Top Iranian general dies, disappears, defects, or is kidnapped

Everyone’s already linked this, but for the benefit of our three readers who missed it, it seems a very big fish has vanished from his tank:

One respected analyst with sources in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard says Gen. Ali Reza Asgari has defected and is now in a European country with his entire family, where he is cooperating with the U.S…

“This is a fatal blow to Iranian intelligence,” said the source, explaining that Asgari knows sensitive information about Iran’s nuclear and military projects. Iran called tens of its Revolutionary Guard agents working at embassies and cultural centers in Arab and European countries back to Tehran out of fear that Asgari might disclose secret information about their identities, according to the analyst…

Asgari’s years with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian defense ministry would make him an invaluable source of information. He was reportedly based in Lebanon in the 1990s and was in charge of ties with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Haaretz also says it has reason to believe (without saying how) that he may have defected, and that he’s likely to have “intimate knowledge” of the nuclear program. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard news site claims he was kidnapped by the CIA or Mossad; naturally they’d prefer that storyline to one in which he crosses over willingly to our side, but the Debka thinks there may be some truth to it. Specifically, they think this might be an American reprisal:

The missing general has been identified as the officer in charge of Iranian undercover operations in central Iraq, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. He is believed to have been linked to – or participated in – the armed group which stormed the US-Iraqi command center in Karbala south of Baghdad Jan. 20 and snatched five American officers. They were shot outside the Shiite city.

An Middle East intelligence source told DEBKAfile that the Americans could not let this premeditated outrage go unanswered and had been hunting the Iranian general ever since.

Another tantalizing detail: the Saudi press seems to have known about this earlier than the rest.

More to come in the next few days, I’m sure. Meanwhile, via Defense Tech, here’s Defense News’s projection of what the first stages of a U.S. run at Iran would look like. Cakewalk for the Air Force, potential quagmire for the Navy thanks to Iran’s mines, ballistic missiles hyperspeed torpedoes, Russian subs, and unconventional small-boat attacks. Exit quote: “[T]here appears to be little enthusiasm for such a move within the Navy.”