely guarded secrets.

Ali Resa Asgari, 63, a general in the elite Revolutionary Guards and former Deputy Defence Minister, vanished on February 7 after arriving in Istanbul on a flight from Syria. He had reservations at the Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel but never checked in.

Iran has notified Interpol and raised fears that General Asgari might have been kidnapped. Yesterday, however, several sources confirmed reports in America that General Asgari had fled to the West, becoming the first senior Iran official to defect since the revolution 27 years ago.

Danny Yatom, the former head of Mossad and a member of the Knesset, said that the general could provide Western intelligence with a unique insight into Iran’s foreign operations in Lebanon and beyond.

“From the very start I thought this was a defection,” Mr Yatom told The Times. “All the signals showed that it was well planned and executed. He left Iran with his family, so that no one would be able to put pressure on them. I assume the defection was to the US.”

Mr Yatom described the missing general as very important and said that he would be able to shed light on one of the murkiest chapters in recent Middle East history. From the early 1980s Iran funded, trained and armed members of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, which began as a small Shia Muslim militia but is today the most powerful paramilitary force in the Levant.

The Iranians are accused of using Hezbollah to launch suicide bomb attacks against American, French and Israeli targets, to kidnap Westerners and to build a state within a state in southern Lebanon. They are also suspected of carrying out operations in Europe and even Argentina.

“He is a significant figure,” said one Western source, who follows Iran closely. “It has so far been very difficult to get reliable information on how Iran ran its operations in Lebanon. This could be a big break.”

Last summer Israel fought a bloody, 33-day war with Hezbollah after the group seized two Israeli soldiers, whose fate is unknown. At the time, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, boasted: “Israel doesn’t know our capabilities on every level. The Zionist enemy has not succeeded in infiltrating our group.” General Asgari could lift that veil of secrecy.

“It means for the first time, Hezbollah’s adversaries may have accurate estimates of stockpiles, weapons types, even perhaps placement and tactics,” said Nicholas Noe, the author of a forthcoming book on Hezbollah. “This is crucial because the limits and placement of Hezbollah’s weaponry has been a major problem.”

After Lebanon, General Asgari returned to Iran as a high-ranking official dealing with the arms trade and weapons industry, including the development of the Shaab-3 ballistic missile. He stepped down as Deputy Defence Minister in 2005. Iranian officials have played down General Asgari’s importance, saying he has been “out of the loop for four or five years. But his defectioncould cause a serious blow to Iran.


Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007; A16

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

Asgari served in the Iranian government until early 2005 under then-President Mohammad Khatami. Asgari's background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran's national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Iranian officials said he was not involved in the country's nuclear program, and the senior U.S. official said Asgari is not being questioned about it. Former officers with Israel's Mossad spy agency said yesterday that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hezbollah in the 1980s, around the time of the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, quoted the country's top police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, as saying that Asgari was probably kidnapped by agents working for Western intelligence agencies. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Asgari was in the United States. Another U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, denied that report and suggested that Asgari's disappearance was voluntary and orchestrated by the Israelis. A spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council did not return a call for comment.

The Israeli government denied any connection to Asgari. "To my knowledge, Israel is not involved in any way in this disappearance," said Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry.

An Iranian official, who agreed to discuss Asgari on the condition of anonymity, said that Iranian intelligence is unsure of Asgari's whereabouts but that he may have been offered money, probably by Israel, to leave the country. The Iranian official said Asgari was thought to be in Europe. "He has been out of the loop for four or five years now," the official said.

Israeli and Turkish newspapers reported yesterday that Asgari disappeared in Istanbul shortly after he arrived there on Feb. 7. Iran sent a delegation to Turkey to investigate his disappearance and requested help from Interpol in locating him.

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Israel's parliament, said he believes Asgari defected to the West. "He is very high-caliber," Yatom said. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards" there.

Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran's efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. The State Department lists the Shiite Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.

"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," Igra told Israeli state radio. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."

The organization, led by Hasan Nasrallah, is believed to have been behind several attacks against U.S., Jewish and Israeli interests worldwide, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans, and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed more than 80 people.

