Ali-Reza Asgari

Ali-Reza Asgari

Brigadier General Ali-Reza Asgari (PerB|عليرضا عسگری) is a retired [" [http://www2.irna.com/en/news/view/line-16/0703068435191618.htm Iran pursuing fate of former defense ministry official missing in Turkey] ", "Islamic Republic News Agency", March 6, 2007. Retrieved March 6, 2007.] Iranian general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, former deputy defense minister, and former cabinet member of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. [" [http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/Iranian_generals_disappearance_a_mystery/20070305-072522-8321r/ Iranian general's disappearance a mystery] ", "UPI", March 5, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.]

Asgari had been "pushed aside" from his ministerial role after President Ahmadinejad, a former rival, came in to power in 2005. Asgari disappeared in Turkey in early 2007, and news reports indicate that he has either defected or been kidnapped [ [http://english.farsnews.ir/newstext.php?nn=8512160287 Fars News Agency :: Iran: West May Have Kidnapped Missing Official ] ] by Western intelligence agencies. His disappearance has also led to reports that Iran will retaliate by kidnapping American or Israeli officials in Europe. [Mahnaimi, Uzi. " [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article1530527.ece Iran to hit back at US ‘kidnaps’] ", "The Sunday Times", March 18, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2007.] According to "The Sunday Times", Asgari has been described as a "gold mine for western intelligence” by an Israeli defence source who claimed that they had been following him since the 1980s.

Biography

Ali Reza Asgari was born in Shiraz, Iran.Dan, Oron. " [http://www.nypost.com/seven/03112007/news/worldnews/moderate_on_hating_u_s__worldnews_oron_dan_post_correspondent.htm 'Moderate' on Hating US..] ", "New York Post", March 11, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2007.] His age has been variously cited as 46, 57, and 63. Asgari is married to Ziba Ahmadi and Zahra Abdollahpour and has five children.

Military and intelligence career

In the 1980s Asgari was commander of the Revolutionary Guard in LebanonMahnaimi, Uzi. " [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article1497034.ece Defector spied on Iran for years] ", "The Sunday Times", March 11, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2007.] and during the 1990s he was the top Iranian intelligence official in Lebanon, where he worked with the Shia militia Hezbollah. One report said that during this time, Asgari was involved in the alleged transfer of captured Israeli pilot Ron Arad to Iran. [" [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1173115959011&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull Report: Iranian general has info on Arad] ", "The Jerusalem Post", March 5, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.] The Israeli website Debkafile claims that Asgari ran Iranian operations in Iraq, and is linked to the January 20, 2007 Karbala provincial headquarters raid. [" [http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1259 The Vanishing Iranian General: Did He Leave or Was He Taken?] ", "Debkafile", March 2, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.]

pying

According to "The Sunday Times", Asgari was recruited as a spy in 2003 during a business trip; however, it is not known what Western intelligence agency recruited him. He decided to defect once it was suspected by the Iranian VEVAK that he was a mole.

Disappearance

Asgari disappeared on February 7, 2007 in Istanbul, Turkey after flying in from Damascus, Syria. One report said that he had been in Syria to discuss production of military equipment, and his trip to Turkey was to meet with a European arms dealer. [Zadeh, Ali Nouri. " [http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=8247 Missing Iranian Minster Reportedly Cooperating with Western Intelligence] ", "Asharq Alawsat", March 8, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2007.] This was challenged by a woman in Tehran who claimed she was Asgari's wife, and who said that Asgari flew to Istanbul on December 7 and disappeared on December 9." [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/03/12/africa/ME-GEN-Iran-Turkey-Missing-Official.php Wife of missing former Iranian official urges authorities to investigate] ", "International Herald Tribune", March 12, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2007.] She also said that "He [Asgari] was doing business in olive oil in Syria."" [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20070312-0404-iran-missing-.html Missing Iranian official was kidnapped – relatives] ", "SignOnSanDiego", March 12, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2007.]

