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Monday, December 13, 2010

Iranians claim Ali Reza Asghari being held in Israel

I'm debating which is funnier - that Leftist blogger Richard Silverstein published this unsourced drivel or that the Iranians actually believe it.

I follow a site on Twitter called Tehran bureau, which as far as I can tell takes Iranian news reports and translates them into English. The site is maintained by PBS.

You may recall that Ali Reza Asghari (or Asgari - and sometimes Alireza is spelled as one word) was first confirmed missing in March 2007, three months after he disappeared from an Istanbul hotel. Asghari wasn't just interesting because of his role in Iran's nuclear program - he was also rumored to have been involved in the 'purchase' of kidnapped IDF navigator Ron Arad from the Lebanese Shiite Amal party. Arad was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, and Israel lost all contact with him in 1989.

In July 2007, it was reported that Asghari had defected to the United States, and was spilling Iran's nuclear secrets to his debriefers. Asghari is also rumored to have told the United States that Iran was behind the construction of Syria's nuclear weapons facility at al-Kibar that was destroyed - allegedly by Israel - in September 2007.

Leftist wacko blogger Richard Silverstein is now claiming that Asghari is imprisoned in Israel alongside Rabin assassin Yigal Amir and that Israel is holding him in the hopes of extracting information from him about Ron Arad. Silverstein describes his source as a 'confidential Israeli source' although he 'disclosed' the existence of an Israeli prisoner (other than Yigal Amir) who receives no visitors in June of this past year after it was published in the Hebrew version of Yedioth and then allegedly removed from their website.

The Iranians, who have been claiming all along that Asghari was kidnapped by the Mossad and did not defect, are eating up Silverstein's theory.
There have been all sorts of speculations about his fate. Yoav Stern of Haaretz asserted on March 5, 2007, that Asgari "may have defected." Two days later, the Jerusalem Post claimed that he had been in Europe and was then taken to the United States. However, Niles Lathem and Oron Dan of the New York Post reported on the same date that U.S. officials denied that he had been transfer there. On March 8, 2007, Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post reported that Asgari was indeed in the United States and willingly cooperating with the CIA. The next day, Lathem reported that Iranian dissidents living in Europe and the United States had helped Asgari to defect. It was claimed, in particular, that Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a former Guard officer in the Quds force who turned against the hardliners and now lives in Europe, had a hand in Asgari's defection.

These reports, however, were countered by others indicating that Asgari was in an Israeli prison. Some Arab diplomats have reportedly said to the media that he was kidnapped by the CIA and/or Mossad. On November 15, 2009, the Associated Press quoted the website Alef -- run by Ahmad Tavakkoli, a Majles deputy from Tehran and cousin of the Larijani brothers -- as saying that Iran believes that Asgari is in Israeli detention.

New information has now emerged. Richard Silverstein, who blogs on Middle Eastern issues, reports that he has received confirmation from a reliable source in Israel that Asgari is indeed incarcerated in Unit 15 of Ayalon prison. Silverstein had already reported on June 13,
Earlier today, Yediot Achronot published a story about a Mr. X imprisoned in an Israeli jail. The man was in solitary confinement. His jailers did not know who he was, did not share a word with him, no one came to visit him. No one seemed to know he was there. They didn't even know what crime he had committed or how he came to be in the prison. His prison cell was completely isolated from other prisoners and he couldn't communicate in any way with them.
As Silverstein now explains about the specific location where Asgari is reportedly being held, "This cell in Ayalon's Unit 15 is the same one specially built to hold Yigal Amir, assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. In other words, it is meant to isolate the prisoner from the outside world and the rest of the prison system."

The report still does not clarify the reason for Asgari's disappearance. It could be that he originally defected. The Sunday Times of London claimed that he had been spying for the West since 2003. But no supporting evidence of any sort has ever been presented. If he defected, then why is he in a prison in Israel? It could be that when Israel realized that he had information about the Hezbollah and, in particular, the eventual fate of Ron Arad, the Israeli pilot captured in Lebanon who was never heard from again, he was transferred from the United States or Europe. Or, it could be that he was actually kidnapped.

I personally find it hard to believe that Asgari planned to defect. If he had such a plan, why did he not take his family with him to Turkey? Why has he not called his family for four years? Why is his wife still looking for him, saying that she has never heard from him since December 9, 2006? In addition, it is well known that when Iranians who have held high-ranking government positions retire , they are forbidden from traveling abroad for many years. Given that Asgari was an active Guard officer for a long time and had access to a considerable amount of sensitive information, it is inconceivable that he was allowed to travel to Syria and Turkey, unless he was still working with the government on a secret mission. If so, if he were planning to defect, I find it difficult to believe that the Guard intelligence unit or the Ministry of Intelligence would not have noticed anything unusual about him.
I find this story hard to believe. I recall claims at the time that Asghari had two wives and took the other one with him, so I don't give much credibility to claims made by his 'wife.' Also, given that Shahram Amiri really did turn out to be in the United States, and apparently disclosed the existence of the Qom facility to the Americans, it makes it far more likely that Asghari was also in the United States. If Asghari was in the United States, I can see the Mossad being allowed to question him, but I find it hard to believe that the CIA would just turn him over to the Mossad, and that the Mossad would be allowed to take him back to Israel and hold him incommunicado. And the labeling of Silverstein's source as a 'confidential Israeli source' (as opposed to - for example - 'a member of the security forces') undercuts that source's credibility. Something doesn't make sense here.

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At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

capo dickie is a joke...but please, label him correctly

he is an israel/jew hater/apologist for jihadists and islamic extremists.

dickie loves to float stories that go absolutely nowhere, just as long as they paint israel in a bad light.


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