The latest information reaching DEBKA-Net-Weekly about the fate of the mysteriously missing Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari is that he has arrived in America, where he is being debriefed. This information comes from Iranian exiles in Germany, former members of the Revolutionary Guards, who have developed ongoing links with undercover circles in Washington and Ankara.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources rate these sources 80% reliable – or better – in the fields in which they are conversant. Their input is important enough to present here. Its content and the images attached to this article point to Turkish intelligence as their source.
According to these Iranian exiles, the former Iranian general was transferred to an American military base in Germany on February 7. After an initial medical examination and questioning he was moved to Washington DC.
The sequence of events they outline began in November 2006, when Asgari asked his masters in Tehran for permission to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of the Shiite saints Zeinab and Roqyia in Syria. The Iranian government normally encourages pilgrimages to these tombs to promote tourism in Syria and help its economy. However, high-ranking security members require special permission from the military security authorities to travel abroad for up to five years after their service is terminated. Asgara is said to have ended his last stint at the end of 2005.
His application was granted and, on Jan 3, 2007, he traveled to Damascus. After paying his respects to the Shiite saints, he got in touch with American intelligence. This was previously arranged in their earlier contacts. The German-based sources had no knowledge of how and where this communication took place.
A few days later, Asgari was instructed to fly from Damascus to Turkey.
Although his passport restricted him to Syria, Turkish security at Istanbul airport let him through quickly, as though had been expecting him. The former general introduced himself as an Iranian national wishing to enter Turkey as a refugee en route to Europe.
The American agents, who collected him as he left the airport, told him to register at a small hotel in Istanbul, leave his luggage there, travel to Ankara and head for another small hotel called Arshan.
An American agent known only by the name Green took him to the offices of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, where he filled in a form as a refugee applying for political asylum and travel documents. Given the usual bureaucratic treatment, such applications can take six months to a year for processing. The Asgari application was approved in four days, expedited by the US government’s assent to grant him asylum on political grounds.
This formality was important to the Americans for warding off any future Iranian charge that he was abducted and to clear the Turkish government of liability.
A key cog in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs
Back in Istanbul, the Iranian general was taken to the local office of the ICMC, the International Catholic Migration Commission. He stayed at the Hilton for four days, closely guarded by American security men. Then, to make sure of his safety, he was moved to the Marmara Hotel, where he remained until he left Turkey.
On Jan. 25, the requisite paperwork arrived from Washington and, on Feb. 7, he embarked on his journey to the US, stopping over in Germany.
Just a reminder: Asgari served as deputy defense minister under Admiral Ali Shamkhani during the presidency of the reformist, Mohammed Khatami. He was in charge of purchasing and logistics, in which capacity he was tasked with procuring equipment and components for Iran’s missile industry.
A senior officer of the Revolutionary Guards, he attained the rank of brigadier general. From 1991 to 1994, he commanded the Al-Qademoon (The Coming People) unit of the Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds Brigades, a job which took him on frequent trips to Lebanon where he helped build and consolidate the Hizballah militia.
In mid-1994, Asgari was promoted to the RG general staff, where for three years he directed weapons development and overseas purchasing. He established dozens of trading companies in many countries, from the Far East to West Europe, for acquiring equipment and weapons parts. Under questioning, he was revealed also to have acted as a consultant to the Kala Electric company, one of the most important undercover organizations of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Iranian exile sources in Germany also report that the Bush administration and the CIA officials debriefing the Iranian officer are at odds over how best to handle the Iranian ex-general. The former want to put him in front of television cameras for a grand expose of Iran’s subversive activities in Iraq, Lebanon and other parts of the world. The Agency has plenty more questions to ask him first.
The state department agrees that the defector should be saved as a weapon for the coming months, when the tense impasse with Iran is expected to peak. It will then be important to have documents and facts to present to the world as proofs of Iran’s rogue activities as a big-time destabilizing agency and sponsor of mass terrorism and murder in Iraq, Lebanon and other places.