Reports say that two other people had reserved a room for Asgari at the Ceylan Hotel in Istanbul for three nights, but that after arriving Asgari reserved a room at the cheaper Hotel Ghilan. [Dan, Oron. " [http://www.nypost.com/seven/03052007/news/worldnews/terror_linked_iranian_in_kidnap_puzzle_worldnews_oron_dan__post_correspondent.htm TERROR-LINKED IRANIAN IN 'KIDNAP' PUZZLE] ", "The New York Post", March 5, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.] [" [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1171894570087&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull General vanishes; Mossad/CIA blamed] ", "The Jerusalem Post", March 4, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.] It is not clear if he ever checked into the hotel, [Butcher, Tim. " [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/05/wspy105.xml Spy's disappearance sparks kidnap fears] ", "The Telegraph", March 5, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.] and a later report suggested that no such hotel exists.

Some Arab diplomats told the media that Asgari was kidnapped by the US CIA and or Israeli Mossad. On March 6, a top Iranian police chief confirmed that kidnapping was a possibility. [" [http://english.people.com.cn/200703/06/eng20070306_354889.html Iran accuses West of kidnapping former senior official] ", "People's Daily Online", March 6, 2007. Retrieved March 6, 2007.] Reports say that Iran sent several defense officials to Turkey to discuss the matter during the last week of February, and have also asked Interpol to investigate the case. Because of claims that Israel was behind the disappearance, security was boosted for Israeli embassies and senior officials abroad. [Yehoshua, Yossi. " [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3373021,00.html Israel boosts security around embassies abroad] ", "Ynetnews", March 6, 2007. Retrieved March 6, 2007.] On March 6 the Turkish Foreign Minister said that Turkey was conducting "an extremely broad investigation." [" [http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=104923 Ankara ‘delicately investigating’ Asghari’s disappearance] ", "Today's Zaman", March 9, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2007.]

According to the Islamic republic state-run newspaper "Iran", Asgari was captured by a joint team of Mossad and CIA and then tortured by them. [ [http://www.iraninstitute.com/1385/851222/html/politic.htm#s675144 Iran Newspaper - سياسى - 1385/12/22 ] ] This claim of torture was denied by a source in the Iranian military, who said that the Iranians have no information on his current situation. [Zadeh, Ali Nouri. " [http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=8308 Top al Quds Brigade Official Disappears in Iraq] ", "Asharq Alawsat", March 14, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2007.] In an interview with Fars News, Asgari's daughter said that "I'm sure that United States and Israel have kidnapped him". [ [http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8512210191 Fars News Agency : اسرائيل يا آمريكا عسگري را دزديده‌اند، تركيه مسئول است ] ]

Defection

The Israeli paper "Haaretz" first reported that Asgari may have defected.Stern, Yoav. " [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/833410.html Iran intelligence official said missing, may have defected] ", "Haaretz", March 5, 2007. Retrieved March 5, 2007.] This was echoed by a report in "Asharq Alawsat", which stated that Asgari defected to the United States. [cite news |title=Report: Missing Iranian defected to U.S. |url=http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2007/03/06/report_missing_iranian_defected_to_us/8555/ |publisher=UPI |date=2007-03-06 |accessdate=2008-03-30] That same paper reported on March 7 that Asgari was being questioned in northern Europe (later identified as a NATO base in Germany) before eventually being moved to the US. [" [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1173173950707&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull Report: Missing Iran general in Europe] ", "The Jerusalem Post", March 7, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2007.] However, a US intelligence official told "The New York Post" "We don't have him."

Asgari may have been able to leave Turkey under a different passport.Zadeh, Ali Nouri. " [http://www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=8253 Missing Iranian Minister is Cooperating with Western Intelligence - Source] ", "Asharq Alawsat", March 9, 2007. Retrieved March 10, 2007.]

