Did Ali Reza Asgari's disappearance have anything to do with the NIE's conclusions?

The New York Times is reporting today that U.S. intelligence officials "reversed their view about the status of Iran's nuclear weapons program after they obtained notes last summer from the deliberations of Iranian military officials involved in the weapons development program."

This revelation came after Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, disagreed two days ago with the National Intelligence Estimate's conclusion that Iran had suspended its weapons program. In expressing his doubts, Barak cryptically said: "We are talking about a specific track connected with their weapons building program, to which the American connection, and maybe that of others, was severed."

The fact is that no one really knows what new information, or combination of new information, the intelligence services used to reach their conclusions in the 2007 NIE. However, one hypothesis worth considering is that this could somehow be related to reports last March of the disappearance, or defection, in Turkey of a senior Revolutionary Guards officer, Ali Reza Asgari, who had also had served as Iranian deputy defense minister. I wrote about his disappearance here, and since then the matter has gone completely off the radar.

Barak's phrase is interesting in this regard. Given the fact that Israel was said to have been involved in the Asgari affair, was Barak making reference to the fact that the Iranian official, by disappearing into thin air, had effectively "severed" the information flow to U.S. intelligence? And by "others" was Barak referring to Israel? Was Asgari the source, or one source, for the notes on the deliberations of Iranian officials?

Again, this is a hypothesis, nothing more. However, an investigative reporter I know at one of the U.S. television networks has been following the story, and told me several months ago that none of his intelligence sources knew anything about the case. The Asgari disappearance was significant enough, however, that it at least merited leaks of self-satisfaction. None came. Does this mean anything?

Is Ali Reza Asgari one reason why the U.S. intelligence agencies shifted so dramatically on Iran's nuclear program?

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  • Neocon||

    WAH! The NIE wrecked my war with Iran! WAH!

    It must be a political plot!

    Or those intelligence agencies must be messing up again!

    Or Iran must have been so afraid of Bush that now we have to make them MORE afraid of Bush!

    Or some intelligence asset must have gotten offed and the guys who wrote the NIE just decided that the programs he had been tellng us about must have ended when he died! That's what they would do, you know. If their mole into a program dies, they would automatically conclude that the program ended. Cause that's how it works.

    WAH!

  • Episiarch||

    This article confuses the shit out of me, but since I don't give a rat's ass, it's OK. Who did what to whom again?

  • ||

    The Asgari disappearance was significant enough, however, that it at least merited leaks of self-satisfaction. None came. Does this mean anything?

    The complete lack of evidence is proof of a cover up! Seriously, Michael, you need to take a break, get out more. Meet some new people. Get a new five.

  • Neocon||

    Episiarch:

    The article shouldn't confuse you.

    Since we know that the report that Iran has stopped developing a nuclear weapon MUST be false, we need a reason why it is false.

    Since this intelligence asset disappeared, we are forced to conclude that this asset was providing our intelligence agencies with information about Iran's nuclear program. When he disappeared, we got no more information about Iran's nuclear program, so our intelligence agencies have concluded that those programs have been halted.

    See? See how much sense that makes? Our intelligence agencies are so incompetent that "dead source" = "program ended".

  • Episiarch||

    Neocon, you are right. I understand now that, basically, we need to invade/nuke the towel-heads in Iran and stop their weapons program. Without evidence. Thank you for clearing that up.

    Things are so much simpler when somebody smarter than me tells me what to do.

    (just in case somebody is humor-impaired, I am joking along with the joke identity of Neocon. I hate having to put this disclaimer in but some people just don't get humor and I don't want dumbass responses)

  • neoToast?||

    so our intelligence agencies have concluded that those programs have been halted



    Well, to be fair, the 'neocon' line would be to either provoke a reaction to use as proof or retreat to a safer line. This is an example of the latter, if the information flow has stopped.

    Reasoning is the CLR to the crusty buildup of hyperbole!

  • ||

    Neocon,

    You're not making a lot of sense.

  • Xmas||

    neoToast?

    Your metaphor is lacking oomph and relevance.

    I would have gone with:

    Reasoning is the scrubbing bubbles to the scummy buildup of hyperbole!

    Everyone knows "scrubbing bubbles", only people who spend their late nights flipping channels to find the Girls Gone Wild and Extenz infomercials know what "CLR" is.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Episiarch - "/sarcasm" works just as well. Less typing, too.

