Key Iranian General and former Deputy Defense Minister May Haved Defected to United States

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Asghari.jpg
A fascinating story is beginning to percolate among the international media of a high-level military defection from Iran to the United States.
According to both Iranian and Western news sources, retired Revolutionary Guard General and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ali Reza Asgari disappeared in Turkey and is now “on his way” to the United States. This may mean “on his way” to U.S. handlers in Europe rather than actually to the U.S. some have acknowledged.
Iranian news sources imply that he has been abducted — while American, European, and Australian news sources are reporting that the general organized a well-planned defection in which he moved his family out of Iran before he disappeared.
Such a defection could be quite significant in better understanding the strengths and limitations of Iran’s nuclear and military interests. Most analysts who have begun to write about Asgari’s defection are focusing on what he can impart about Iran’s covert nuclear efforts.
I think that his value in understanding decision-making in Iran’s political system, the general intentions of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and a better understanding of the structure and activities of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds force probably outweighs what he can establish on real or illusory nuclear weapons programs.
Part of the reason why such a defection is so potentially important is that a key Iranian national security official such as this general could fill in a massive gap in American intelligence created when the CIA goofed and outed most of its “assets” inside Iran. After this mistake in electronic communications that allowed Iranian authorities to “roll up” America’s intelligence network inside Iran, we have essentially depended upon European, Israeli and Saudi intelligence capabilities.
This story is lurking out there — and not in the big press yet — but it is important. Let’s hope that those who debrief General Asgari and use the material generated do a better job than they did with Curveball.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

41 comments on “Key Iranian General and former Deputy Defense Minister May Haved Defected to United States

  1. daCascadian says:

    Charles >”…It is possible to imagine a US asset, realizing that exposure was imminent, to have fled.”
    Exactly.
    To a nice well paying position with the Carlyle Group (does Iran-Contra ring any bells ?).
    “History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” – Edward Gibbon

    Reply

  2. Charles says:

    It is impossible to imagine a senior Iranian official, having seen what the US did to Iraq, defecting.
    It is possible to imagine a US asset, realizing that exposure was imminent, to have fled.

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  3. Marky says:

    Mike/Mark,
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I do understand your opposition to that bill. I’d like to know what better option there is, if any, to discourage Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda. Those are not the same thing, are they? Is there a way to put a wedge between the Taliban and bin Laden? I understand that Omar was willing to turn over Bin Laden after 9/11. As horrible as the Taliban are, they are just a local bad agent, not an enemy of the US per se.

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  4. Andrew Smith says:

    The CIA didn’t out our “assets” in Iran, Scooter Libby, on Dick “dick” Cheney’s orders.

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  5. Sniff it says:

    It’s Chalabi all over again.
    And we all the lies that guy gave American’s were the size of whoppers. But at least Chalabi didn’t get to be Iraq’s President (yet?) so let’s watch and see what the Bush administration has up it’s sleeve with this latest traitor from IranLand.

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  6. Dennis says:

    Regardless of what this Iranian official tells to the U.S. about Irans WMD capability, Bush or Israel one will attack before Bush leaves office.
    It will be the usual scenario, even a U.S. created one, of the need for a premptive strike.
    Of such are the ethics of Cheney/Bush.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

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  7. dan says:

    A fascinating story to be sure, but somewhat frustrating as all the reportage on this omits the most basic information that would assist in contextualising this.
    Firstly, the guy is retired. It would be nice to know when he retired – 2005? 2000? 1995? An answer to this most basic question would assist in an understanding of whether he is in any way relevant to current events.
    Secondly, the guy was a deputy defense minister, but irritatingly, we don’t know when he held this portfolio, pertinent for discerning his political leanings and connections, or what his particular responsibilities were. If he was in charge of organising military parades, for example, then he might not be that significant. One Israeli news source suggests that he was involved in weapons procurement, but alas, cannot tell us when, where or in which context – Iran-Iraq war? Supplying US allies in Bosnia? Then again, the guy seems to be a real renaissance man, as depending on which report you look at, he’s involved with Hizbullah as well as the nuclear programme as well as strategic defense planning as well as weapons buying.
    Thirdly, the Israeli reportage suggests that he was involved with Hizbullah in the 1980’s and early 1990’s – and that from their perspective he’s of note for the resurrection of the old Ron Arad chestnut. Whilst he might have some interesting historical information to relate, he’s been off the Lebanon portfolio for a good 15 years or so – so, again, not particulary relevant for current events.
    The over-riding impression that I get is that everyone is assuming that he has interesting things to tell without taking into account the possibility that he’s actually the Iranian equivalent of Nicholas “fatty” Soames.
    The only thing that occurs to me is that his disappearance in Turkey comes shortly after the mysterious death of the Israeli defence attache in France; you, of course, know all about that as it was extensively reported in the Western media.

