Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi took the most extreme step thus far when Wednesday, Dec. 28, he accused Israel of "the suspected death" of Iranian prisoner Ali-Reza Asgari. He said: "If the credibility of this report is proved, the dossier on Israel's kidnappings, assassinations and murders will become thicker."
In Israel, a blackout was imposed on any information relating to Asgar. It was assumed, according to debkafile's military sources, that the Iranian defense minister would not have leveled so serious an allegation unless a large-scale act of terror against Israel or an Israel target overseas was on the way – carried out directly or through Hizballah – to avenge Asgari's alleged murder and last month's attacks on Iranian scientists in Tehran.
debkafile reported earlier Wednesday:
The Iranian-Israeli clandestine war is heating up . Just a day after Iran publicly hanged alleged Israeli spy Ali Akbar Siadat, hinting that at least one more Iranian national was due to be executed for working for the Mossad, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East and Russia Affairs Mohammad Rauf Sheibani announced Wednesday, Dec. 29 that Tehran would ask international organizations to investigate "the murder by the Israeli Mossad'" of the former Iranian deputy defense minister Alireza Asgari in Israel's Ayalon Prison.
Asgari went missing from his Istanbul hotel shortly after arriving there from Damascus on Dec. 9, 2006 and has not been seen since.. Until now, Iranian sources claimed he was in American hands. Western intelligence had reported in fact that he was the source of the information about secret Iranian nuclear installations, including the underground enrichment plant near Qom. Now, for the first time, Tehran has come up with the tale not only that he was taken to an Israeli prison after his disappearance in Istanbul, but that he died there.
Commenting on this new claim, Asgari's wife, Ziba Ahamdi, said Wednesday that she had no idea if the report of her husband's murder was true. If it were, she said, it would mean he had achieved his greatest ambition, which was to serve the Islamic Revolution.
On the morning of that same Wednesday, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Strategic Affairs, Gen (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, told a radio interviewer that Iran was not currently able to manufacture a nuclear bomb because of technical difficulties but he estimated it would attain this capability within three years.
debkafile's intelligence sources note that the current Israeli intelligence timeline for a nuclear-armed Iran was previously 2011. Yaalon did not go into the reasons for the delay, but our sources mention two:
1. His estimate represented the first official Israel evaluation of the scale of the destruction and havoc the Stuxnet malworm has wrought to Iran's most secret nuclear weaponization facilities. Up until now, only the nuclear reactor at Bushehr and the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz had been admitted to have been affected by the invasive virus.
2. The second factor seriously slowing progress is the tightening ring of sanctions which are keeping Iran from receiving the materials, replacement parts and new electronic and technical systems needed to bring its clandestine military nuclear program to fruition.
These revelations came to a head in the last 24 hours for good reason, say debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources.
The regime in Tehran is under pressure to account to its own public and friendly Muslims for the shambling pace of its nuclear effort. Loth to admit the devastation caused by Stuxnet, the Iranians have seized on a distraction in the form of a "revelation" on the Eurasia Review web site that Alireza Asgari while held in Israel's Ayalon jail under the name of Prisoner X had committed suicide. The Review cites inner circles of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and goes on to speculate that he did not die by his own hand but was murdered by Mossad agents – although there was no suggestion about motive.
Tehran has made big play of this report and is calling for an international investigation into the fate of the missing deputy defense minister – partly also to demonstrate that leaders of the Islamic Regime are willing to lay down their lives for the sacred mission of arming Iran with a nuclear bomb.
Tehran is moreover girding up for the resumed nuclear talks in Istanbul on Jan. 5 with the Five UN Security Council Permanent Members and Germany. The first round in Geneva on Dec. 6-7 was taken up with a long-winded tirade by senior negotiator Saad Jalili which held US and Israeli intelligence guilty of murdering Iranian nuclear scientists in broad daylight in downtown Tehran.
For the next session, Iran has prepared a fresh indictment against the Israeli Mossad, now accused of murdering Asqari.