Did the United States just nab a top Iranian defector?

Pan-Arab daily newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat is reporting that, according to "an Iranian military source," a former deputy defense minister of Iran who recently disappeared in Turkey is now in "one of the northern states of Europe." The article claims that the retired general, Ali Reza al-Asghari, is being questioned before being transferred to the United States. Asghari is apparently deeply knowledgeable about Iran's infamous Revolutionary Guards and remains a strategy and logistics consultant for the Iranian defense ministry, so his defection would be a real coup for Western intelligence services.

Asghari is one of five Iranians reportedly wanted by Interpol for their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Cultural Center in Argentina, so perhaps he was snatched in Turkey and has cut a deal in exchange for leniency. But that's just speculation on my part. (It appears to be a different guy. -BH)

(For those of you who don't read Arabic, you can read Haaretz's summary of the al-Sharq al-Awsat article here.)


The Taliban recruits suicide bombers

FP Blogger at Large
The Taliban responds to NATO

The following are excerpts from reports on military plans of the Taliban that were aired on Al Jazeera TV on February 21 and 22, 2007:

Reporter: The fighters of the Afghani Taliban movement are in a real race against time. The spring offensive - for which the movement is preparing by means of training, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and with which the NATO forces threatened [the Taliban] – is imminent, according to the movement's leaders. This is a diligent movement, which operates at night more than by day, away from any surveillance or reconnaissance. The movement's leaders said that the attack would include all of Afghanistan, but that it would focus on the south, in order to take control of entire cities.

Taliban Military Commander Mullah Dadallah (translated into Arabic): There are 6,000 Taliban mujahideen ready to fight in the spring campaign, and the number will rise to 10,000. The greater the number of Jewish and Christian forces fighting us, the more this will encourage the people to join us.

Reporter: The Taliban says it has obtained a new anti-aircraft weapon, but it did not go into details. As proof, it presented Al Jazeera with footage in which one sees what they say is an American military helicopter burning, after it was downed in Kandahar about two months ago. [...]

Reporter: In a noteworthy development, the Afghani Taliban movement presented what it called its "new weapon," which will confront NATO's lethal weapons. This is the weapon of suicide operations. Taliban military commander [Mullah] Dadallah used this gathering to recruit over 500 suicide bombers for the coming spring campaign, which he promised would be bloody. He stressed that the Taliban is capable of multiplying their numbers.

View the entire transcript.

The Middle East Media Research Institute contributes a series of posts about media in the Middle East for Passport.