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  8. pauline says:

    POA wrote:
    “We will NEVER know the depth and scale of the crimes this Administration has committed in regards to 9/11 and this unprecedented deception known as “the Global War on Terror”.”
    Another article yesterday at Counterpunch keeps asking those questions, “What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?”
    http://www.counterpunch.org/ketcham03072007.html

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  9. Pissed Off American says:

    Pakistan? Tell you what, I would love to know what Goss and Graham were talking about with Mahmud Ahmed on or about 9/11/01. And why wasn’t Ahmed pursued post 9/11 for his role in financing Atta? The fact that an ISI general was financing Atta, was having luncheon dates with Goss and Graham, and was never pursued or indicted certainly calls into question the official story behind 9/11, and what Pakistan’s role was that merited them being rewarded with “ally” status. One certainly needs to ponder the airlifts that were allowed early into the Afghanistan campaign, as well. Why did we allow Pakistan to airlift Taliban out of Afghanistan early into our military campaign there?
    We will NEVER know the depth and scale of the crimes this Administration has committed in regards to 9/11 and this unprecedented deception known as “the Global War on Terror”.

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  10. easy e says:

    Story now appearing in U.S. MSM:
    Ex-Iranian official talks to Western intelligence
    Deputy defense minister instrumental in founding of Hezbollah, officials say.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17509216/

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  11. liz says:

    let’s address the “goofs”? funny word Steve when human beings lives are on the line OUT THERE for ours back home…….
    Ok The US outed Plame, scared half the officers to death, had em on the run for days, outed assets inside Iran……
    Is there a reason to be taking down the CIA and the information it provides during “wartime” as we are so frequently reminded?
    All Bush and Cheney are basing decisions on now are guesses……….. Sweet huh?

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  12. easy e says:

    ISRAELI OFFICER SELLS WEAPONS TO TERRORISTS IN IRAQI
    Ma’ariv Daily has reported that an Israeli retired officer sells weapons to terrorist groups in Iraq.
    Shmoel Avivi, an Israeli retired officer, had established a firm in Iraq 2 years ago, which secretly sold arms to terrorist groups in Iraq, Ma’ariv reported.
    Amnesty International reported that Avivi was one of the biggest weapon dealers in the Middle East.
    Iraqi sources earlier announced that terrorist attacks in Iraq were backed by the intelligent agencies of CIA and Mossad and the secret agents of Iraqi former regime.
    Earlier, Iraqi parliament security commission chairman Hadi Ameri had accused the occupying soldiers of secretly directing the terrorist attacks and forming terror squads in Iraq.
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=1854&sectionid=3510202

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  13. Mike says:

    I think you miss the point. Kerry adopts an imperialistic framework, just like Bush and his ilk, except that he actually takes the whole “liberal interventionism” policy seriously, which proves he is more naive- I’m talking specifically about the Middle East.
    You are totally missing my point. It is not an attack specifically on Democrats, as I said, because some of them have good ideas, and I respect Harry Reid.
    I’m arguing against this specific bill:
    “WASHINGTON: The Democrats in the US Senate introduced legislation on wednesday demanding Bush administration to withhold future miliatry aid to Pakistan if it does not intensify its efforts in combating terrorism within its borders.”
    The basic problem is that the “Taliban” is not just the same people we took out of power in 2001. Now, it is many thousands of people. These people certainly have the power to completely destabilize Pakistan. What Kerry and his ilk are doing by trying to push through this legislation is to unintentionally destabilize the Pakistani regime.
    If you’re going to argue against me, please try to respond to my criticism of this bill. Keep in mind that Waziristan has throughout history been an extremely unstable region, and that fighters there many years ago kicked out the colonial British. Keep in mind that in Afghanistan the VERY SAME people we are now fighting against were funded by the U.S., to fight against the Soviets, and they kicked them out.
    My point is that Kerry is blind because he’s further destabilizing Pakistan, which makes the environment better ground for Taliban and all who support them. At least Bush and Cheney can cynically keep giving aid to Musharaf, to offset the complete collapse of his government.

