Fox News: Senior U.S. official says Iranian general is not in custody

WaPo has a senior U.S. official saying he is; Fox comes back with a senior U.S. official saying he isn’t.

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who disappeared from Turkey last month is not cooperating with Western intelligence agencies and his whereabouts remain a mystery, a U.S. official told FOX News Thursday…

[A] senior U.S. official flatly denied the [Washington Post’s] report…

The official did not rule out the possibility that Asgari, who once commanded Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and served as the country’s deputy defense minister, was conducting negotiations with an intelligence organization, but denied that there was any type of cooperation with the U.S.

It’s hard for me to believe WaPo’s source made it up whole cloth. Either Fox’s source is out of the loop or WaPo’s source leaked it when he shouldn’t have leaked it and it’s causing problems for our guys somehow somewhere, thus precipitating this attempt to put the genie back in the bottle.

I don’t know. Like Nigel, I’m just passing on information.

Update: Lo and behold, a senior U.S. official also tells the Blotter that Asgari isn’t in custody. Probably the same guy who talked to Fox, but there’s no way of knowing. An Iranian journalist named Ali Nourizadeh is driving this story for Asharq al-Awsat, which has scooped the competition repeatedly on it. I don’t know if that makes him more or less credible given the tall tales told occasionally by Iranians opposed to the regime. But for what it’s worth:

Asgari was in charge of military purchases at the defense ministry as well as military relations between Iran and Syria, according to Ali Nourizadeh, a prominent Iranian journalist who reported that Asgari was in a northern European country where he is cooperating with U.S. and other Western intelligence agents. “He is considered a big fish,” Nourizadeh told ABC News…

Nourizadeh says Asgari has information about Iran’s operations in Iraq, including support and training of the Shiite militia al Mahdi Army and identities of Iranian agents…

Nourizadeh says Asgari was forced to resign in 2003 after exposing corruption at the ministry of defense. Officials involved in the scandal then turned against him and led to the resignation.

A year later, the government tried to win him back by offering him to work as a consultant, says Nourizadeh, who assures Asgari’s military information about Iran are not outdated even though he did not hold an official position since 2003.

This is weird, too. By every account I’ve read, Asgari went missing on February 7. And yet:

The pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat quoted Israeli sources today as saying Asgari may have disappeared in January and not February as has been widely reported. Asgari felt bitter about being forced to resign from his post, said the sources.

Update: Moran parses the contradictions and prays we haven’t blown it here. He thinks one possibility is that WaPo was purposely fed disinformation to see how the Iranians would react to the news, although in that case, why have a second U.S. official deny the reports the very next day?