  • Episiarch||

    Episiarch - "/sarcasm" works just as well. Less typing, too.

    Yes, but I wanted to vent my frustration that I had to put any type of disclaimer.

  • Neocon||

    Kohlrabi,

    Did Michael Young not just regale you with a brilliantly realized post confirming my point in detail?

    Michael Young knows.

  • Dave Woycechowsky||

    Here's a crazee conspiracy theory:

    The Republican party realized that bombing Iran was not going to play out well with the US electorate on '08. So they reviewed all the data regarding Iran's nukes and had their experts come up with the opposite conclusions to what they had come out with before.

    I know, I know, pretty "out there."

  • Justin Raimondo||

    I, for one, blame Syria ....

  • ||

    neocon,

    Oh, you're saying that Mr. Young is the neocon trying to find a way for the gov't to justify bombing Iran anyway? I get it.

  • ||

    I don't agree, though.

  • ||

    Wouldn't Neocon get more juice by simply claiming the Iranian notes were a disinformation operation by the Iranians?

    I'm sure this argument is already being pressed somewhere by the "Real Men Go To Tehran" crowd even as I'm typing this.

  • ||

    The argument seems to be that since we are no longer getting information about the Iranian nuke program due to the disappearance of our source, then the program must have halted.

    That is so stupid that I wish I could believe our intelligence community would never think that way. Unfortunately, I would not be shocked to learn that this is exactly what is behind the NIE report.

  • ||

    Dave,

    It kind of is out there. Wouldn't it be easier to say that there's other ways to deal with it besides bombing?

  • ||

    RC Dean,

    This is why I'm so puzzled. Maybe I'm naive, but that cannot possibly be the reasoning.

  • Fred Thompson (but really Rein||

    Clearly the terrorists are behind the NIE report!

  • Dave Woycechowsky||

    It kind of is out there. Wouldn't it be easier to say that there's other ways to deal with it besides bombing?

    Not really. I don't think the GOP has gotten much juice out of the way they have handled the Norkos. Which is not to say that they haven't done a great job.

    However, I think the GOP wants/needs to try to squeeze some kind of political gain out of Iran, and I think that this is the best way they could come up with now that their first-choice option is "off the table" (to use Beltway parlance).

  • T||

    My honest question is who trusts the NIE? US intelligence agencies are demonstrably less-than-competent and not afraid to manipulate intelligence for political ends. Should I believe this NIE more or less than the ones from before the Iraq war?

  • ||

    Dave,

    I just don't see what they'd gain from this. My guess is that most people's reaction to hearing the report was like "huh? Weird!How does that work? Get your story straight."

    If they wanted some traction while still bowing out of the first choice, there could be any number of better ways. At least with the North Koreans, people aren't sitting around scratching their heads thinking "What is the deal with our intelligence??"

    You may be right, I suppose I give them too much credit. I have to remind myself that the government is just a large-scale Secretary of State office.

  • ||

    Maybe it's a way of promoting success. It gives the administration a chance to say "see how well things are improving in the Middle East. The surge in Iraq is working and so are our efforts against Iran. We are winning!!!"

    Or maybe it's Bush's or the CIA's way of backing down the we're will bomb Iran in 2008 crowd. Some people were convinced that this admin was hell bent on bombing Iran, myself included. The Bush admin was using the same tools as it did in the run-up to Iraq. Pat Buchann did an article about how Bush painted himself into a corner on bombing Iran. The new NIE could be the administration way of backing out and saving face.

    Whatever the case may be, if you look at what they are calling the NIE at globalsecurity.org it's not an NIE at all, but a publication designed for the lowest common denomanator audience and only highlights some key findings. It's clearly meant for media consumption. Since when did the NIE become a media event? It has a table comparing the differences between what it said in 2005 and in 2007 without any reference as to way the new information should be considered more accuracte. I'm curious what the real NIE says, dissents and all. Anyone have a link?

  • Lord Jubjub||

    Why is everyone assuming that the CONTENTS of the report was influenced by the disappearance of Asgari? I thought the NIE was written early this year. I think the NIE was released because the source of information might have been identifiable from the report. Now that the man is no longer in a position to pass more information, they might as well release the info they had.

    In other words, Asgari had told them that the project had been shut down. If the administration had acted on that knowledge in a public manner, the Iranians would have known who had leaked that information. With Asgari out of the picture, the subterfuge is no longer needed.