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  14. Marky says:

    Thanks for the links, I’m signing off for the night.
    I do agree that the Dem. “Leadership” is pretty pathetic these days. Scary stuff about the missiles.

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  15. Marky says:

    Look Mike,
    I’m no expert on Pakistan, but I do recall that Musharaf’s coup arose because the previous President had issues with his backing of the Taliban.
    I guess what I meant, more narrowly, was that the Bush policy towards Pakistan is undoubtedly another looming disaster. To say that Kerry would make things worse is very much like the 2004 criticism of Kerry re Iraq, and I don’t buy it. I wonder if improved relations between India and Pakistan are the best hope for the US. Now, you may be right that the US stands no chance against the Taliban now, but clearly that was not the case 5 years ago.

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  16. Mark says:

    Here is a direct quote from a Pakistani official on Asia Times:
    “At the same time al-Qaeda is planning this offensive, it has received something of a setback in Afghanistan, where its alliance with the Taliban is under strain. The Taliban have struck a deal with Pakistan over mutual cooperation, which is anathema to al-Qaeda (see Pakistan makes a deal with the Taliban, Asia Times Online, March 1).

    KARACHI – Al-Qaeda will this year significantly step up its global operations after centralizing its leadership and reviving its financial lifelines. Crucially, al-Qaeda has developed missile and rocket technology with the capability of carrying chemical, biological and nuclear warheads, according to an al-Qaeda insider who spoke to Asia Times Online. ”
    http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IC02Ak01.html
    Note that al-Qaeda in Waziristan and the rugged tribal region between Pakistan and Afghanistan could definitely not have access to such advanced technology without the help of an actual state.

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  17. Mike says:

    Read my post again. It was specifically about “mainstream” Democrats trying to maintain their positions, like Rahm Emanuel, Clinton, Kerry, and so on. These people have no backbone and don’t want to be seen as responsible for the failure of the war.
    Obviously the lying bastards who dragged us into this war, Bush and his cronies, are much worse. But that’s not my point.
    And I didn’t say there weren’t good, intelligent Democrats with sound policies. I just don’t see any Democrats with any real knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs who also stand any real chance of winning. That is not to say that I don’t support the ideas of Edwards, for instance, I just see him as having little chance of winning voters, especially independents and conservatives.
    I understand Pakistan quite well, thank you very much. What is happening now is similar to what happened to the British in Waziristan. Look it up on wikipedia or something. The U.S. stands no chance against the Taliban, because the ISI and retired Pakistani intelligence officials are giving a lot of support to the Taliban and also the Taliban have access to many millions of dollars from the opium trade.

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  18. Marky says:

    My last comment was directed at your 2:15.
    I think its true that a certain kind of conservative Republican is less beholden to Israel than the Democratic leadership. Hagel may be one of those.
    I’m not convinced that Obama is as much a pawn of AIPAC as you claim, but I’m not supporting him at the moment, and certainly not on the basis of his foreign policy expertise. He’s not running, but Howard Dean, big mouth aside, talks a lot more sense about foreign policy than Hillary, for instance.
    I think it is impossible that I could vote for Hagel, because of his extreme social conservatism; also, foreign policy aside, I expect he will successfully dismantle SS if elected.
    Still, he could have a chance, but not on the basis of words alone—no way. He has power now, in the Senate, to change the course of the war. If he doesn’t use it, no way does he deserve to be President. Ditto for Hillary and Obama, needless to say. Mccain is probably already out of the race. It is my opinion that Bush intentionally locked McCain in as Bush’s bitch by choosing the 20,000 figure for the surge. The number did not reflect any military necessity, and clearly was not the number planned in secret. No, the reason was that McCain had said we need 20,000 troops.
    Bush gave McCain what he wanted, and now as owner of the “McCain surge” he has no chance of being nominated, let alone elected.

