Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Iranian General Reportedly Defects
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
former high-ranking Iranian government official, Brig. Gen. Alireza
Asghari, 63, has defected to the United States, Iranian exiles and
other sources told Newsmax today.
Asghari had access to
highly-classified intelligence information and "defected to the
Americans with lots of secrets," respected Iranian journalist Alireza
Nourizadeh told Newsmax from London.
The disappearance of the former Revolutionary Guards General has created a panic in Tehran.
Gen. Asghari left Iran on an
officially-sanctioned trip to Damascus, Syria, then went missing during
a stop-over in Istanbul, Turkey on February 7, according to statements
by Iranian government officials in Tehran.
Nourizadeh believes he had been sent
to Damascus to supervise an arms deal between Iran and Syria that was
signed last June during a trip to Tehran by Syria's defense minister.
"It is possible that former deputy
defense minister Asghari was kidnapped by Western intelligence services
because of his Defense Ministry background," the head of Iran's
national police, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, said in Tehran yesterday.
But Newsmax has learned from Iranian
sources that Gen. Asghari's family also managed to leave Iran just
before he went missing, and that he sold his house in the Narmak area
of Tehran in December.
Both are considered clear indications that he defected and had been planning his departure for some time.
As a senior member of the general
staff of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Gen. Asghari had access to
highly-classified operational information, as well as strategic
planning documents, said Shahriar Ahy, an Iranian political analyst
based in Washington, D.C.
"It will take them months to know just what they've lost," Ahy told Newsmax today.
The damage control investigation
could reach the very summit of the Iranian government because of Gen.
Asghari's long-standing personal relationship to former Defense
minister Admiral Ali Shakhani, Any said.
"The loss of Gen. Asghari will
severely hamper the regime's operations outside the country, because he
will pull back the cloth on what he knows," Ahy said. "Intelligence
agents will be called back, and operations will be put into deep
freeze" as the regime tries to figure out what secrets Asghari
Gen. Asghari is believed to have detailed knowledge of the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force units operating in Iraq.
He is also believed to have come out
with extensive information on Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons
program, which will make it harder for Russia and China to come to
Iran's defense at the ongoing 6-power talks on Iran's nuclear program.
From 1989-1993, Gen. Asghari was
stationed in Lebanon as Iran's liaison to Hezbollah. Israeli press
accounts have identified him as the Iranian official who "knows the
most" about what happened to Israeli navigator Ron Arad, who was
reportedly "sold" to Iran after his plane was shot down over southern
Lebanon in 1986.
The Iranian regime requires top official such as Gen. Asghari to obtain an authorization before they can travel abroad.
Gen. Asghari's 10-day trip to Syria
was approved by the military judicial authorities, sources inside Iran
told Newsmax. Two days after he arrived in Damascus, his family managed
to leave Iran, the sources said.
The main impediment to defections by
high-ranking Iranian officials is fear that any family members left
behind will be arrested, tortured, and possibly killed.
The Persian-language website
Baztab.com claims that Gen. Asghari's name was on a CIA "hit list" of
twenty former Revolutionary Guards officers. Baztab is owned by former
Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohsen Rezai, now a top aide to
former president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
Alireza Nourizadeh, the Iranian journalist based in London, tells Newsmax that Gen. Asghari planned his defection carefully.
"While he was in Damascus, he sent a
fax or an email to Tehran saying that one of his contacts, who was an
arms dealer, was in Turkey and wanted to meet him," he told Newsmax.
"So they gave him permission to go to Turkey, where he defected."
The Iranian military attaché
in Istanbul had reserved a room for Gen. Asghari at the Continental
hotel, Nourizadeh said, but Asghari complained that it was not safe.
Instead, he booked three rooms at the Gilan Hotel, in the Tacsim
district which is popular among Iranians. "After calling a relative in
Tehran, he left the hotel at 6:30 PM and disappeared," he said.
During the 1990s, Gen. Asghari was
in charge of short and medium-range missile projects at the Defense
Industries Organization. "He ran the Nazeat, Fajr, and Zelzal missile
programs," Nourizadeh said.
From 1996-1997, he worked on secret
nuclear procurement projects, and traveled frequently to Russia, China,
North Korea, and Southeast Asia buying equipment and parts.
Nourizadeh believes Gen. Asghari
defected because he had incurred the wrath of his superiors in the
Defense ministry during a stint as the Defense Ministry's Inspector
"He discovered two gangs of corrupt
officials who had embezzled the government for $90 million and $150
million," Nourizadeh said. "After he exposed them, he was arrested. He
was Mr. Clean."
Eventually, Gen. Asghari was
rehabilitated and put to work on the Iran-Syria arms deals signed last
year, but he never forgave his superiors for orchestrating his fall
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