Report Claims: Missing Iranian general can prove Tehran's ties to terror

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters

Haaretz News

March 10, 2007

The Iranian former deputy defense minister who disappeared in Turkey last month left his country with documents that prove that there is a link between the Iranian military establishment and terror groups including Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Friday.

A former colleague of Ali Reza Asghari, 63, told the newspaper, which is published in London, that the document also cites groups such as the Mahdi Shi'ite militia operating in Iraq.

Asghari, a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards, went missing in what may have been a Western intelligence operation. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said in an unsourced report that he was involved in Iran's nuclear program. If so, he would be a major asset for Western or Israeli interrogators.

Ram Igra, a retired official with Israel's Mossad espionage agency, said this week that Asghari is best known to Israel as the "founder" of Hezbollah.

Igra said that before Asghari took up the Defense Ministry post, he had been a commander with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the main sponsor Hezbollah.

"In the 1980s and early 1990s, Asgari was responsible for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon. This is his real importance, not his connection to the Iranian Defense Ministry," Igra told Israel Radio.

"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," Igra said. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."