Thursday, March 08, 2007

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.


Blogger Mike H. said...

If you add the defection with what may be a rumor you come up with an interesting mix. A star is slowly sinking.

3/08/2007 02:28:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Mike H. said...

If you add the defection with what may be a rumor you come up with an interesting mix. A star is slowly sinking.

I'm not sure I understand this. If the rumors are true then it looks like the saudi's put the squeeze on to shift his position viz a viz syria & the assasination. so? if the current defector was a supporter of Assad--wouldn'
t that mean he was even more hard line than Ahmenedjad and therefor less likely to turn to the west?

And just whose star is sinking. Bashar Assad, Ahmenedjad.

For myself I'm convinced that Ahmenedjad goal is to keep himself in the news for however long it takes for people to learn to spell his name correctly.

Once that job is accomplished then he's gone.

3/08/2007 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

There are meanings atop meanings, and until the haze clears, this is little more than interesting rumor.

But it IS a rumor from the nation which now bears the ignominious distinction of having received, persecuted and ignored The Lord of Hosts since 1863...

Even Iranians get tired of government-imposed suffering, idiocy, drug abuse, prostitution and corruption after 154 years!

3/08/2007 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Saddam, it appears from what we know of his style kept everyone chasing their tail.
He ostensibly duped his entire general staff on bio and chemical WMD. He was known to hold large Baathist meetings and in them start naming names of his enemies as the guards hauled their asses off to the chipper-shredder.
For all we know Saddam may have told this General to go guard a pile of sand in the desert because under it was a secret nuclear site. Why would he do this? It gets the guy out of town for one thing but who really knows?
Truth, we discovered from Baghdad Bob is an illusory thing in the mid east and this has been backed up by our own experiences of the past ten plus years.
This general also knows that our interrogation techniques have moved into the nerf ball catagory so what's he got to fear?
We got into this entire deal on bad intel from EVERY MAJOR ALLY confirming WMD's.
At this point what we know this guy knows is nothing. And he may know exactly that. We've seen the pictures. Saddams generals weren't great warriors but puling sycophants.
Somehow I have my doubts this guy is the Lost Dutchman of intel.

3/08/2007 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...


This dude's from Iran. All you say might be true, but ol' Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley Saddam is not part of the background.

The fact that the Iranians are ordering their overseas "diplomats" to send back their families is a sign that maybe they feel a little pressed by this turn of events.

Wretchard ...if Teheran's goodwill is necessary to gain an exit from Iraq.... we might as well commit sepuku and be done with it.

3/08/2007 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...


This guy knows that our interrogation techniques are all Unicorns, rainbows, and Puffalumps, but unfortunately, he's probably in the hands of the Mossad or the Shin Bet. He took the money, now he'll talk. Only then does he get plastic surgery, the new identity, and the townhouse in Santa Clarita with the CIA fronted import/export business on the side.

This guy could have been run by the Mossad for several years; could have been a homosexual honey trap for all we know. They got to him in Lebanon, probably, and compromised his ass. Or, he found out something about the bomb program that scared him and pricked his conscience. Or, he's a disinformation operative. The Izzies will find out: that's why they are doing the debriefing, and not us.

When you want results, you do NOT let Langley run the operation. Not if you want his name and new identity to end up in the New York Times.

3/08/2007 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...


I'm not sure I can look any more stupid so I think I'll just tip toe back to my bedroom closet and read some more Huck Finn using a flashlight.

3/08/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger BBridges said...

ezwUS intelligence has a history of screwing up defections like this. In the past they've been duped by double agents and incarcerated genuine defectors. I just hope they get this one right.

3/08/2007 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

re: "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..."

With certain unnamed Belmont Club "skeptics" in mind:

“This is one of the incidental rewards of cultural equivalence; it blunts the critical senses and levels all values until people who know nothing about any given subject feel entitled to assert things about that subject with great confidence and a whiff of righteousness. One can, as Ian Stewart warned, believe whatever one wants.”
___David Thompson

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."
___Jewish sage, Paul Simon

3/08/2007 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

In our efforts to isolate and make pariah the Iranian government, the defection might be helpful here:

Argentine intelligence report details Iranian hand in Buenos Aires bombings

When all is said and done, well known Iranians in and out of government may well be named conspirators and co-conspirators. With possible outstanding arrest warrants in play, negotiation and travel will be problematic.

The general's knowledge of the events in Lebanon leading to the 1983 bombings may prove equally valuable in forcing Iran into the dock.

3/08/2007 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Abu Yussif said...

how satisfying it is every time someone from the islamic world defects or escapes to the west; you'll never see the opposite happen, save the odd jihadi. imagine chomsky or an armitage-type defecting to iran. you can't, can you?

one can only hope for more of these types of people to do the same. they pay a heavy price to do what they are doing but they also gain something they didn't have before: freedom. and even though it is living the rest of their life under heavy security, it is freedom nonetheless.

3/08/2007 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Charles, Rafsanjani just gained two of Ahmadinejad's seats in the Iranian parliment. Ahmadinejad isn't as popular with the Assembly of Experts (leading Ayatollahs) as he was a short while ago. The teachers in Iran are demonstrating and being arrested on a constant basis recently. If what was said about the phonecall is true then in addition to fighting political rivals and discontent in Iran he's antagonizing allies. Not a recipe for success.

3/08/2007 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gene Felder said...

If history does repeat itself, this might be a very important development.

US knowledge of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was aided considerably by the defection of Saddam’s son-in-law August 8, 1995.

“Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and head of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, defects. Kamel informs UNSCOM and foreign intelligence agencies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. In response, Iraq withdraws its third Full, Final and Complete Disclosure for its prohibited biological weapons, and turns over treasure trove of documents on its WMD programs. Iraq claims no knowledge of this and say documents were held secretly by Hussein Kamel.”