Israel fought a bloody, month-long war with Hezbollah last summer in south Lebanon after the group seized two Israeli soldiers. The soldiers have not been returned and their fate is unknown. Other Israeli soldiers have vanished in Lebanon during decades of conflict along the countries' shared border, most notably an Israeli airman named Ron Arad. Yatom said it is possible Asgari "knows quite a lot about Ron Arad."

In a January briefing to Congress, then-Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte described Hezbollah as a growing threat to U.S. interests. "As a result of last summer's hostilities, Hezbollah's self-confidence and hostility toward the United States as a supporter of Israel could cause the group to increase its contingency planning against United States interests," Negroponte said.

U.S. intelligence officials said they had no evidence that Hezbollah was actively planning attacks but noted that the organization has the capacity to do so if it feels threatened.

Correspondents Scott Wilson in Jerusalem and Anthony Shadid in Beirut and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


Panic in Tehran
PJM Tel AvivMarch 7, 2007 12:30 AM

The disappearance and possible defection of former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asgari has the Iranian government deeply worried — and for good reason.

Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran and co-author of an upcoming book on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reports.

UPDATE: A senior U.S. official has confirmed that Asgari left his country voluntarily and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran’s ties to the organization. (Washington Post)

The recent disappearance of Ali Reza Asgari, Iran’s former deputy defense minister who was on a visit to Istanbul has been a mystery for the past several days.

Now a report by the Arabic newspaper Al Sharq Al Wasat says that Asgari defected to the US after arriving in Istanbul from Damascus on February 7th.

Although the story has not been confirmed by any sovereign authority, it is already evident that the saga has created panic inside Ahmadinejad’s administration.

Soon after his disappearance was discovered, Iran dispatched an operations team to Ankara to help the Turkish authorities to look for him. At the same time, a public relations campaign was launched with Iranian minister Mottaki has doing his best to downplay Asgari’s importance as an official in order to reduce the damage to the Iranian government’s image.

He wasn’t fooling anyone. It is clear that Asgari is a man privy to numerous secrets which Iran desperately does not want revealed. As well as being a former deputy defence Minister, Asgari was also a General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). The IRGC, more than any other branch of Iran’s armed forces, is aware of, and has access to Iran’s nuclear program. Its members are in charge of monitoring and protecting Iran’s nuclear installations, and scientists.

Furthermore, the IRGC is in charge of developing and testing Iran’s missiles, an arsenal which Iran has threatened to use if attacked. Last but not least, the IRGC is in charge of training and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iraqi Shiite militants in Iraq.

Western intelligence agencies, especially the Mossad and the CIA, have invested massive sums of money and manpower in order to ascertain Iran’s activities and capabilities in all the aforementioned areas.

So far, they have not always been successful. Iran is a relatively closed society which is extremely difficult for foreign agents to penetrate. The job is made even harder by the ruthlessness and efficiency of Iranian counter intelligence organizations, which are very active in Iran, and around Iranian individuals and bases in places such as Iraq and Lebanon.

If Asgari has defected, he will be offer great assistance to Western intelligence efforts and while he won’t be able to answer every question, would be able to fill in some crucial gaps.

Furthermore, Asgari’s disappearance is a sign that cracks are appearing in Iran’s intelligence community. The very fact that someone as senior as he was able to disappear without a trace, is in itself a signal that the regime may be losing its grip on observation and security of major human assets.

Of course, it is not yet confirmed that this was a defection – some reports have speculated that he may have been kidnapped by the Mossad or the CIA. Such reports were fuelled by accounts that Asgari first booked a room in Hotel Ceyhan, but then checked into a different hotel in Istanbul, and disappeared soon afterwards. With no records showing that he left Turkey, it was thought that he was probably smuggled out by his kidnappers. If this is the case, this would not be the first time that a kidnapping victim is smuggled out of a country without the local authority’s knowledge. In May 1960, the Mossad kidnapped and smuggled Adolph Eichmann, a former senior Nazi official out of Argentina and to Israel, where he stood trail for his crimes.

President Ahmadinejad must be hoping for this scenario, since, it turns out that Asgari indeed defected, things can only get worse.

