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?