It seems we may have an important defector from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a senior commander no less. The news first appeared on Banafshah Zand’s indispensable website on the crimes of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
Brigadier General Ali Nasiri, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Protection Bureau, is said to have fled to the West after a fallout with the representative of the Supreme Leader in the IRGC.
On Thursday, April 11th, during a meeting among the senior IRGC intelligence officials, Nasiri and Hossein Taeb, the representative of the Supreme Leader to the IRGC came to blows. The following days, when Nasiri failed to show up for work, it was revealed that he had actually left the country.
General Nasiri was said to have fled with hundreds of classified documents, which could be of great value to the United States, to which Nasiri is said to have defected.
Nasiri could provide valuable information about IRGC deployments in the Middle East, North and East Africa, and Latin America, notably in Venezuela. Even though Secretary of State Pompeo has proclaimed that we will not wage military attacks against the Islamic Republic, Nasiri’s military expertise might enable us to move against secret Iranian bases, capture Iranian agents, and stage limited operations.
I’d like to know a lot more about Nasiri’s relationship with U.S. intelligence. Was this a sudden walk-in? Or had he been supplying us with Iranian secrets for some time? Was his defection planned in advance, or an emergency decision? I have often been told that Western intelligence services have excellent sources at very high levels of the Khamenei regime. Is Nasiri one of them?
Defectors can be exceedingly important, but they can also be used to gull enemies. To this day, as Edward Jay Epstein has written so well, we are still debating whether the late Soviet defector Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko was genuine, or part of a deception mounted by the KGB about the Kennedy assassination. We may never unravel that mystery, nor other similar cases. Matters are made more difficult by the fact that the American intelligence community doesn’t like defectors, in part, paradoxically, because their motives are always suspect. You might be surprised at this, but it makes a certain amount of sense; our spooks wonder if defectors are telling us things we want to hear in order to come here and vanish, not because they have real secrets that will help us. I’ve known several defectors and they all complain bitterly about hostile treatment from CIA and FBI handlers.
All in all, we’d prefer they stay in place, once recruited by our spymasters. Which raises another problem: we aren’t very good at such recruitment. It is hard to find a single successful recruitment during the entire Cold War; almost all those Russians who spied for us were walk-ins. They came to us, we didn’t spot them, identify their vulnerabilities, and sign them up.
So we shall see. Or maybe we won’t.