On March 8 "The Washington Post" said that Asgari is willingly cooperating with Western intelligence officials, and is providing information on Hezbollah and its Iranian connections.Linzer, Dafna. " [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/07/AR2007030702241.html Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence] ", "The Washington Post", March 8, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2007.] Among other things, this includes information with regards to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. [Lathem, Niles and Dan, Oron. " [http://www.nypost.com/seven/03082007/news/worldnews/spilling_his_guts_worldnews_niles_lathem________in_washington_______and_oron_dan__________in_tel_aviv.htm SPILLING HIS GUTS] ", "The New York Post", March 8, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2007.] Asgari also smuggled out intelligence documents and maps that detail Iranian involvement with Muslim militia groups, including Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the Iraqi Mahdi army and Badr Organization. A US intelligence official said that his defection was "orchestrated by the Israelis", although Israeli spokesman Mark Regev has denied this. The "New York Post" reported that an Iranian dissident group helped plan the defection and is negotiating with Western intelligence agencies for a "permanent place of exile".

On March 12 the German Minister of Defense, Franz Josef Jung was asked about the disappearance during a visit to Ankara, Turkey. Jung's answer was "I cannot say anything on this issue." [Arsu, Sebnem. " [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/13/news/iran.php German aide adds intrigue in case of missing Iranian] ", "International Herald Tribune", March 13, 2007. Retrieved March 13, 2007.]

Family

Several sources say that some of Asgari's family left Iran before he defected, possibly under the guise of a vacation.Lathem, Niles and Dan, Oron. " [http://www.nypost.com/seven/03072007/news/worldnews/iran_defector_worldnews_niles_lathem_and_oron_dan.htm Iran 'Defector' Top Nuke Gen. Flees to U.S.: Report] ", "The New York Post", March 7, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2007.] Lathem, Niles. " [http://www.nypost.com/seven/03092007/news/nationalnews/secret_network_helped_defector_nationalnews_niles_lathem.htm Secret Network Helped Defector] ", "The New York Post", March 9, 2007. Retrieved March 9, 2007.] One article said that 10 close family members left, including two sons and a daughter. This has been contradicted by "Farda News", which said his wife and children were still in Tehran. [Smyth, Gareth. " [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/ccbe329a-cffa-11db-94cb-000b5df10621.html Mystery of former Iranian minister deepens] ", "The Financial Times", March 11, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2007.] On March 12, Asgari's wife Ziba Ahmadi and daughter Elham lodged a complaint at the Turkish embassy in Tehran, saying that "He has not asked for political asylum and will never do." On March 19, ten relatives including another wife Zahra Abdollahpour again gathered at the Turkish embassy, and said that "It was America and Israel who did it but... [the] Turkish government is responsible and they should inform us about his situation as soon as possible."" [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20070319-0418-iran-turkey-asgari.html Wives blame Turkey for Iranian official's 'kidnap] ", "SignOnSanDiego", March 19, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2007.]

In an interview on July 10 with the news agency Mehr, Ziba Ahmadi said that 90% of the evidence points towards Israel being responsible for her husband's disappearance, although she has not received any information on him. [Cohen, Dudi. " [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3423707,00.html Iranian general's wife says Israel kidnapped him] ", "Ynetnews", July 10, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2007.]

2007 Iranian seizure

After 15 British navy personnel were seized by Iranian forces on March 23, 2007, some media reports suggested that the Iranian government wanted to trade them for Iranian personnel allegedly abducted, including Asgari. [Panja, Tariq and Quinn, Jennifer. " [http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/03/25/ap3549626.html Blair Warns Iran on 15 Seized Sailors] ". "Forbes", March 25, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2007.]

