Arab paper: Missing Iranian general in Europe, chatting with U.S. about 1983 bombing; Update: He defected, says Timmerman

It’s Asharq al-Awsat again. Yesterday they had a scoop about him maybe being in America. Today their story’s changed — he’s with Americans, they claim, but across the pond.

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday quoted an Iranian military official as saying that missing Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari is staying in a northern European country, where he is receiving “excellent treatment.”

According to the newspaper, the Iranian military official said Asgari is being interrogated by American and other Western intelligence officials on secrets he was exposed to while serving as the Defense Ministry’s chief consultant for strategic affairs…

The Iranian source, who was also a senior member of the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s, said Asgari is being questioned by military experts for several hours a day regarding the Guards’ role in the bombing of the 1983 bombings of the US Marine and French Corps headquarters in Beirut.

He’s been missing for a month so presumably they’ve already covered the more pressing matters of Iraq, the nuclear program, and Hezbollah’s current capabilities.

Did he defect or was he kidnapped? The former, according to yesterday’s issue of Asharq, although the reference to “excellent treatment” in today’s piece sounds like something you’d say about a man being held against his will. Or maybe not:

Menashe Amir, an Israeli analyst of Iranian affairs, claimed to have information that the Azkari family had left Iran “on holiday” shortly before the general’s disappearance – adding weight to the defection theory.

“According to part of the information, his wife and children managed to leave Iran before his disappearance,” Mr Amir told Israel’s Army Radio, without elaborating on his sources.

That jibes with a detail reported by the Scotsman about a Turkish newspaper called Milliyet, whose sources in Turkish intelligence claim that Asgari “opposed the Iranian government and had information on its nuclear plans.” Pajamas quotes an Iranian expert who says Asgari knows a lot more than that:

As well as being a former deputy defence Minister, Asgari was also a General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). The IRGC, more than any other branch of Iran’s armed forces, is aware of, and has access to Iran’s nuclear program. Its members are in charge of monitoring and protecting Iran’s nuclear installations, and scientists.

Furthermore, the IRGC is in charge of developing and testing Iran’s missiles, an arsenal which Iran has threatened to use if attacked. Last but not least, the IRGC is in charge of training and arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iraqi Shiite militants in Iraq.

Exit question observation: unless the mullahs disappeared him themselves, then regardless of whether he was abducted or defected, they must be wetting their pants right now.

Update: Drudge has a teaser up about Israel putting its worldwide interests on alert for fear of Iranian reprisals over Mossad’s suspected involvement here.

Update: If Asgari knows half as much as Ken Timmerman’s sources say, then we have hit the mother lode of intel here.

A former high-ranking Iranian government official, Brig. Gen. Alireza Asghari, 63, has defected to the United States, Iranian exiles and other sources told Newsmax today…

Gen. Asghari is believed to have detailed knowledge of the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force units operating in Iraq

Gen. Asghari’s 10-day trip to Syria was approved by the military judicial authorities, sources inside Iran told Newsmax. Two days after he arrived in Damascus, his family managed to leave Iran, the sources said…

During the 1990s, Gen. Asghari was in charge of short and medium-range missile projects at the Defense Industries Organization. “He ran the Nazeat, Fajr, and Zelzal missile programs,” Nourizadeh said…

Nourizadeh believes Gen. Asghari defected because he had incurred the wrath of his superiors in the Defense ministry during a stint as the Defense Ministry’s Inspector General.

“He discovered two gangs of corrupt officials who had embezzled the government for $90 million and $150 million,” Nourizadeh said. “After he exposed them, he was arrested. He was Mr. Clean.”