March 09, 2007

Missing Iranian Minster Reportedly Cooperating with Western Intelligence


By Ali Nouri Zadeh
London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Israel has denied involvement in the disappearance of former Iranian deputy defense minister, ’Ali Reza Asghari.

Amir Peretz Israel’s Defense Minister rejected Tehran's claims that Israeli agents were involved in Asghari’s disappearance, while today's Washington post has reported the Iranian general willingly defected and is currently cooperating with Western intelligence agencies.

Citing a senior U.S. official, the 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 said that 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.”

March 9, 2007 02:30 AM







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