Such an act would be interpreted as a major sign of discontent within senior Iranian military figures against his aggressive policies. With increasing dissatisfaction against Ahmadinejad emanating from Iran’s population; such a blow is something which Ahmadinejad can currently ill afford, and something that those who view him as a danger have been hoping for.

UPDATE @ 10:42 EST: “The Iranian former deputy defense minister who disappeared in neighboring Turkey last month is being questioned in a northern European country under strict supervision…. Ali Reza Asghari is undergoing thorough investigation by intelligence forces before being transferred to the United States.” (Haaretz )

Meir Javedanfar together with Yossi Melman, is the author of the upcoming book The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran


Missing Iranian general in Europe - report

Arabic-language newspaper quotes top Iranian military official as saying that Ali Reza Asgari is being questioned by Western military experts over Revolutionary Guards’ role in bombing of US Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut; general will be transferred to America at a later date, he adds

Ynetnews Published:  03.07.07, Roee Nahmias

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday quoted an Iranian military official as saying that missing Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari is staying in a northern European country, where he is receiving “excellent treatment.”

According to the newspaper, the Iranian military official said Asgari is being interrogated by American and other Western intelligence officials on secrets he was exposed to while serving as the Defense Ministry’s chief consultant for strategic affairs.

According to the report, Asgari headed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and in this capacity was privy to a great deal of confidential information.

The Iranian source, who was also a senior member of the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s, said Asgari is being questioned by military experts for several hours a day regarding the Guards’ role in the bombing of the 1983 bombings of the US Marine and French Corps headquarters in Beirut.

After serving in Lebanon for two years Asgari was stationed in Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Iranian officer said.

"The general is also being interrogated on the assassination of Iranian opposition leaders abroad,” the military source told the newspaper, adding that Asgari will be transferred to the US at a later date.

Asgari went missing in Turkey on February 7, shortly after he and his family checked into in hotel in Istanbul.

A website linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards hinted at the possibility that the general was kidnapped by American intelligence, in light of his knowledge of Iranian nuclear secrets, as well as Iranian military equipment.

According to recent reports by the British Daily Telegraph, the Mossad may have been involved in Asgari’s disappearance, due to his possible possession of information regarding the fate of missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad.

March 7, 2007 YNetnews


Israel behind Iranian general's 'defection,' US official says

Washington Post quotes official as saying that Asgari's disappearance was voluntary, orchestrated by Israel. Another American official says former Iranian defense official is providing Western intelligence agencies with information on Hizbullah-Iran ties

Ynetnews Published:  03.08.07

A US official suggested Thursday that the disappearance of Iranian general Ali Rez Asgari was voluntary and orchestrated by Israel, according to a Washington Post report published Thursday.

The Post quoted another senior US official as saying that the former Iranian deputy defense minister, who once commanded the Revolutionary Guards, is providing Western intelligence agencies with information on Hizbullah and Iran's ties to the organization.

The senior US official told the newspaper that Asgari, who disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey, is willingly cooperating.

An Iranian official told the newspaper that Iranian intelligence is unsure of Asgari's whereabouts but that he may have been offered money, probably by Israel, to leave the country.

The Israeli government denied any connection to Asgari. "To my knowledge, Israel is not involved in any way in this disappearance," Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, was quoted by the Post as saying.

He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts, but the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday quoted an Iranian military official as saying that Asgari is staying in a northern European country, where he is receiving “excellent treatment.”

According to the Washington Post, Asgari's background as a top Iranian Defense Ministry official suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran's national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hizbullah in south Lebanon.

'He held a very, very senior position'

The newspaper quoted former Mossad officers as saying that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hizbullah in the 1980s, around the time of the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Knesset, told the Washington Post he believes Asgari defected to the West.

"He is very high-caliber," Yatom was quoted as saying. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards" there.

‘Iranian general defected with classified documents’

'Former colleague says Ali Rez Asgari left Turkey with documents, maps that shed light on Revolutionary Guards' links to Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad; defector was privy to confidential information regarding Iran’s plans in case of conflict with US, he adds

Roee Nahmias Ynetnews Published:  03.09.07 

Former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Ali Rez Asgari left Turkey for an undisclosed location in Europe with a false passport with the help of Western officials, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Friday.

