Richard Silverstein – Eurasia Review December 28, 2010
Hold on to your hats because this post is going to be a wild ride. New and astonishing developments in the case of Prisoner X, known to a source within Ehud Barak’s inner circle as Ali Reza Asgari, retired Iran Revolutionary Guard general and former deputy defense minister.
I exposed the name of Prisoner X here a few weeks ago. Today, brings news from Israel that Asgari is dead in his cell. According to the standard version, he committed suicide in his cell within the past week or so. Ynet reported the suicide story and noted that it was under gag order. Of course, this story was erased from the internet, but I’m posting a copy of the article which was taken down from the Ynet site.
What is so interesting about this story is that you have to combine two different articles (the second from Haaretz) to gain more insight into what really happened here. The Haaretz article, which was not removed under gag order because it was written in a sufficiently vague form that it could slip under the gag order, noted that there are investigations of those who die while in secret detention (the case with Asgari). One of the considerations in such an inquiry is whether a “government agency” may have caused the death:
Ali Reza Asgari, Iranian general murdered by Mossad in Ayalon Prison?
Did such an agency have an interest in silencing the detainee? And if so, was a death declared a “suicide,” really murder? In the case of the death of a prisoner under special treatment [held by the security services], why it was not within the power of the Prison Service to prevent the suicide or some other form of violent death.
I should also confirm at this point that my original source for this story reaffirms specifically that it is Asgari, and not some other secret security prisoner who died. My source, I should add, only confirms the “official” government version that he committed suicide and not that he was murdered.
This raises the question: why was Asgari considered so hot a figure that someone in the security services may’ve wanted him dead? It should be noted that it would’ve have been relatively easy for someone to kill Asgari. An earlier Ynet article, also gagged, noted that he was held incommunicado and had no contact whatsoever with the prison guards or other authorities. Any prisoner held under such extreme conditions of isolation could be killed at will.
It gives me very little pride as a blogger/journalist to say that the news of his incarceration exposed here may’ve made him a marked man. No one wishes to be in the most remote way the cause of another’s death. But the reasons I wrote what I did were honorable and intended to break the stranglehold and impunity of the Israeli security apparatus. If I am right I regret to say that Ali Reza Asgari has been sacrificed on this altar. He is a victim of the Israeli secret police and I only hope his death will not have been in vain. It is they, and no one else including me, who is responsible for his death.
Why kill him? It would be incredibly difficult to explain to the world how and why Israel held a senior Iranian official in one of its prisons when it was telling the world he was enjoying his new life as a defector in Virginia. It would enormously complicate relations with Turkey (on whose soil he was abducted) and Iran (with whom Israel is almost in a state of war). It also seems likely that the security services, as I guessed in my earlier post, must’ve exhausted the useful information they could get from him. And so in yet another sense he was expendable.
But expendable for whom? It would appear that the Mossad, which originally kidnapped him would be the main culprit. If he was murdered, the authors of this crime must’ve figured that it would be that much more difficult for anyone to pursue his trail if they murdered him than if he remained alive. The question now becomes what they’ve done with his body. Will they make it too disappear as they did Asgari himself when they kidnapped him in Istanbul in 2007? This would be the ultimate insult and would render his killers virtual impunity for the crime. His family, which protested in Teheran last month on the anniversary of his fourth year in captivity, will have no body to mourn, no one to bury. One wonders whether, as in China, at some unspecified future date, Israel will offer the family what’s left of him plus a bill for his execution. I apologize for the darkness of this comment, but how else is one supposed to react to this abomination?
A word about the official version of suicide: originally the Mossad put out the story that Asgari hadn’t been kidnapped and wasn’t in Israel. Both of these stories appear to have been false. The suicide story appears equally self-serving. Remember too that the Mossad’s method of killing Mahmoud al-Mabouh in Dubai allowed the world to believe he has died of a heart attack. Only a far more sophisticated toxic screen determined that he’d been drugged as part of a murder. So the Mossad is very good at these smokescreens when it wants to cover the tracks of its murders. And further, Amir Oren is implicitly telling his readers, under the strictures of the gag which demand Kabuki-like forms of communication, that our prisoner was murdered and didn’t commit suicide.
What is especially stupid about this murder is that it virtually destroys the a ability of any western intelligence agency to encourage any Iranian to defect. Can you imagine an interchange between a prospective defector and his handler? Look what you did to Asgari. You expect me to expose myself to the possibility of such a fate?
And what will this do to future cooperation among intelligence agencies who may be running Iranian spies and potential defectors? If rumors are correct and Asgari was lured to Istanbul by a German BND-run false flag operation, and then rendered to the Mossad after capture, why would any such agency willingly cooperate with Israel in future, unless the goal is to glean as much information as possible from such a figure and then kill him when he becomes inconvenient.
This story cries out for further exposure on the part of the western and Israeli media. Frankly, so far I have found it impossible to place this story in a more MSM publication. Two Israeli journalists discovered that they couldn’t get permission to interview me about the story. And other western media have not been willing to publish my research. Let’s hope with this alarming news that will change.
Otherwise, Asgari will be yet another almost anonymous statistic in the rapidly heating Cold War between Israel and Iran.
Writing in 972 Magazine, Dimi Reider has captured the implicit meaning of Amir Oren’s Haaretz report as well (that the Ayalon prisoner was murdered, rather than committed suicide). He did so independent of any conversation with me. To be fair, Dimi doesn’t agree with my identification of the prisoner with Ali Reza Asgari.
There is one notable caveat:the Israeli NGO, Zaka, which reports all unnatural deaths in the country, says on its website that the Ayalon prisoner was age 32 and died on December 15th. Asgari is in his 50s. So either Zaka reported incorrect information or the man who died is not him. But even if it is not, the likelihood remains that this prisoner was murdered while in detention, a grave crime.
About the author:
Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein’s blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.