INSIDE THE HEAD OF ALI
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday March 6, 2007
Ali Reza Azkari has disappeared. Gone. Vanished. No sign, no trace. The last time Azkari was seen was in Istanbul, disembarking from a plane.
Who is Ali Reza Azkari? For those who know the languages of the Middle East it is obvious from his middle name, Reza, that Ali is Iranian. Those who follow Iranian political history will know that he was a former Iranian deputy defense minister. And for many years Ali Reza Azkari was the highest ranking Iranian intelligence officer in Lebanon.
February 7th is the last time Ali Reza Azkari was sighted. Iran has sent a team to Turkey to investigate the situation. Iran has asked Interpol to intercede and help find their man. Iran has asked local Turkish authorities for their eyes, ears and assistance. To date, there are no leads. Nothing, just dead ends.
The one thing Iran has not done is issue an official statement speaking of the disappearance of one of their top officials and most valued diplomats. Iran has not yet officially recognized the disappearance, the probable kidnapping, of a man who holds - in his head - the secrets of the nation of Iran.
Azkari's plane originated in Damascus, Syria and touched down in Istanbul, Turkey. He was either grabbed from the airport or from his hotel. He was a former Iranian deputy defense minister. And for many years Ali Reza Azkari was the highest ranking Iranian intelligence officer in Lebanon.
Who would do such a thing? The Mossad.
I'll tell you who else - the good ol' red, white and blue CIA, in a plan coordinated with the Mossad. The CIA has a vast set of resources and a large operation working out of Istanbul. The Mossad has the language skills and the cultural ease and know-how necessary to do the job.
Ali Reza Azkari has first hand knowledge that is vital to Israel. Ron Arad, an Israeli navigator was shot down and taken captive over Lebanon in 1986 - precisely during the period when Azkari was Iran's man in Lebanon. Arad, now an Israeli icon, is still missing - his fate and whereabouts completely unknown. If the Israelis have Azkari they have access to essential information about Arad, about where he, or his body, have been for the past twenty-one years, about why no group has ever cut a deal with Israel for his return. And there is more. If the Israelis have Azkari they have the intelligence they need about Iran's nuclear threat and Iran's real and actual interest and ability to strike at Israel.
If they have him and if they can break him.
Ali Reza Azkari holds a virtual gold mine of information for the United States. Azkari made decisions, implemented decisions and witnessed operations. Azkari was an Iranian player, a big time player. The intelligence and strategic material that Azkari has, the first-hand, hands-on, top secret and behind-closed-doors information that he was privy to is the intelligence that the United States needs in order to accurately and efficiently deal with Iran.
If they have him and if they can break him.
The disappearance of Ali Reza Azkari is Iran's worst nightmare come to life. He is a living national resource. If Azkari is broken, if he talks, the United States and Israel will know the truth about Iran's arsenal and Iran's objectives. The United States and Israel will know the truth about the threats menacing them. They will know fact from fiction.
One of the most immediate and intimidating threats facing the United States and Israel and the European world is the threat of sleeper cells. Just recently the Telegraph of London published a report maintaining that if Iran were to be attacked Iran would retaliate by hitting United States and European interests throughout the Gulf. The report quoted a former Iranian diplomat as saying that Iran has trained great numbers of operatives who now have their missions and await the message to activate their plans. The same source also said that these sleeper operatives were recruiting other Shiites in their local environments.
If it's true, it is scary, very scary. If it is true Azkari is the man who could identify the targets and identify the sleepers. Azkari has the information, he knows who is embedded and where and he knows how deep and organized each cell really is.
Ron Arad. The true Iranian nuclear threat. Sleeper cells. There is more. Ali Reza Azkari can shed light on Iran's pursuit of Al Qaeda. He has insider information about the true extent and power of Hezbollah. He knows which countries are aiding Hezbollah, he knows how much comes from Syria and how much comes from Iran.
And he can unmask Russia, the country that has been playing both sides against the middle, the country that supplies Iran and Syria and sits back and watches while Iran and Syria turn around and hand over their Russian-gotten goods to Hezbollah. In the recent war between Hezbollah and Israel, the most dangerous weapons came directly from Syria having been imported from Russia. And Russia is the power building the nuclear power plants, supplying the technology and lending the support Iran needs to develop its own nuclear program.
Most important of all, Ali Reza Azkari can answer the big question: Is Iran as brave, tough, organized and advanced as we would believe. Or is Iran a modern day former Soviet Union - lots of bark and almost no bite, a big bluff, an emperor with no clothes. Is Iran as prepared for conflict and conquest as Iranian leadership would have us believe or is Iranian leadership more expert at propaganda than it is at military and nuclear preparedness.
The Unites States and Israel probably have Azkari. Now they need to get into his head.