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Missing Iranian general Ali Rez Asghari is "one of the modern-day architects of terror" who might have key information to resolve the mystery concerning the fate of missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, Rami Igra, a former top Mossad official, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
Igra said that Asghari was the representative of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was responsible for establishing Hizbullah.
'Israel behind general's defection'
Asghari, a retired general in the Revolutionary Guards and a former Iranian deputy defense minister, disappeared last month after arriving in Turkey on a private visit from Syria. According to an American official quoted in The Washington Post on Thursday, Asghari's disappearance was orchestrated by Israel.
Another official was quoted in the paper as saying Asghari was in Western hands and providing intelligence services with information about Hizbullah, Iran and the ties between the two.
On Tuesday, Iranian officials confirmed that Asghari was missing and speculated that he had been abducted by Western intelligence agencies.
Igra served until 1999 as the head of the Mossad's department for prisoners and missing persons. He spearheaded efforts to find Arad and reportedly traveled overseas more than 100 times to meet with sources and colleagues from other intelligence agencies to gather information about the missing IAF navigator.
According to Igra, Asghari, 63, has been known to Israeli intelligence for decades. He served in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the representative of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon. In that position, Asghari was responsible for establishing Hizbullah and spreading the Islamic revolution to Lebanon.
Igra said if Arad, who was shot down over Lebanon in 1986, was sold to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as some in the Israeli intelligence community have speculated, then Asghari would have intimate details concerning his fate. "There is no proof that Arad was sold to Iran," Igra said. "But if this claim is true, then Asghari would have a lot of information about the missing navigator."
But even if Asghari did not know what happened to Arad, he would still have immense value, Igra said, since he was "one of the exporters of terror from Iran to Lebanon, and in the early 1990s when terror groups prospered."
In the Washington Post article, the US official said Asghari was cooperating with interrogators. He made it clear that the information Asghari was offering was available to US intelligence.
Iranian officials said Asghari, who once commanded the Revolutionary Guards, was not involved in the country's nuclear program. Igra said Asghari might have knowledge concerning general details of the program, but the West was mostly after technical details that Asghari likely would not know.