www. kentimmerman.comReprinted from NewsMax.com
Panic in Tehran Over Defections
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
-- The Iranian government is in full damage control mode over the
recent defection of a top Revolutionary Guard general and former deputy
defense minister, well-placed sources in Tehran tell NewsMax.
Iranian government officials have
issued a series of contradictory claims about the defection of Gen.
Alireza Asgari, 63, who "disappeared" from his hotel room in Istanbul,
Turkey on Feb. 7 and reportedly defected to the United States.
But in recent days, the mood within
intelligence circles in Tehran has turned to panic as rumors have begun
to circulate that a second well-placed Revolutionary Guards general has
When reports of Gen. Asgari's
disappearance first surfaced last week, the regime immediately claimed
that he had been "abducted" while on an overseas vacation, either by an
Israeli or a U.S. intelligence unit. This ploy was backed by former
Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Mohsen Rezai, who now publishes an
independent Internet news site in Persian, baztab.com.
"Rezai is close to Gen. Asgari,"
NewsMax sources in Tehran said, "and so he has been eager to paint
Asgari as a devoted officer of the Revolutionary Guards who most
certainly was kidnapped by U.S. or Israeli secret services."
On March 10, Baztab reported that
Gen. Asgari's wife — previously reported to have left Iran with him —
was actually in Tehran. If true, this would tend to credit the notion
that Asgari had been abducted, and not defected.
As it turns out, Gen. Asgari has two
wives. His first wife left Iran with him, bringing along their three
children. His second wife, Mansoureh Mirmohammadi, is just 31 years old
and is a relative of Rezai, the sources said. She has indeed remained
Shortly after Gen. Asgari went
missing on Feb. 7, a damage control team headed by Rev. Guards Brig.
Gen. Naser Ghasemi was set up.
Gen. Ghasemi is the deputy chief of
counterintelligence for the Revolutionary Guards. Over the weekend, he
recommended that the regime blame the "kidnapping" of Asgari on the
Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant opposition group that was supported all
during the 1980s and the 1990s by Saddam Hussein.
On Sunday, Baztab dutifully quoted
Rasoul Nafisi, an Iranian political analyst based in Virginia,
asserting that the MEK was responsible for Asgari's kidnapping, noting
that the group "is active in Turkey . . . and might be behind this
Since then, various state-run news
outlets and newspapers owned by senior government officials have
published a series of contradictory reports about Asgari's
Perhaps the strangest account was
published on Monday by the Fars News Agency in Tehran. They claimed
that Asgari's wife — now named Ziba Ahmadi — and three of his children
had just met with the second secretary of the Turkish embassy in Tehran
to inquire about Asgari's whereabouts.
Ms. Ahmadi then told state-run
Tehran radio that her husband was "43 years old" but had retired "in
the last two years" and was engaged in "import-export trade with
Syria," primarily in olive oil.
She added that he went missing on
Dec. 9 — not Feb. 7, as previously reported. NewsMax sources in Tehran
believe that Ms. Ahmadi is an actor hired by the regime, not the wife
of Gen. Asgari.
Her account was repeated in today's
Guardian newspaper in London, which quoted Davoud Asgari, the brother
of the missing general, who lives in London, claiming that his brother
had been kidnapped and that all his family remained in Iran.
All this comes as no surprise to
Iranian commentator Alireza Nourizadeh, who told NewsMax last week to
expect a "smear campaign" against Gen. Asgari in the state-controlled
"In the next few days, they will make
every effort to destroy this man's reputation," he said. "This man came
out with lots of secrets."
Gen. Asgari's defection comes as the
United States continues to interrogate Iranian intelligence officers
captured by U.S. forces in Iraq.
The two most prominent Iranians are
Jalal Sharifi, a professional intelligence officer posing as a
diplomat, who was captured during the raid on an Iranian "consulate" in
Irbil on Jan. 10, and Brig. Amir Mohsen Shirazi, a Revolutionary Guards
intelligence operative captured in December in southern Iraq.
In recent days, intelligence
circles in Tehran have been awash with rumors of a second high-level
defection to the Americans of a Revolutionary Guards intelligence
officer, Brig. Gen. Seyed Mohammad Soltani.
Gen. Soltani is a career intelligence
officer, who took over as head of the Persian Gulf bureau of Rev.
Guards intelligence in October 2006. On Feb. 8, just one day after Gen
Asgari disappeared in Istanbul, Gen. Soltani traveled to Bandar Abbas,
where he was scheduled to inspect an intelligence listening post.
Instead, he vanished.
Bandar Abbas is Iran's largest port
and houses the Rev. Guards main naval base. It sits at the mid-point of
the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where 20 percent of the world's oil
So far, the official media in Tehran
has not mentioned Gen. Soltani's alleged disappearance and defection.
But NewsMax sources in Tehran said that his wife and two children have
also disappeared, and that the Revolutionary Guards searched his house
in the Amirieh district of Tehran searched on Feb. 11.
On Feb. 13, Rev. Guards
counterintelligence officers informed the Ministry of Information and
Security (MOIS) of Gen. Soltani's disappearance. On the following day,
they sent a "red notice" with Soltani's photograph to all Iranian ports
and airports. On Feb. 18, they arrested Soltani's brother, Seyed Akbar
Soltani, who is a teacher at Imam Hussein University.
Gen. Soltani was known as
"Engineer Mousavi" within Revolutionary Guards intelligence, and has
intimate knowledge of foreign intelligence operations, especially in
Iraq and in other Persian Gulf countries.
"How the United States treats these
defectors is critically important," said opposition activist Sardar
Haddad. "If they treat them well, the word will get back to Tehran and
you could see the flood gates open. Lots of people are available for
the taking under the right conditions."
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