The fallout of my reporting on the case of Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Ali Reza Asgari is developing along many fronts. Most readers will know that I reported, based on an Israeli source, that Asgari was Prisoner X, housed in Ayalon Prison and that he had been murdered earlier this month by the Mossad. I also noted here that Yossi Melman devoted most of one of his recent columns to debunking my story that he was ever in Israel. Though he never disputed that Asgari had been kidnapped by the Mossad. He also never disputed that Prisoner X had been murdered by the Mossad. He disagreed with my source’s contention that Prisoner X was Asgari. Unfortunately, in a national security state you have to carefully read between the lines both of what a reporter says and what he doesn’t say, what he rejects and what he affirms through silence (as in the legal term “silence equals assent”). So with Melman’s reporting. Despite Melman’s dismissive rejection of my reporting, now Channel 2’s veteran correspondent, Ehud Yaari, is reporting on Iran’s demand that the UN investigate Asgari’s disappearance and possible murder. The TV news story also noted my claim (without crediting me of course) that Asgari had first been kidnapped and then murdered four years later in Ayalon. Unfortunately, but predictably, the censor forced the story to be removed from the channel’s website. But I retain a screenshot of the censored story and you may view it around 2:00 into this newscast. Later, the censor allowed Channel 2 to publish a scrubbed version of the story which no longer referred to any claim Asgari was killed at Ayalon, and instead referred to the Iranians saying:
“There’s a real fear for his life, because no reports were received lately about his activity”
The censored version completely misstates the Iranian position. Melman too reported yesterday (English translation) on a statement made by Iran’s deputy foreign minister (which I also reported on here several days ago) that Asgari had been kidnapped. One thing to know about Melman’s reporting. When he knows a statement by an official or a news (or blog) report is wrong, he says so. The fact that he does not contradict the claim of kidnapping indicates a pretty good likelihood that he believes the kidnapping is a credible story. Melman deliberately omits from his report the additional expressions of concern expressed by Sheibani and the foreign and defense ministers that Asgari may’ve been murdered in Ayalon Prison. He does this, of course, because his own Mossad sources tell him that this part of the story is false. Only time will tell if he is right or I am. He also follows the Channel 2 incomplete characterization of Iran’s views claiming they sought to “clarify what happened to him.” But even if we follow Melman’s version of events (both stated and inferred), Prisoner X was murdered in Ayalon Prison and Asgari was kidnapped by the Mossad (possibly with assistance of other intelligence agencies). These two events, even if we follow Melman’s portrayal, should be raising bright red flags inside Israel’s human rights community and in the international community. Melman also refers to a report by Laura Rozen in Politico (one wonders whether there was any coordination between them), which conveniently confirms Melman’s and the Mossad’s claim that Asgari is not in Israel. In her article, Rozen repeats the Mossad version of Asgari’s willing defection to the west. As happens all to frequently in Rozen’s often spotty reporting, she resorts to sources with political agendas without acknowledging this in her description of their views. She quotes an Iranian-American, Pooya Dayanim, who she describes as a “Los Angeles-based Iranian pro-democracy activist.” This makes you think that Dayanim is on the side of the angels regarding Iran, that he supports the Green Movement and is a political reformer. Actually, Dayanim is an attorney, and a member of Los Angeles’s wealthy Jewish community, some of whom tend to pro-monarchist political views (though Dayanim himself claims to favor a democratic Iran, overthrowing the Islamic Republic by non-violent means). Dayanim himself is a contributor to the National Review and his Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee regularly hosts far-right Israeli speakers like those from the Israel Law Center, which tried to sue former Iranian president Khatami, blaming him personally for the disappearance of 12 Iranian Jews. One wonders why Rozen omitted any reference to these parts of Dayanim’s political agenda in her own reporting. Is it any wonder that Dayanim would suggest a scenario regarding Asgari that would take Israel and the Mossad off the hook:
“The story is not true,” Pooya Dayanim…told POLITICO Thursday. “I was somewhat observing this situation from the periphery from the time he left Iran. …The news is a complete fabrication and a fantasy.”
He was observing the story “from the periphery” and yet he somehow has expert sources who know that my reporting is a “fabrication and fantasy.” Of course, he provides no bona fides proving he knows anything about the incident. Yet Rozen relies on his views implicitly as if they clinch the case. This is one of the reasons I call Rozen’s reporting shoddy. She reported similarly about the case of whistleblower Shammai Leibowitz, getting important details about Shammai and his background wrong in her reporting. Then she had the chutzpah to sniff around his friends asking for dirt about him (of course she didn’t phrase it that way) that she could use in her reporting. Much of the information I offered her, which provided strong support for Shammai, somehow never made it into her reporting. Small wonder.