We’ll start with Asharq al-Awsat, which continues to own this story. Assuming that it is an actual story and not an elaborate psy-op or garbage being fed along by imaginative Iranian dissidents.
Three weeks ago the Iranian armed forces command in Teheran lost contact with a senior officer who had been serving in Iraq with the al-Quds unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to a senior Iranian official cited in the Wednesday edition of the London-based Arabic daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.
The Iranian source said that it is still unclear why contact with the officer, Colonel Amir Muhammad Shirazi, was lost. “It is possible that the American forces in Iraq arrested him along with a group of 13 Iranian military and intelligence officials,” he said, adding that this is just one of the scenarios being investigated by Tehran.
No surprise that Tehran isn’t playing this one up like it has with Asgari, as it would amount to an admission that the Quds Force is operating in iraq. Writing for Newsmax, Ken Timmerman says he’s hearing from his sources that Shirazi was in fact captured by the U.S. — in December, though, much earlier than Asharq claims, and in southern Iraq, where American troops aren’t operating.
But that’s a detail. Timmerman’s got a bigger story to break:
In recent days, intelligence circles in Tehran have been awash with rumors of a second high-level defection to the Americans of a Revolutionary Guards intelligence officer, Brig. Gen. Seyed Mohammad Soltani.
Gen. Soltani is a career intelligence officer, who took over as head of the Persian Gulf bureau of Rev. Guards intelligence in October 2006. On February 8 – just one day after Gen Asgari disappeared in Istanbul – Gen. Soltani traveled to Bandar Abbas [Iran’s largest port, home to the Revolutionary Guard’s largest naval base], where he was scheduled to inspect an intelligence listening post. Instead, he vanished…
So far, the official media in Tehran has not mentioned Gen. Soltani’s alleged disappearance and defection. But NewsMax sources in Tehran said that his wife and two children have also disappeared, and that the Rev. Guards searched his house in the Amirieh district of Tehran searched on Feb. 11…
Gen. Soltani was known as “Engineer Mousavi” within Rev. Guards intelligence, and has intimate knowledge of foreign intelligence operations, especially in Iraq and in other Persian Gulf countries, Newsmax sources in Iran said.
Timmerman doesn’t say if Soltani was known to be disgruntled with the regime like Asgari reputedly was. If so, then he and his family might well have disappeared, but not necessarily of their own accord. Some people are bound to be purged as a result of Asgari’s defection; if the mullahs suspected Soltani of disloyalty, they might have moved on him as soon as they found out about Asgari. Similarly, Asharq is also claiming today that “dozens” of Revolutionary Guard members and intel agents have defected to the American side in Iraq over the past three years. That alone would be enough to make the regime paranoid. In which case, why were they letting a high-value opponent like Asgari travel outside the country?
Timmerman’s also deeply skeptical about the woman who showed up at the Turkish embassy the other day claiming to be Asgari’s wife. According to his sources, one of Asgari’s wives left Iran with him; the other is a 31-year-old named Mansoureh Mirmohammadi. The woman who went to the embassy was named Ziba Asgari and gave her age as 46. Either Asgari’s personal life was highly “nuanced” or someone’s lying shamelessly here.