  • ||

  • ||

    Preview, dammit! Preview. [Commences self flagellation]

    Is Ali Reza Asgari one reason why the U.S. intelligence agencies shifted so dramatically on Iran's nuclear program?

    The spook community won't, and shouldn't tell.

    US intelligence agencies are demonstrably less-than-competent and not afraid to manipulate intelligence for political ends. Should I believe this NIE more or less than the ones from before the Iraq war?

    Chisel that into stone.

  • ||

    Maybe I'm naive, but that cannot possibly be the reasoning.

    I've come to believe it would be impossible to underestimate our intelligence community.

  • ||

    "My honest question is who trusts the NIE? US intelligence agencies are demonstrably less-than-competent and not afraid to manipulate intelligence for political ends. Should I believe this NIE more or less than the ones from before the Iraq war?"

    Mr. T - the formula is as follows:

    Trust the NIE when you agree with its findings.

    Distrust the NIE when you disagree with their findings.

  • ||

    Bendover,

    I agree with your formula, but this adds a new element. What do you believe when the NIE disagrees with a previous NIE findings?

    Believe what you want becuase....? I don't know. What I'm looking for is why the information changed, why is there a new conclusion? I doubt I'll get an answer

  • ||

    Dean and Bendover: Amen my brethren.

    I've just started a book on the CIA - Legacy of Ashes (too lazy to remember/look up the author). I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but so far the basic tone is, "the CIA has been a clusterf*** from the beginning, focusing far too much on operations and far too little on intelligence, and what "successes" they've had in their 50 year history have been due more to accident and luck than competence or efficiency." Truly, it's a dismal read. The (crazy) first guy that led the agency basically just threw hapless foreign recruits out of helicopters hoping they'd land somewhere and do something. And they all died.

    Do all nations' spook programs attract crazy people? Cause an awful lot of intelligence types turn out to be nutters.

  • ||

    TrickVic - I see the contridiction as a feature, not a bug. This way, no matter what position you take, an NIE report will agree with you. ;~)

    Standard Episiarch Disclaimer (S.E.D.)

    (just in case somebody is humor-impaired, I am joking. I hate having to put this disclaimer in but some people just don't get humor and I don't want dumbass responses)

  • dude||

    Dear Reason,

    I understand you guys like to have a "foreign policy" guy, but is this the best you could come up with? Michael Young has been spewing stupid bullshit for the past X years, can't you find someone who isn't a bomb loving ideologue?

  • ||

    It is possible that his disappearance was a rendition, and the new NIE reflects what was said in his interrogation.

    It's not beyond what we do these days.

  • ||

    T,

    Should I believe this NIE more or less than the ones from before the Iraq war?

    Let's not forget, the NIE released immediately before the Iraq War was heavily redacted by the White House, with the evidence that made the case highlighted, while the disclaimers about that evidence and the countervailing evidence were all kept classified.

    Don't you remember the Office of Special Plans? Cheney's visit to Langley? All of those articles in National Review about how the cowardly, unmanly, leftist-pacifist America-hating Democrats in the CIA were deliberately downplaying the threat of Iraqi WMDs and snubbing Ahmed Chalabi?

    There has been a coordinated effort for the past three years to pretend that the CIA was responsible for the bad Iraqi intel, and to throw the Richard Perle Amatuer Hour down the memory hole. I sincerely hope you are neither a victim nor a perpetrator of this propaganda.

  • ||

    I believe the dissents were in that NIE just hidden in the back. They knew damn well that people receiving it wouldn't get past the executive summary.

  • ||

    The question that should be asked of this NIE is cui bono.

    I think the answer is pretty obvious - the Bush administration. They can take credit for their policy of confrontation having derailed the Iranian nuke program, and can now sit back, do nothing, and kick the can to the next administration.

  • ||

    TrickyVic,

    The White House carried out a leak campaign for months before it was actually released to the public, so that's the information the media ran with.

  • ||

    Their policy of confrontation with Iran over its nuke program didn't begin in earnest until well after 2003.

  • ||

    Dean,

    That's pretty much my take on it too.

  • john tilliman||

    remeber that this 80% financed and 10 to 20 more in bonds so we are spending money we dont have so make it good when the finance runs out the party is over.

  • sandman||

    get an agreement to spot inspections from every country to have safty in place is the best you can do where each is a part of whole

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