Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, March 7th, 2007
Nicholas Noe of Mideastwire.com, an expert on Hizbullah, writes that the former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asghari, who defected last month to the US, knows Hizbullah missile and defense secrets. "It may represent the biggest intelligence coup for the US and Israel in Hizbullah's history," writes Noe. News reports mention Asghari's possible knowledge of Iran's nuclear secrets and of the whereabouts of Israeli pilot Arad. But Noe explains that Asghari's most valuable knowledge may be about Hizbullah's military plans and capabilities.
For background read this article followed by Noe's analysis.
|By Yoav Stern, Haaretz|
The Iranian former deputy defense minister who disappeared in neighboring Turkey last month is being questioned in a northern European country under strict supervision, the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.
According to the newspaper, published in London, Ali Reza Asghari is undergoing thorough investigation by intelligence forces before being transferred to the United States.
Asghari, who is a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards, disappeared in Istanbul about a month ago. A hotel room was booked under Asghari's name, but several reports indicate that he never arrived at the hotel….
Here is Nicholas Noe's analysis received by Syria Comment Wednesday 7, 2007
Josh –I just wanted to send you some quick thoughts about the recent defection/disappearance of a high ranking Iranian general. The story is particularly pertinent I think vis a vis Hezbollah – if in fact this is a defection, it may represent the biggest intelligence coup for the US and Israel (by association) in the Party's history. Indeed, as has been well acknowledged by US and Israeli officials, penetration of Hezbollah since its inception has been largely unsuccessful. Although the Mossad (presumably) has been able to track and assassinate some Hezbollah officials over the years – and less so after the withdrawal in 2000 – this has mostly been around the edges – hence the IDF's utter inability to predict accurately Hezbollah rocket capabilities of any sort in 1993, 1996 and in the 2006 conflict (as a confirmation of this, one should note that although Israel confidently predicted that almost all of hezbollah's long range capabilities were hit in the first few days of the summer war (not to mention their wild overstatements on short range rockets), recently the intelligence community in Israel has been "leaking" that Hezbollah has replenished precisely these stocks – in other words, the "proof" of the earlier specious claim is no longer an issue since Hezbollah merely "resupplied").
In any event, the defection is absolutely critical because it means for the first time, Hezbollah's adversary's may have accurate estimates of stockpiles, weapons types, even perhaps placement and tactics – this is crucial because the limits and placement of Hezbollah weaponry has been a major problem each time during a Hezbollah-Israel conflict – all the more so if there is a future one, as some analysts, myself included, suspect may very well be the case.
Here are some details Mideastwire has culled – more tonight from a translated piece from Asharq al Awsat. But as you can see the general was the IRGC liaison here in Lebanon prior to the 2000 withdrawal and, as a principle of the armaments industry going forward, would have detailed knowledge of Hezbollah capabilities even after he left Lebanon:
Ali Reda Askari or Asghari:
* He holds rank in the Iranian Revolutionary guard equivalent to that of a Major-General.
* He succeeded Ahmad Kana’ni and Hussein Muslih in the command of the Revolutionary Guard units in Lebanon where he stayed for two years in the 90s. He frequented Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
* He was one of the top officials in the logistics department in the defense department during the Iranian-Iraqi war in the 80s.
* He headed the general committee responsible for running the largest weapons production facility in Iran.
* He was appointed an aide to the defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani responsible for logistics affairs and military purchases during the reign of President Ahmad Khatami.
* He was known for his financial integrity and gained fame after he uncovered a corrupt network inside the ministry headed by one of the top commanders of the Revolutionary Guide. This network had managed to swindle more than 160 million dollars in commission as well as 60 million dollars from bogus weapons’ deals.
* He was responsible for acquiring spare parts and equipment used in producing the Shehab 3 ballistic missiles.
* Turkish newspapers report that he was opposed to the Iranian government and that he possessed knowledge of the Iranian nuclear secrets.
Nicholas NoeNicholas Noe is the founder of the Beirut-based Mideastwire.com, a news translation service covering the Arabic and Persian media. He is currently editing a collection of translated speeches by Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.