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  19. Marky says:

    Mark,
    Let me add something to my last comment.
    What you say about how Democrats don’t know how to deal realistically with Pakistan is very much like what Bush supporters have been saying about US relations with Saudi Arabia. It’s late, and a name is escaping me—runs a private intel service, maybe George Friedman? Anyway, this man was arguing that the REAL reason for the Iraq war was to pressure Saudi Arabia to stop funding terrorists, and that Bush knew what he was doing. Ahem. Doesn’t make much sense, and has been refuted by the course of events. Of cousre, this same person predicted a hot war between the US and Japan would occur in the 1990’s, proving again that there is no way for a Republican to be discredited in the public eye.
    Back to Pakistan. The Musharraf regime is incredibly unstable right now, and he may lose to
    Islamic extremists who might then nuke israel, anyway. I think your take on relations with Pakistan is too clever by half. I”m not sure of the right answer, but the complexity of our current relationship just gives the extremists more room in which to operate. If Bush and Friedman were wrong about KSA, then I expect they are wrong about Pakistan too, although the consequences will be much worse.
    Last point: Should Islamic extremists take control of Pakistan, a nuclear strike on Israel becomes LESS likely. As long as they are not in power, there is plausible deniability, should a nuke be stolen and use, thereby making Pakistan safer.
    The situation NOW is as dangerous as it could be, and Bush will only make it worse. I’d take Kerry dealing with Pakistan over any Republican, any day.

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  20. Mark says:

    You miss the point about Obama. His Israel policy is full scale ahead, no questions asked, full acceptance of all their policies, and go get that theocratic Iran. Judging from his AIPAC speeches, he knows NOTHING about the Middle East. He would be disastrous for our country.
    Hagel is much more of a realist and would be willing to engage in substantive dialogue with Iran, and would also not reflectively support every single thing Israel does, further damaging our standing in the Middle East. I’m not saying he’s an amazing candidate, but he takes some good pragmatic stances, after serious thought and reflection, and knows the human consequences of war. I don’t know about Richardson but I generally only pay attention to candidates who both have a good degree of credibility and have good policies, and Hagel fits both those requirements. Also, he’s electable.

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  21. daCascadian says:

    Pissed Off American >”…I am witnessing the demise of our democracy…”
    Uhhh, hello ?
    Knock, knock !
    We don`t have (nor have we ever had) a democracy. We have a representative republic. The “democracy” label is & always has been pure propaganda (very successful too !).
    The current problem set we all whine on & on about is a symptom of a system that has outlived it usefulness & needs to go away fast.
    We COULD have a real democracy if we had the guts & will to have one. It is very doable in this day & age but the question is, do we have the GUTS ?
    Maybe we could start saying “We the people…” & actually mean it in practice day to day, day in & day out. Otherwise it is ALL BULL*HIT.
    The future holds its breath waiting for our decision.
    DO WE HAVE THE GUTS ?
    “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator.” – Francis Bacon

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  22. Marky says:

    Mark,
    Interesting comment about Pakistan. What makes you think that Hagel has the right understanding about how to handle Pakistan? I’m curious. It seems to be that Richardson would be the person most likely to succeed in dealing with Pakistan.
    I wouldn’t count out Obama. He’s very smart, and a fast learner.

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  23. Marky says:

    By the way, has Hagel said that the US should not have invaded Iraq in the first place? Has he foresworn the Bush doctrine of preventive war? Has he spoken out against over-hyping the Iranian threat?
    I think the answers are no, no, and no, but I would like to be pleasantly surprised.
    Remember, McCain is MUCH more of a warmonger than Bush, yet he gets a pass on this because he elicits mancrushes. Hagel is getting a pass on a lot of serious questions for no good reason at all.
    The upside of having him declare now is that he MIGHT get forced to explain his contradictory positions on the war. I won’t hold my breath that the press will hold a Republican accountable for his record though.