A former colleague told the newspaper that Asgari took with him documents and maps that shed light on Iran’s military and the Revolutionary Guards' links to Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, the “Mahadi Army” and the “Badr Corps” (military forces of The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

The Iranian source said Asgari was also in possession of documents related to Iran’s ballistic missiles project and was privy to confidential information regarding the Islamic Republic’s plan in case of a conflict with the US.

A senior American official said on Thursday that Asgari is providing Western intelligence agencies with information on Hizbullah and Iran's ties to the organization.

Saudi newspaper Al-Watan recently reported the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are instilling changes in the defense systems protecting the country’s nuclear reactors for fear that Israeli and US intelligence agencies are now in possession of specific information that may threaten the facilities.

According to Asharq al-Awsat, Asgari informed an American official of his desire to defect a few weeks in advance, after which he was quickly transferred to a safe house in Turkey and given a false passport.


Defector spied on Iran for years - report

Sunday Times quotes Iranian sources as saying that the general who defected to West last month had been spying on Iran since 2003; his escape took several months to arrange, they add. ‘He probably was working for Mossad,’ Israeli defense official says. Asgari believed to be undergoing debriefing at Nato base in Germany

Ynetnews Published:  03.11.07 

An Iranian general who defected to the West last month had been spying on Iran since 2003 when he was recruited on an overseas business trip, the online edition of The Sunday Times quoted Iranian sources as saying.

This weekend Brigadier General Ali Reza Asgari, 63, the former deputy defense minister, is understood to be undergoing debriefing at a Nato base in Germany after he escaped from Iran, followed by his family, the UK-based newspaper said.

It is unclear which intelligence organization he was spying for, the report said. “He probably was working for Mossad but believed he was working for a European intelligence agency,” an Israeli defense official was quoted by the Times as saying.

According to the Times, a daring getaway via Damascus was organized by western intelligence agencies after it became clear that his cover was about to be blown. Iran’s notorious secret service, the Vavak, is believed to have suspected that he was a high-level mole, the report said.

'We have been following him for years'

The Iranian sources told the Times that the escape took several months to arrange. At least 10 close members of his family had to flee the country, they added. The Times said Asgari has two sons, a daughter and several grandchildren and it is believed that all, including his daughters-in-law, are now out of Iran. Their final destination is unknown.

Asgari is said to have carried with him documents disclosing Iran’s links to Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups based in the Middle East.

According to the report, Asgari’s escape has provoked alarm in the Iranian regime. “Asgari is a gold mine for western intelligence,” an Israeli defense source was quoted by the Times. “We have been following him for years, especially since the late 1980s when he was commander of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon.”

The report said that in 1997 he was appointed deputy defense minister in charge of internal investigations. He uncovered several cases of embezzlement in the Republican Guard that made him unpopular. He was pushed aside after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2006. The two had been rivals for many years and Asgari realized that his days were numbered, according to the Times.

During an overseas business trip in 2003 he is said to have met a new business partner, who turned out to be a foreign intelligence officer. “Ali Reza was a wealthy man even before 2003,” an Iranian source told the Times. “Since 2003 he has become a very wealthy man.”

On February 7, four days after arriving in Damascus and having been assured his family was safe, Asgari boarded a flight to Istanbul, the report said. He was given a new passport and left Turkey by car.


The covert war

Middle East has become espionage hub teeming with secret agents
Ronen Bergman, ynetnews, Published:  04.18.07, 16:35 / Opinion

Two counter-intelligence success stories were reported in the Middle East Monday. Counter-intelligence refers to efforts aimed at disrupting espionage attempts by the other side.

The first achievement was the Shin Bet's success in curbing a nascent attempt by the Iranian Ministry of Information (VEVAK) to use two of its agents, known by their codenames Zin'ali and Tikawi, in an effort to recruit Israeli Jews of Persian descent.

The Shin Bet's reasoning for publicizing the affair was to create deterrence and awareness amongst those traveling to visit their families in Iran, warning them against such recruitment attempts.

