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Did top Iranian general defect?

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A former Iranian deputy defense minister – a top general with key knowledge of the Revolutionary guard – is reportedly seeking asylum in the West.

Haaretz reports that Arab media says Gen. Ali Reza Asghari, who went missing last month in Turkey, is currently being questioned in a "northern European country" before going to the United States.

According to [al-Sharq al-Awsat], published in London, Ali Reza Asghari is undergoing thorough investigation by intelligence forces before being transferred to the United States.

Asghari, who is a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards, disappeared in Istanbul about a month ago. A hotel room was booked under Asghari's name, but several reports indicate that he never arrived at the hotel.

On Tuesday, al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that Asghari left for the US to seek asylum shortly after arriving in Turkey. Earlier Tuesday, Iran's top police chief, General Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam, said Iran was investigating Asghari's fate with the cooperation of the Turkish police.

The Daily Telegraph reports that after days of speculation on Middle Eastern Internet chat rooms about the disappearance, Iran was forced to acknowledge that General Asghari had gone missing. The paper says that Asghari's defection could result in "an intelligence bonanza" for the West.

Menashe Amir, an Israeli analyst of Iranian affairs, claimed to have information that the Asghari family had left Iran "on holiday" shortly before the general's disappearance - adding weight to the defection theory.

"According to part of the information, his wife and children managed to leave Iran before his disappearance," Mr Amir told Israel's Army Radio, without elaborating on his sources.

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