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  24. Mark says:

    POA:
    These people are clowns when it comes to foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, and to some extent the White House is actually more pragmatic than “mainstream” democrats like Kerry and Clinton.
    For instance, Kerry and a few other Dem. senators are pressing for military aid to be cut to Pakistan if they don’t “crack down” harder on the Taliban. They seem to be completely naive to the fact that the Pakistani ISI are the very people who funded the Taliban and there are to this day constant reports from Pakistani officials in less-known outlets such as the Asia Times (www.asiatimes.com), for instance there is one in which the Pakistan Bureau Chief tells us about a deal signed between Pakistan and the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
    I stress that Democrats and Republicans alike are equally naive clowns. If we do go ahead and cut military aid to Pakistan, there is a very good chance Islamists will gain a lot of power, and gain access to the nuclear bombs Pakistan already has, which could potentially be directed towards Israel.
    Obama isn’t worth two cents when it comes to intelligent Middle East policy; he tells AIPAC that he supports a military solution to the Iran conflict. I think Chuck Hagel may be our only hope. The rest will bring absolute doom to this country because of their ignorance.

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  25. Marky says:

    I think its completely unbelievable that this general defected—because he knows he would be tortured if he were in US custody, voluntarily or not.
    And if he is in US custody now, he’s already been tortured.

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  26. ptb says:

    POA,
    That was a very clean post!

    Reply

  27. Tony Foresta says:

    I tried, but failed to link the article in the first post.
    http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=1259
    Also intriguing is the accusation that General Asgari was responsible for the infamous Jan 20 kidnapping and later killing of five American soldiers.

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  28. Tony Foresta says:

    I read the embryonic cell of this story on Debka a few days ago, but it was framed more as a kidnapping than a defection.
    Curious how the story has changed in five days. No doubt the actual truth will never be known, but expect further “edits” and ‘reframings” in the days ahead.

    Reply

  29. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, the common thread here with the comments on this issue is one of extreme distrust of our government and the media. Would that change if there was a Hillary or a Hagel occupying the Oval Office? Somehow, I doubt it. Both of them have already demonstrated a lack of conviction and/or sincerity about any number of issues. The same can be said of McCain, Obama, Edwards, etc..
    The trouble with such deep-seated distrust is that it breeds apathy and disengagement. Most of the successful business people I know have completely divorced themselves from any participation in the political process because they are intelligent enough to recognize a scam when they see one. They vote, but not in an informed manner. They have only a surface level knowledge of both the issues, and the candidates, mostly formed through the marketing campaigns of the corporate MSM. More often than not there is a very real expression of helplessness and resignation when I engage people in political discussion. People simply believe that they have no power to institute change, that we have lost control of the process. Corruption and dishonesty at the highest levels has come to be expected, and accepted.
    The end result? Administrations such as the one we are now enduring.
    The Catch 22? It will get worse, not better. This administration has fed and watered the distrust, which in turn has very likely increased the level of public apathy and disengagement.
    Tyranny and facism loves an apathetic and disengaged public. Mewing and bawling, we are like sheep being led to slaughter. As I witness the lack of accountability at the highest levels of office, I am witnessing the demise of our democracy.
    One set of laws for the elite, and a separate set for the masses.
    Taxation without representation.
    Unprecedented federal police powers.
    Unchecked executive power.

    Reply

  30. daCascadian says:

    Probably end up working for the Carlyle Group. Maybe they made him an offer he couldn`t refuse.
    Whatever the reality, we can all be sure it won`t be the one that is made public.
    “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.” – Otto von Bismarck

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  31. ... says:

    at least more folks (here anyway) are open to the idea of not knowing who the good and bad guys are… this beats the mainstream media who walk hand in hand with most american politicians in knowing so much about everything of this nature, that they are always baffled when they find out they have been lied to..

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  32. easy e says:

    Defections!? Get serious.
    How is this any different from past black psyops?
    One needs only to refer to recent SAIC article in Vanity Fair (pg. 5 specifically)
    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703
    Wake up, there’s more to this than a simple “defection”.