There is no need to exaggerate the extent of the damage caused as a result of the affair. There is no damage. Iran has already exploited the visits of Arab Israelis in its territory or in other Arab states to recruit agents. Therefore, those leaving for Iran, including Jews, would never have been granted access to classified material. Yet despite this, the affair once again demonstrates the enormous effort Iran is making to spy on Israel. It is not only carried out via Hizbullah and it is not only aimed at terror – it is classic, strategic and in-depth espionage between two hostile countries.

A Mossad mole?

The second thwarted espionage attempt - that is, if we believe the media in Cairo – involves the Egyptian Intelligence Service's Israel section uncovering a Mossad mole operating from within the Egyptian committee for atomic energy. Is this a true story?

Notably, the details of the affair as publicized do not in the least resemble the sensational tales concerning Israel's agents frequently published in the Egyptian press (such as the Mossad's use of AIDS infected prostitutes.) This time it sounds a lot more like the classic utilization of an Israeli agent.

Moreover, during the past two years Israeli intelligence warned against initial Egyptian attempts to develop nuclear capability. It would be interesting to find out where this information came from.

Either way, publicizing the affair in Egypt also serves to deter other agents. Yet contrary to the report in Israel - which cannot really damage ties between Teheran and Jerusalem – enthusiastic elements in the Egyptian intelligence, who wanted to flout as well as ridicule Israel, can indeed inflict further damage to the relations between Cairo and Jerusalem.

These ties have already been shaken up severely following controversy surrounding the "Shaked Spirit" documentary (suggesting that soldiers of the Shaked Reconnaissance Unit, under the command of Binyamin Ben Eliezer, may have killed 250 unarmed Egyptian captives at the end of the Six-Day War).

No shots fired

The two abovementioned events, as well as other dramatic incidences that have occurred in the Middle East lately - such the disappearance of Iranian General Ali Reza-Asgari, the deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists, the disappearance of others, and the crash of an aircraft carrying revolutionary guard members – again highlight the extent to which the Middle East has become a hub teeming with secret agents operating against each other in a covert war with only a tip of it exposed.

It is a war that continues without a single shot being fired or bombs being dropped; it is a war of sophistication and guile where the victor is the side that gathers more information on the other side. We should not underestimate the importance of these affairs or the importance of the intelligence in forming the shadows of history.

Intelligence dramas have a tendency to turn into whirlwinds with political and international implications that go far beyond the question of whether the duo Zin'ali and Tikawi will succeed in recruiting that poor Jew who just wanted to visit his aunt in Isfahan.


Iranian general 'seeking asylum in US'
Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem
March 08, 2007

A RETIRED Iranian general who went missing in Turkey last month has defected and sought asylum in the US, according to a well-connected Arabic newspaper published in London.

The newspaper, al-Shark al-Awsat, cited "high-profile" sources saying former Iranian deputy defence minister and Revolutionary Guard commander Ali Reza Asghari had gone over to the West.

Reports from Istanbul that General Asghari's family had also disappeared in Turkey support the likelihood that he defected rather than was kidnapped by either the CIA or by Israel's Mossad, as has been speculated. The general went missing from his Istanbul hotel a month ago.

Iranian authorities, who have been silent on the disappearance until this week, claim he has been abducted. "It is likely Asghari has been abducted by Western intelligence services," said Iran's top police officer, General Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam.

Defection of such a high-ranking figure would leave no external enemy to blame and would be seen as a rejection of the Islamic state by someone who well knows its inner workings.

General Asghari's crossing of the line, whether voluntary or not, is a resounding blow for the Iranian Government since he is privy to its most intimate secrets, particularly those concerning its nuclear capabilities and plans.

He served until two years ago as deputy defence minister, a post he held for eight years and which presumably offered an uninhibited view of virtually every aspect of Iran's security apparatus.

He was reportedly closely associated with Iran's activities in support of the Shi'ites in Iraq.

US intelligence analysts contend that Iran has been providing armaments to Iraqi Shia fighters that have been used with deadly effect against coalition forces, particularly highly lethal roadside bombs.

General Asghari would presumably be able to address the question of whether these shipments have been made with "approval from top leaders in Iran", as a senior US intelligence officer has claimed.

