Mohammad Reza Arian, an Iranian military official with the rank of colonel, has defected to Turkey. Colonel Arian also succeeded in bringing out his wife and two daughters during his escape operation. This brings the number of senior Iranian military officials who have defected to Turkey over the last number of years to two. The first was General Ali Reza Asgari, who was considered to be the “father of Hezbollah.” He escaped to Turkey via Syria in early 2007.
This new development in the intelligence war between Iran and the West was initially reported by the Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper on December 13. However, the first time it was brought to the attention of Iranians was on December 26. The first Iranian Web site to break the news was Tabnak, which is based in Tehran. In its report Tabnak quotes the article in Hürriyet. It must be noted that Tabnak is one of the most credible news agencies inside Iran.
According to Tabnak’s Turkish sources, Colonel Arian escaped because he was against the torturing of Iranian opposition figures inside Iran. To raise awareness, he subsequently started communicating with international human right agencies via email. This raised the suspicion of Iran’s intelligence agency, which installed hidden spy cameras in his office. Arian’s life was also threatened, and as a result of this he decided to escape to Turkey with his family.
His first port of call was the United Nations Refugee Agency in the city of Van, near the Iranian border. Colonel Arian arrived there on August 28 of this year.
This means that he escaped via land, via two possible routes. One possibility is that he crossed over to Turkey, via northern Iraq. This is a new route which is being used by smugglers with the help of local Kurds due to the fact that over the last two years extensive security efforts have been made by Iran to stop illegal crossings at the Iranian-Turkish border. Tehran is not only concerned about Iranians escaping to Turkey, but also fears that Western intelligence agencies may try to use that border to insert equipment and operatives. The other possibility is that he was smuggled out or managed to cross the Iranian-Turkish border.