Kai Bird’s new biography of CIA master spy, Robert Ames, contains a tantalizing side story about the Iranian general, Ali Reza Asgari who either defected or was kidnapped in Turkey in 2007. Bird reveals that Asgari did defect to the west.
As the key Iranian military coordinator with Hezbollah, he had been instrumental in the terror attacks against U.S. targets in Beirut, including the embassy and Marine barracks bombings. On his return to Iran in 1993, he rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards and became the top assistant to Iran’s intelligence minister. But when Mahmoud Ahmedinejad came to power, Asgari and his mentor fell from favor. As a result, Asgari felt ill-used and embittered, which led to his defection.
He came to the U.S. and was given a new identity by the CIA. During his debriefing, he revealed a treasure trove of secrets to his handlers. Among them was his close relationship with Hezbollah’s second in command, Imad Mugniyeh. Knowledge and information Asgari possessed about him led to the former’s assassination by the Mossad in 2008. The Iranian ex-general is also purported to have relayed key intelligence about Syria’s nuclear reactor which the Israeli also used in their attack on it in 2009.
The Snowden documents have revealed a close intelligence relationship between Israel and the U.S. especially focused on the NSA and Unit 8200. They reveal that U.S. officials complained that the relationship was essentially a one way street in which Israel took and the U.S. gave. The Asgari story appears to be yet another example of this. The U.S. debriefed him and learned critical information about Hezbollah, Iran and Syrian military affairs. Much of this was conveyed to the Mossad and used in various Israeli covert operations.
The question is what role, if any, the Mossad played in the defection. If they played a role, as some reporters have said, then such an exchange might be justified. If not, it would be a windfall for Israel for which it did little in return.
I bring up Asgari here because I wrote about him in 2010, after my Israeli source was fed false information about him by a former Israeli agent. You may recall that I was the first foreign media outlet to report that a high-level prisoner had committed suicide in an Israeli prison. He was called at the time Prisoner X. It turns out this suicide was really Ben Zygier, though this was not yet public knowledge. Israeli intelligence decided to use my intense interest in Prisoner X by feeding my source disinformation claiming the suicide was really Ali Reza Asgari.
There’s always a reason why you’re fed false information. It usually involves an attempt to divert attention from a sensitive subject which Israeli intelligence doesn’t want you to know. In this case, it may be that it wanted to relieve itself of the pressure and burden of Iran intensively trying to learn what happened to Asgari. Though my story caused an international uproar in which Iran complained to the UN about Asgari alleged death, it did divert the world’s attention for several years from the fact that Asgari was alive and well during this entire period.
The dissident, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, was held for nearly 18 hours [on March 27-28, 2008], in a cell inside Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport amid a tug-of-war over whether he would be sent back to Germany, where he lives, or deported to Iran, human rights activists and Western officials said.
In a series of phone calls from his cell, Ebrahimi said Iranian officials wanted him to answer for his role in the defection of Brig. Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Revolutionary Guard commander who disappeared during a trip to Turkey.
Ebrahimi said Asgari now lives in the United States, where he is believed to have provided intelligence about Iran’s military capabilities and operations. …
[Source: War and Peace by Laura Rozen]
The Thunder Voice From Seattle.
You are not a high level target, you barley have any exposure in Israel, USA or the Arab World (328,605 Globally, 138,677 in the US and 13,657 in Israel according to Alexa) , why would anyone related to Israel’s security services (or the US) invest the time and effort to mislead you ? Make’s no sense at all.
the reason you specify ” In this case, it may be that it wanted to relieve itself of the pressure and burden of Iran intensively trying to learn what happened to Asgari. ” is laughable. Israel want’s to divert attention from Asgari so it claims Asgari died in an Israeli Prison. Yehh Right.
The Snowden documents have revealed the capabilities of the USA and Unit 8200, i believe that after the KAMM story appeared on your site, the agencies (Both Israel and US) started monitoring you. If you were to have any real source in Israel he would have been behind bars by now.
Keep up the good work, it does provide for lots of amusement to many people.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Nonsense: On the contrary, those numbers are quite substantial for a single issue blog like mine dealing with a small country.
All that aside, I know the intelligence sources from which I receive information. I know when they’re wrong and I know who’s wrong & their professional background. One source in particular (there are a variety of them) has burned me twice (he’s no longer a source). This former source is a former intelligence agent. I know his name. I know what bad information he gave me and I have some idea why he did it.
I didn’t say Israel wanted to divert attention from Asgari. I said it wanted Iran to think he was dead. And for three years that’s exactly what Iran did think. So the trick worked quite well for the Mossad.
There are two reasons why this statement is idiotic. One is that if my source is arrested then every politician, general and intelligence chief in Israel would have to be arrested because they all do exactly what he’s doing. Second, my source gets much of his information from Israeli intelligence sources. They want a good portion of this information leaked to me.
Snark is definitely a comment rule violation. Try to display your parched wit again here & you’ll be in danger of being moderated.
Yep what you say make’s sense
Israel want’s to hide the whereabouts of an Iranian General a prominent figure within the IRG and in an attempt to do that, they find the only outlet that can achieve that, AKA the Tikun Olam Blog, and air’s a story that achieves what ?
Blames Israel for the kidnapping and murder of an Iranian General ? All that during a time where tension between Israel and Iran is already high due to the Iranian’s nuclear program.
” They want a good portion of this information leaked to me.”
When Israel want’s information to be leaked and reach the Iranians, someone gives a call to one of the newspapers published in the Gulf and give them a story. Israel will not use you, you simply don’t have enough exposure or traction in that part of the world.
Richard Silverstein says
No one believes any newspaper from the Gulf. Besides they publish in Arabic, not Farsi (you did know they speak different languages?).
I see, that’s why my post about Asgari caused Iran to file a complaint in the UN–because I have no exposure or traction inside Iran? Besides, Iranians themselves tell me that my blog is read by Iranians both inside Iran and in the Diaspora. Not that you would know because the amount you know about Iran would fit in a thimble.