A former Iranian deputy defense minister who went missing in Turkey was among the founders of Hezbollah, a retired Israeli spymaster said. International speculation has been that Ali Reza Asgari was abducted, or defected, while visiting Istanbul last month as part of Western intelligence efforts to probe Iran’s nuclear program. But Ram Igra, a retired Mossad official, said Wednesday that Asgari’s real value is in his knowledge of the workings of Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.
“In the 1980s and early 1990s, Asgari was responsible for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon,” Igra told Israel Radio. “He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years. If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah’s network in Lebanon.”
Western analysts have speculated that if Iran feels that its nuclear facilities are under threat of U.S. attack, it could order Hezbollah to carry out terrorist strikes against American interests abroad. Asked if Asgari might have information on the fate of Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who disappeared after being captured by Iran-linked militiamen in Lebanon in 1986, Igra voiced doubt.
“If we assume the Iranians have a role in his disappearance and this is an unproven assumption then Asgari has something to say about this,” Igra said. “But if it’s wrong, then Asgari will not say more than the Hezbollah leader tells us via the media, which is that Iran had nothing to do with it.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.