Follow-up investigation

In April 2007, journalist Richard Miniter published an article detailing his own investigation in Turkey as to Asgari's disappearance. Miniter found that it is impossible to reserve a room at the Ceylan Hotel in cash (as was previously reported) and that no such "Hotel Ghilan" exists, although it may have been a mispronunciation of "Hotel Divan", just across the street from the Ceylan. Miniter spoke with Professor Hasan Koni of the American Studies program at Bahcesehir University, who said that senior Turkish generals were angry at not being told which ally had taken Asgari, and that the identity of this country was a hot debate among "military, intelligence, and police circles."Miniter, Richard. " [http://pajamasmedia.com/2007/04/the_general_vanishes.php The General Vanishes] ", Pajamas Media, April 9, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2007.]

Nuclear information

In early July 2007 the Israeli newspaper "Yediot Aharonot" reported that Asgari told US interrogators that Iran is secretly attempting to enrich uranium with a combination of lasers and chemicals at a weapons facility in Natanz; this would act as a backup if the publicly known facilities and activities were stopped by sanctions or military strikes. [Bergman, Ronen. " [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3422381,00.html US closer to cracking Iran's nuclear secrets] ", "Ynetnews", July 8, 2007. Retrieved July 9, 2007.]

In December 2007 when the US intelligence community released the findings of an NIE stating that Iran had stopped its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003 (as opposed to the 2005 NIE which said they were continuing), some observers suspected that Asgari played some role in providing intelligence or prompting the reassessment; however, current officials have said that there was no single thing which prompted the reversal, [cite news |first=Daniel |last=Donbey |title=Lessons from past shift debate on Iran |url=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22118109/ |publisher=The Financial Times |date=2007-12-06 |accessdate=2007-12-06 ] though another source cited current diplomatic and security officials as saying that a defector was likely to be the cause of the new information. [cite news |first=Ewen |last=MacAskill |title=New intelligence points to Iranian defector |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2221823,00.html |publisher=The Guardian |date=2007-12-04 |accessdate=2007-12-04 ]

Operation Orchard

On September 28 the Kuwaiti newspaper "Al Jareeda" reported that Asgari provided information for the Israeli airstrike on September 6 in Syria, Operation Orchard; [cite news |first= |last= |title=Report: Defecting Iranian official gave info before alleged Syrian foray |url=http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411503525&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull |publisher=The Jerusalem Post |date=2007-09-28 |accessdate=2007-09-28 ] this was confirmed by the intelligence group Stratfor, which reported that Asgari "gave Israel the intelligence on Syria’s missile program needed for the Syrian airstrike." [cite news |first= |last= |title=Israel: Asghari Gave Syrian Intelligence |url=http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?selected=Situation%20Reports&sitrep=1&id=295938 |publisher=Stratfor |date=2007-09-28 |accessdate=2007-09-28 ]

Ebrahimi story

In late March 2008, Dr. Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, an Iranian human rights activist who lives in Germany, was detained at Ataturk International Airport after an Iranian official requested that he be deported to Iran. According to the Iranians, he had played a role in Asgari's defection. [cite news |first=Borzou |last=Daragahi |title=Iranian dissident's case throws light on a key defection |url=http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-dissident29mar29,1,7550824.story |publisher=Los Angeles Times |date=2008-03-29 |accessdate=2008-04-13]

In an interview with "Newsmax", Ebrahimi explained that he and Asgari had met in the mid-1990s when they worked at Iran's embassy in Beirut. When Asgari was on his trip in Syria in 2007, he called Ebrahimi in Germany to say that his special passport only had two days remaining and that he did not wish to go back to Iran; following Ebrahimi's advice, he rented a car, left his wife in Damascus to drive to Turkey, and paid US$1500 to a Turkish border guard to enter without a visa. Contacts of Ebrahimi's were said to meet him in rooms reserved at the Gilan hotel, but the meeting did not take place because of a police presence outside the hotel. [cite news |first=Kenneth R. |last=Timmerman |title=Iranian Defectors Provide Crucial Intel |url=http://www.newsmax.com/timmerman/defector_Amir_Ebrahimi/2008/04/01/84566.html |publisher=Newsmax |date=2008-04-01 |accessdate=2008-04-13]

References


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