Israel's Shin Bet security service, which is responsible for protecting Israeli diplomatic missions abroad and senior Israeli officials on their travels, has reportedly boosted its activity abroad in anticipation of a possible Iranian attempt to kidnap an Israeli official.

"We formulate our security arrangements according to developments in the field and intelligence information," said a Shin Bet spokesman yesterday.

Israel has denied any connection to the missing general. Israeli officials, however, would clearly like to hear what General Asghari has to say about the disappearance of a downed Israeli navigator, Ron Arad, who was reportedly transferred by Lebanese Shi'ites to Iran in the 1980s when General Asghari was commander of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard detachment posted in Lebanon to liaise with Hezbollah.


Missing Iranian Minister is Cooperating with Western Intelligence - Source

By Ali Nouri Zadeh

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sources confirmed yesterday that the former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister, Ali Reza Asghari is currently cooperating with Western intelligence agencies and that he left Turkey using a passport bearing a pseudo identity after coordinating with Western intelligence services.
According to a source who is a close friend of Asghari, the former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister has military and intelligence documents and maps about Iran’s military institution and others revealing relations between the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, al Mahdi army and the Badr organization (formerly Badr Brigade) which follows the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Citing a senior U.S. official, the Washington Post said in its Thursday edition that Ali Reza Asghari, had left his country and was willingly cooperating on information on Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the group.

Earlier this week a source from the Iranian military, who was among the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Beirut since the late 1980s, confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the former Iranian Deputy Defense Minister, “is well” and that he is being well cared for in a northern European country where he meets for several hours a day with a group of military experts to oversee the completion of a number of controversial issues that the Revolutionary Guard has played a major role in; including the bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut [October 1983] and the destruction of the American Embassy and the French camp in the early 1980’s, in addition to a number of security issues and terrorist operations that have targeted a number of countries in the region, and the elimination of various Iranian opposition leaders abroad.

The source also revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Asghari took over the IRGC leadership in Beirut after Ahmed Kanani (who later took control of the IRGC leadership in Tunis and was the former Iranian ambassador in Madagascar), and Hussein Mosleh before him, who is privy to many secrets after spending two years in Lebanon, as well as having visited Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The former deputy minister, Asghari, despite the delicacy of his responsibilities in the IRGC and the Iranian Ministry of Defense, has remained distanced away from the spotlight in accordance with his own personal wishes. He enjoyed huge prestige amongst his fellow comrades in the IRGC, which he had presided over. According to a prominent colonel, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, he had spent several months side-by-side with Asghari in the battlefields and he confirmed the latter’s courage and skills.

Regarding the circumstances of Asghari’s disappearance in Turkey and the allegations that he has sought refuge in the US, Asharq Al-Awsat has discovered that the former Iranian deputy minister of defense has gone to Damascus, to head a delegation of experts from the fields of military and defense with the purpose of holding talks with officials from the Syrian Defense ministry regarding the establishment of compounds for the production of military equipment in Syria. The visit to Istanbul was not for the officially stated reasons, rather the intention was to meet with a renowned European arms dealer. According to an Iranian diplomat in Istanbul, the arms dealer postponed his departure by a day following a phone call with Asghari.

For its part, the US has remained silent about the matter. A spokesman from the American State Department told Asharq Al-Awsat that he could not comment on the issue. Likewise, the Iranian government has kept silent about Asghari’s disappearance. Iranian top police chief, General Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam stated last Tuesday that it was likely that Asghari had been abducted by Western intelligence services. Moghaddam was quoted in the Iranian Republic News Agency (IRNA) as having said that Asghari disappeared after arriving to Turkey following a special visit to Damascus. He also speculated that the kidnapping involved Western intelligence services “because of [Asghari’s] former expertise in the Iranian Ministry of Defense,” adding that, “it was only three days after his arrival in Turkey,” and that “police investigations reveal that he has not left Turkey.” Moghaddam said there was nothing to indicate that Asghari had died or been transferred to hospital.

