The Jig Is Up Or Is It?
The Washington Post has just confirmed that "a former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official." For more on who Ali Rez Asgari is and why his disappearance is causing consternation in Teheran, go to the special report at Pajamas Media, where authors Meir Javedanfar and Yossi Melman describe his importance to Iran.
The Post's story essentially confirms his importance. "Asgari's background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran's national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon." Asgari is not thought to be involved with Iran's nuclear program. But the Pajamas Media backgrounder does suggest that Asgari knows more than the Post's article admits.
As well as being a former deputy defence Minister, Asgari was also a General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). The IRGC, more than any other branch of Iran’s armed forces, is aware of, and has access to Iran’s nuclear program. Its members are in charge of monitoring and protecting Iran’s nuclear installations, and scientists.
Furthermore, the IRGC is in charge of developing and testing Iran’s missiles, an arsenal which Iran has threatened to use if attacked. Last but not least, the IRGC is in charge of training and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iraqi Shiite militants in Iraq.
However this may be, Asgari's loss means a substantial part of Iran's covert systems will now be laid bare. Teheran will be in a race against time to determine just what assets are now at risk and how they can be protected. Even damage control is not without peril as the US listens and watches for revealing patterns of redeployment. To those who have long ago decided that America must withdraw from Iraq, this development must bring some disquiet. First, Asgari's reception can be regarded as "provocative". After all, if Teheran's goodwill is necessary to gain an exit from Iraq, then encouraging the defection of one of their top officials hardly answers the purpose. Second, it underscores the fact that American policy is still vacillating between the polar opposites of creating an Iraq on US terms and withdrawing in good order to save face. It may be all Washington talks about, but on the crucial point of whether to stay and "win" in Iraq or accept it as another Vietnam there has been no closure, nor is any likely until a new President is elected in 2008. Lastly, whatever revelations Asgari may make may be viewed with suspicion by those who fear that the Administration is once again attempting to manipulate the public to support a policy unpopular with the other major party. Nor is this fear entirely unfounded because it is possible, though unlikely that Asgari in some subtle way may manage to project disinformation which will raise more questions than it answers. Like every opportunity, his defection raises both tempting prospects and dangers. Maybe Washington should send Teheran a message: who said life was easy.