    Reply

  33. Carroll says:

    Humm…well maybe he defected, maybe he was kidnaped…or maybe he was “sent”.
    You never know.

    Reply

  34. Dan Kervick says:

    One possibility is that the guy was simply kidnapped, and will now be on ice in some remote four-star US gulag, watching Simpson’s reruns and eating pizza for the duration. Or else he was killed.
    Now, for every piece of phony Iran intelligence that oozes out during the upcoming Iran War buildup, the MSM will ooh and ahh and say “it must be something Asghari told them!” More Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but without any actual confessions.

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  35. JohnH says:

    Shades of the Hussein Kamel defection from Iraq in 1995. “Kamel maintained that Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction and related programs after the end of the first Gulf War…Kamel’s version of events appear to have been borne out in the wake of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. [wikipedia]”
    As Dan Kervick said, whatever legitimate intelligence the Bush administration actually acquires from Ali Reza Asghari, I think we can count on them to do one thing with it: lie about it.

    Reply

  36. Anonymous says:

    Steve, since you refuse to even mention what people outside of Washington are saying about this affair, I should note that there is speculation among Iranian officials that this disappeared general was kidnapped by the MEK, a terrorist group that has carried out significant bombings in Iran, has political representation in Washington (and has influence the Senate), and which is still completely operational in Iraq. This group, the MEK, killed over 70 Iranian officials in one bombing attack. These are the people who the U.S. is conveniently ignoring in Iraq (there are thousands there), and who are accused by some Iranians of kidnapping this man.
    Perhaps it’s all propaganda from Iran; who knows? But the point is that since the U.S. has decided to cooperate with the MEK, any claims that D.C. might make about Iranian “defectors” have zero credibility.

    Reply

  37. Jacob Matthan says:

    Wonder whether the American TV Watching public have heard the words “Power Politics”, “Moles”, “Double Agents”, “Ahmed Chalabi”, “Curveball”, ….
    But then we know from prior experience that to use the words Americans and “intelligence” in the same sentence would be oxymoronic…

    Reply

  38. Observer says:

    I should also add that I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the kidnapping of American diplomats and government officials. If they commit grave human rights abuses or have ties to death squads, does this mean that other countries have a right to kidnap them? If other countries who rightly see themselves as faced with huge threat by destructive U.S. technology, do they have a right to kidnap American officials with information related to such technology?
    Enough double standards, enough hypocrisy.

    Reply

  39. Dan Kervick says:

    If this story is true – and so far it is quite open to doubt – perhaps it tells us something about what to expect from the US in the near future. This is a man who has been involved in high-level military planning, and presumably still has many contacts and access to a lot of high value military intelligence. If he wants to get his family out of Iran, one would guess that he believes an American attack is coming and that he estimates that he and his loved ones are in the line of fire.
    Or maybe they just through a lot of money at him.
    Whatever legitimate intelligence the Bush administration actually acquires from this man, I think we can count on them to do one thing with it: lie about it.

    Reply

  40. Observer says:

    This is incredibly silly. It is HIGHLY unlikely that this man defected to the U.S. This is the founder of Hezbollah we’re talking about, who allegedly helped capture a top Israeli general during the occupation of Lebanon.
    There is a very good chance this is Israeli / American disinformation, aimed at getting Iran to change its position before the UNSC meets again. Typical Washington “intelligence.”

    Reply

  41. LJ says:

    As I think of this as a potential intelligence coup, I am reminded that we have so corrupted the process, that any information we might obtain will tainted. Let’s assume that Gen. Asghari “spills the beans” on Iran’s “evil intent.” Should those in Congress who will be called upon to fund any future war with Iran believe what this Administration might report? Should we believe that Gen. Asghari really say what we reported that he said? Or did he embellish his information so as to make himself more valuable? He will be something of a prisoner and will not be able to speak to confirm or deny any publicly released information. Nor would he want to considering his position. He could very well end up being a wonderful propaganda device irrespective of whatever objective information he imparts.
    Steve, the first two words in your last sentence are: “Let’s hope”. That’s is about all we have and we are being called to trust the words of an administration that simply should not be trusted.

    Reply

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