3/08/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Habu--That's the first time I've heard you say something as dumb as the things I usually say. By the way, Finn's a great book, enjoy.

3/08/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

There is the theory that Ahmed Chalabi was an Iranian stooge who deliberately gave us disinformation to induce our invasion of Iraq. I'm sceptical of this theory but the parallel between Chalabi and Ali Rez Asgari should not be discounted. If the Israelis are handling Asgari's interrogation then we'll learn the truth soon enough.

3/08/2007 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

So with all these reports, now culminating in the Post's coverage, is it more or less safe to accept at least the outlines of the story? For perspective, would this guy's equivalent be high enough up the chain of command that an ordinary CSPAN watcher like me would know who the US equivalent would be?

3/08/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Had to get fresh batteries. Say are we still at war with Spain?

3/08/2007 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Habu1, there is no war with Spain.

Habu1: "There was one?"

3/08/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

Last I heard, Habu, we were, and winning too.

3/08/2007 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

My immediate reaction is that this could very well be a defection.

I look back on a chain of events that would make any high ranking official in Iran nervous.

In the midst of a power struggle over succession to the katami throne we've heard of several "airplane crashes" that resulted in the death of many senior Iranian army officers.

We hear of "drug dealer" inspired attacks on Iranian authorities and learn of endless unrest in various Iranian provinces.

Suddenly the Americans are capturing and holding Iranians in Iraq, finding them with little difficulty.

it is easy to reach the conclusion that a massive purge is underway as various factions within the shaky regime seeks to assure themselves that the have the undying loyalty of everyone.

the mullahcracy acheived its status through revolution and it is common for revolutions to consume themselves.

it is quite possible, IMHO, that this guy grabbed his kids and his concubines and headed out of Dodge. further he's probably not going to be the last of these.

3/08/2007 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Media vermin spend too much time analyzing this event. Why? Because this is the only one they know about.

Intel gathering is an ongoing effort and I would imagine that there are numerous intel sources that we won't know about until they get declassified and somebody snags them with a FOIA.

We don't need to waterboard this dude as he's of limited short-term value. It's not the minutae he carries around in his head that is important, it's the relationships he's formed. That's the info we need to model Mr. INeedANewJob's reactions. This modeling is what allows us to deal with the Iranians without invading them.

3/08/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

What does the general know about the 1996 suicide bombing of the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in which 19 U.S. soldiers were killed and 370 Americans and Saudis were wounded?

3/08/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Mike H. said...

Charles, Rafsanjani just gained two of Ahmadinejad's seats in the Iranian parliment. Ahmadinejad isn't as popular with the Assembly of Experts (leading Ayatollahs) as he was a short while ago. The teachers in Iran are demonstrating and being arrested on a constant basis recently. If what was said about the phonecall is true then in addition to fighting political rivals and discontent in Iran he's antagonizing allies. Not a recipe for success.

3/08/2007 10:07:00 AM
Ok when you combine that with the recent meeting that with the saudi's that left Ahmadinejad a "chastened and worried man"

Then this stuff starts to make sense on Ahmadinejad's meeting with Basher Assad. ie he's jettisoning baggage to stay aloft/afloat. And the defector is also a heavy of some sort.
Ahmadinejad voiced support for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri - a sensitive subject for Syria, which has been suspected of involvement in the Lebanese leader’s death.

3/08/2007 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Habu said...

Ok I vote we archieve this topic and move on to one where my initial blather can look like something other than what comes out of the New York Times.

BTW how did Gettysburg turn out. was it in the papers?

3/08/2007 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

imho as well the saudi king may have offered him a quid pro quo.

Give us Syria and you can have Iraq.

3/08/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

The general may know where to find the money.

“Iran's economy is in desperate need of reform. It is crippled by corruption, with an estimated 40 percent of Iranian GDP accounted for by the Bonyads--nominally charitable foundations established to administer the Shah's assets on behalf of the Iranian people, but in actuality massive corruption machines that bankroll the senior leadership.”

Iran: Three Alternative Futures

3/08/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

Did the general pack his laptop?

3/08/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

White Bird

One we won.

3/08/2007 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


Gettysburg turned out poorly. Gen. Pickett did his best, but those Yankees on Cemetery Ridge killed us.

3/08/2007 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Db2m said...

Saddam gassed thousands of Kurds; convoys were reported by the "unmentionable" blog as hauling out chemical weapons to Syria prior to the war; a high level Iraqi defector confirmed multiple shipments of chemical canister agents flown out of Iraq prior to the war, and so what am I missing? Too many of you good folk, while eschewing the NYT on a daily basis, eventually wind up with a common archived memory, it seems to me.

The Memory Hole concerning Saddam's use of chemical weapons against Iran and against the Kurds is Bigger than an Elephant. That's the Elephant in this little Chat Room, IMO. It seems even Conservatives have been joining the "Bush lied" caravan, of late. Chalk it up to a victory of the NYT and their leftist ilk.

3/08/2007 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Charles you might be locked on to something there, I can't see beyond the 8th of Mar. My crystal ball is in want of a power supply ( or a substation.)

3/08/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Another thought, Ahmadinejad's 'America will get us out of jail free card' doesn't seem to be working quite as well as he'd hoped. The Iranian Peoples Resistance Movement (NAMA) seems to be gaining momentum slowly but surely. I guess the Lor, Bakhtiari, Qashqai, and Baluchi tribes don't have that famous sense of Persian humor and don't appreciate being called drug runners.

3/08/2007 05:55:00 PM  

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