According to anonymous officials who spoke to the Turkish newspaper, ‘Millet’, the Turkish intelligence and police had discovered that Asghari was opposed to the Iranian government and that he holds information regarding its nuclear plan. An official from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity has said that the ministry [Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs] was following the case at Iran’s request and that there was nothing unusual about it. He said, “To us, he is simply a lost regular Iranian person,” and added, “After the [Ministry of Interior] comes up with a solution, we will relay the information to Iran as part of the diplomatic procedures.”



The Vanishing Iranian General: Did He Leave or Was He Taken?

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report with DEBKA-Net-Weekly Background

March 2, 2007, 10:49 PM (GMT+02:00)
Iran’s dep. defense minister for eight years up until 2005 - and before that a prominent Revolutionary Guards General, Ali Reza Asquari, 63, has not been seen since his disappearance in mysterious circumstances in Istanbul on Feb. 7.

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in - the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

The BAZTAB Web site reported that Feb. 6, two non-Turkish citizens made a reservation for Gen Asgari for three nights at the Istanbul Ceylan Hotel paying cash. He arrived the next day from Damascus and immediately disappeared.

The Turkish foreign ministry said only: “It is a very sensitive intelligence matter and the Interior Ministry is dealing with this issue.”

BAZTAB speaks for the faction associated with Mohsein Rezai, former Revolutionary Guards commander, deputy head of Iran’s most powerful governing council and a man very close to top intelligence circles in Tehran

The Iranian general’s arrival at Ataturk international airport on a flight from Damascus is recorded at border control, but he never reached the hotel.

Instead, he booked himself into the more modest and cheaper Hotel Ghilan. He left his luggage in the room, walked out of the hotel – and vanished.

A police official in Istanbul said: “We are trying to find out whether he left or was taken. Clearly the reservation made for him at the luxurious Ceylan Hotel was made to mislead. Tehran’s application to Interpol, which has issued a yellow bulletin, means that the Iranians are not treating Asquari’s disappearance as a defection but as involuntary.

DEBKAfile adds: Tehran sees the hand of US undercover agencies or contract gunmen and believes Washington has stepped up its war against Iranian officers running Tehran’s clandestine operations in Iraq. The kidnapping of an Iranian general outside Iraq would expand President Bush’s permission for the capture or killing of Iranian agents helping Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda murder Americans in Iraq.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly 288 reported on Feb. 2 that the gunmen who abducted the American soldiers in Karbala - and then shot them dead execution-style – belonged to a special commando team of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, which was sent to Iraq especially for this mission.

The team was made up of intelligence officers who speak American English and were trained to masquerade as US troops, kidnap US soldiers and hold them as hostages for bargaining.

These officers are from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries, who studied in the US and can talk like Americans - even in the idiom of US troops. Teams of these masqueraders roam at large in Iraq, clad in American uniforms, armed with US weapons and driving stolen American vehicles.

Tehran’s plan was to snatch a group of US soldiers and hold them hostage against the release of the 8 Revolutionary Guards paratroops in American custody. However, according to our intelligence sources, the plan went awry for some unknown reason and the Iranian commandos decided to execute their captives before making a fast getaway from the Karbala region.

Tehran views this operation as a fiasco because it did not achieve its goal. At the same time, Iranian intelligence has not been put off its plan to take American soldiers hostage in Iraq. Its chiefs are determined to do whatever it takes to obtain the release of the third top man of the Revolutionary Guards al Quds division, Col. Fars Hassami, who DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports is not the only high-profile Iranian officer in American hands. Another is Mohammad Jaafari Sahra-Rudi, who was the kingpin of Iran’s terrorist operations in large parts of Iraq. His long record includes leading the Iranian death squad which assassinated Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party leader Dr. Abdol-Rahman Qasemlou in Vienna in 1989.

Austrian security services caught the assassin but sent him back to Iran as part of a secret transaction between the two countries.

Qasemlou operated in Iraq under his real identity and even met with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani just a few days before he was captured in the American raid of the Iranian “liaison office” in Irbil Jan 11.

The Iranians have explored every channel they can think of to break the agents out of American custody. When they realized that the United States was adamant about holding on to them, the heads of the Revolutionary Guards decided to go ahead with their campaign of abductions against US troops in Iraq. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approved.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 July 2007 )
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