The Missing Israeli Navigator Is a Lever in Tehran’s Nuclear Machinations
In a long peroration over Lebanon’s NTV, Hizballah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah Wednesday, January 18, defended his refusal to disarm and attacked Druze leader Walid Jumblatt for accusing his organization of a treasonably serving a foreign country, Iran. In the middle of this list of grievances, he dropped a bombshell:
“I have an analysis that is not based on tangible facts… but if you asked me for my conclusion I would say that Ron Arad is dead and lost… he died, no one knew of him and his remains have disappeared.”
The Hizballah leader then offered the theory that the Israeli navigator, missing since his plane was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, was captured by Shiite Amal members, escaped into the Lebanese mountains and fell into a canyon where his remains were never found.
This was the first time the Hizballah leader has ever admitted that he does not have the key to Ron Arad’s whereabouts or any information on his disappearance.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources reveal that Nasrallah’s statement was made on orders from the Iranian embassy in Beirut following a directive from Tehran. Its timing was part of an elaborate Iranian scheme to fend off the referral of its nuclear program to the UN Security Council for sanctions. The key to this stratagem is to be found in international diplomatic moves of the last ten days, the live wire of which is German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Nasrallah’s claim that the Israeli navigator was never heard of after escaping into the mountains is a brazen falsehood.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources relate the known facts: Ron Arad was held prisoner for a year by an Amal faction headed by Mujstafa Dirani, who then sold him to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for half a million dollars.
In Iran, he was thrown into the special high-security prison near northern Tehran which Iranians call “the unknown prison,” because it has no number or sign marking its location. Our Iranian experts say this facility is reserved for high-value security prisoners. They include Iranian dissidents or foreigners captured by Iranian intelligence and brought by force to Iran. Every inmate is kept in total isolation in a cell of his own equipped with devices that keep him under constant surveillance.
Western intelligence has never been able to penetrate this prison or discover what happened to its inmates, who once they enter its dread gates are never seen again.
In 1989, Israeli commandos snatched the Amal gang which turned Ron Arad over to Iran. Among them was Dirani. Although he was jailed in Israel for years, he never gave out any information to help solve the mystery.
In the early 1990s, Iran was rumored to have allowed Soviet air force officers to interrogate the Israeli navigator, but this was never confirmed.
Ron Arad’s story is recast to serve Tehran’s nuclear book
To this day, no one really knows whether Ron Arad is alive or dead.
But the mystery surrounding his fate has had a recurring impact on subsequent international occurrences
In October 2000, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped on the Israeli-Lebanese border. At first, Hizballah was thought to have been the abductor, until it was discovered that the notorious Imad Mughniyeh, head of the Hizballah special security service and liaison executive between Tehran and al Qaeda, was responsible.
Mughniyeh is thought to be in Lebanon today. If anyone knows the truth about what really befell Ron Arad, it is this man, who is one of the closest intimates of the Iranian supreme ruler Ali Khamenei.
The next actor to enter the drama is the German intelligence agent Ernst Uhrlau, named by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as mediator in negotiations for a prisoner swap between the Hizballah and Israel. Uhrlau soon tumbled to the fact that Iran, rather than any Lebanese party, was pulling the strings for this trade-off. He therefore opened up a secret track to Tehran.
In 2004, the German go-between pulled off a deal for the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers to be handed over together with an Israeli civilian kidnapped in the Persian Gulf, in return for 400 Lebanese and Palestinians in Israeli jails, including Dirani.
Urhlau did his best to extract information on Ron Arad as part of the transaction, but failed.
The question now is: what happened in January 2006 to make Tehran try and draw a line on the tragic Ron Arad mystery? Why was Nasrallah told to declare him dead and lost?
There are two reasons, and both tie in with the international furor over Iran’s nuclear activities and its prospects of being hauled before the Security Council for sanctions.
Chancellor Merkel is in the middle of a complicated diplomatic ploy to bring the United States, Russia and Europe in line with Iran over a formula designed to arrest Tehran’s progress towards a weapons capability, while allowing continued uranium enrichment for nuclear research and electricity. Iran looks like buying into the plan in the hope of staving off Security Council sanctions.
These delicate moves are being orchestrated by Uhrlau, whom the chancellor has appointed new head of the BND foreign intelligence service.
Uhrlau is best known internationally for his failure to clear up the Ron Arad affair. Tehran therefore decided to let itself off the hook of the Ron Arad kidnap and also clean up Urhlau’s record of unfinished business.
Recycling the navigator’s tragedy by purporting his death in Lebanon soon after his capture, which Nasrallah attempted, would absolve both Tehran and the German mediator.
But the Israeli government knows that this tale is as cynical as it is false. The enigma of Ron Arad’s disappearance will certainly not be laid to rest until Iran’s role is fully exposed.