|Fatal crashes, toxic gas exposure, kidnappings – life seems to have gotten a wee bit more challenging for Iranian generals and technical types these days . . .
Kidnapped or Defected? Top Iranian General Disappears
March 05, 2007 5:28 PM
Hoda Osman and Christopher Isham Report:
The mysterious disappearance of an Iranian general in Turkey in early February has led to speculation he either was kidnapped or defected.
Iran has reportedly asked Interpol to investigate the general's disappearance. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted by Iran's news agency today as saying that a foreign ministry official was currently in Turkey to investigate the disappearance and has asked the Turkish government "to inquire into the issue and give explanation on Asgari's whereabouts."
One respected analyst with sources in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard says Gen. Ali Reza Asgari has defected and is now in a European country with his entire family, where he is cooperating with the U.S.
Other reports have suggested that the general may have been kidnapped by the Israeli secret service, the Mossad. A spokesperson at the CIA declined to comment on the reported defection.
"This is a fatal blow to Iranian intelligence," said the source, explaining that Asgari knows sensitive information about Iran's nuclear and military projects. Iran called tens of its Revolutionary Guard agents working at embassies and cultural centers in Arab and European countries back to Tehran out of fear that Asgari might disclose secret information about their identities, according to the analyst.
There are conflicting reports about how and when Asgari disappeared. The general, according to Turkish and Israeli press reports, arrived in Istanbul from Damascus on Feb. 7. Initial reports speculated he may have been kidnapped because he failed to show up at a hotel that had been booked for him by two non-Turkish men.
The source, however, believes Asgari's disappearance was prompted by the detention of five Iranians after the raid on their government's liaison office in Irbil, Iraq in January. Asgari, 63, knew and may have worked with some of the detained men, said the analyst.
Asgari's years with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian defense ministry would make him an invaluable source of information. He was reportedly based in Lebanon in the 1990s and was in charge of ties with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
At one point he was also in charge of military purchases at the defense ministry and exposed widespread corruption there which led to the arrest of a number of officials. Most recently, he worked as a consultant for the same ministry.