During the Cold War, the occasional Soviet defector — some government official or military officer — excited little interest from us. Some did provide useful intelligence but mostly they merely proved what we already knew, that there was dissent within the eroding Soviet state. Since 9/11 we have captured or killed many terrorist leaders, but the apparent defection of a top Iranian general is unheard of.
Sometimes America gets a lucky break upon which can be built a decisive advantages against an adversary. It appears that the defection of Iran’s former deputy defense minister, Brig Gen. Alireza Asghari, into Western hands may be one of these seminal events. Gen Asghari went missing on a February 7 visit during a stop-over in Istanbul sanctioned by the Iranian government after doing his dirty arms work with Hezbollah and Syria. Naturally, the official Iranian government response was that Asghari was probably kidnapped by Western Intelligence sources. This was the position taken in news reports by the head of Iran’s National Police Gen Ismail Ahmadi-Moghhaddam. What Moghaddam failed to mention was that Asghari’s wife and family had left Iran just before he went missing and that he had sold his house in Tehran in December, all — the Iranians would have us believe — by happenstance. For all intents, it appears that Asghari’s defection was carefully planned and executed. And, from all reports, it appears he is cooperating with his interrogators.
The mere fact that Asghari defected is of enormous significance. We know of several levels on which the Iranian regime is faltering: economically (with the drop in oil production) and politically (among the majority of the Iranian populace). The defection of a top general could signal a power struggle within the regime, and that could create many opportunities for us to empower the Iranian opposition.
Of immediate importance, there should be a wealth of information Asghari can reveal. He was the founding father of Hezbollah in Lebanon in the 1980s and was the key leader in the development of the short and medium range missiles projects at the Iranian Defense Industries Organization in the 1990s. His long resume also included work on secret nuclear procurement programs from 1996-1997 where he traveled frequently to Russia, and China as well as to North Korea and Southeast Asia cutting deals for Iran nuclear development.
Asghari can provide the intelligence community and war fighters a treasure trove that even the appeasers cannot deny. To date Iran is responsible for killing more that 200 American soldiers and wounding over 635 thru the introduction of their powerful Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) in Iraq. Asghari can probably provide information linking the top officials in the Mullahocracy to this act of war.
Ashgari was a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force (IRGC) and has intimate knowledge of the Quods (Jerusalem) Force units currently operating in Iraq. They are primarily responsible for the surge in Shia-Sunni sectarian violence during the last year when they initiated the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra along with elements of al Qaeda (the enemy of my enemy is my friend) in addition to the aforementioned United States causalities. Ashgari can verify this and may let us know that time is running out.
Other questions are not readily answered. Can Asghari verify the depth of Iran’s involvement in not only Iraq’s continuing problems but in the terrorist undermining of the whole Arabian peninsula? Can he give the West details of Iran’s nuclear weapons development schedule? On issues such as these, wars are won and lost. The question now is how best to use the intelligence gifts Asghari may have brought.
The Asghari information will, because he was so high in the Iranian regime, be very hard to verify. But not impossible. With our own intelligence assets and those of allies such as Israel, we may be able to assemble any number of puzzles with Asghari’s information. To capitalize on it, without delay, will be the challenge the president has to meet.
The president cannot continue with our current non-policy toward Iran. It is Iran who is bent on destabilizing and dominating the Arabian Peninsula from Lebanon thru Gaza into Iraq with a stopover in Bahrain. The situation has gotten so serious that King Abdullah of Jordan called it a Shia crescent sweeping across Arabian Peninsula and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia summoned Vice President Dick Cheney to Riyadh last fall. The Iranian leadership thinks that we are pinned down in Iraq by the insurgency and in Washington by the congressional Democrats. The president has to prove them wrong., and will not do so by engaging in feckless negotiations with Iran about Iraq. There are concrete steps we can take.
First we form a coalition of the willing with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Gulf States, Turkey, Australia, and those European allies with the courage to face this evil nation down. No more denial or hoping Iran will negotiate their nuclear weapons development away. It is time to establish a deadline for UN action against the Iranian nuclear program. Either they meet it, or we take the matter away from the UN.
Second, we simultaneously put down drastic economic sanctions and we develop a “tit for tat” strategy on EFPs such that every time one goes off in Iraq one goes off in Iran against the IRGC forces, nuclear support facilities and leadership.
Third, we covertly conduct a massive pro-revolutionary campaign that arms and emboldens the Iranian people to take their country back through informing them of the corruption, killings, unemployment, low wages and luxurious living of the Mullahs and the IRGC. Let’s use the nationalism of a very young and diverse population. Remember Iran is composed of 51% Persians, 24% Azaris, 10% Kurds, 6% Gilouci, 4% Lor, 4% Mazandarin, 2.4% Turkman and 2.4% Arab. Over 70% of the population is under the age of 30 with an unemployment rate exceeding 20%. This is a rich environment for unrest as evidenced by the 4,300-plus demonstrations in 2005.
Fourth we form a massive force for an air campaign composed of over 75 stealth attack aircraft composed of B2s, F117s and the F22s, over 250 non stealth F15s, 16s, B52s, B1s and 3 carrier battle groups composed of over 120 F18s and cruise missiles galore. We have over 750 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance in Iraq today so more than enough is available to support this campaign. When the revolution begins, we enable its success by use of these forces against the nuclear development facilities, command and control facilities, integrated air defenses, Air Force and Navy units and the Shahab 3 missiles using over 2500 aim points.
All military campaigns have risks but these risks are far better than a nuclear Iran who will enable proxies to put nuclear weapons in U.S., and Israeli cities. I believe President Ahmadinejad when he said on Oct 26th 2005 that soon there will be a world without the US and Zionists. Gen Asghari can confirm this threat and give us actionable intelligence upon which we can base a successful overthrow of the most dangerous regime in the world.