London: The head of Iranian parliament’s defense committee, Esmail Kowsari, said on Monday that Iranian officials have rejected several years ago a proposal put forward by Imad Mughniyeh to release an American hostage in exchange of the liberation of Iranian diplomat Ahmad Motevaselian, who disappeared with three others in July 1982.
“We have to ask officials who were dealing with this issue at that time about the reason why no suitable grounds were available to conclude the swap deal between Iran and Israel in order to release the four diplomats”, Kowsari said. Some Iranian military leaders recently claimed that according to substantial evidence, Iranian “diplomats” who were kidnapped during the Lebanese civil war were still alive.
In comments to reporters last month, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dahghan said that Tehran received some information showing that Motevaselian and three other Iranians who disappeared in Beirut were still alive.
Kowsari said that Tehran has received several proposals from Lebanese and Palestinian officials to conclude a swap deal between Israel and Iran for the release of Israeli hostages and Motevaselian. Mughniyeh’s plan was among those proposals, he added.
Kowsari said he believed that Motevaselian – a former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) – was killed when he was taken as hostage, and that Iran should have deployed all efforts to bring his body home.
Motevaselian and three of his escorts were detained on July 5, 1982. Their fate is still unknown. In July 2012, Said Qassimi, Commander of the Iranian group “Ansar Hezbollah” said that in June 1981, Khamanei ordered two IRGC units to be sent to Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Qassimi’s story contradicted claims by the Iranian Foreign Affairs ministry that Motevaselian was an Iranian diplomat and not a member of IRGC. Kowsari’s recent remarks have confirmed recent statements made by Motevaselian’s brother to Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) about proposals submitted to Iran by Lebanese officials regarding four Iranian diplomats reportedly held by Israel.
Motevaselian’s brother, Amir Motevaselian, said that a swap deal between Iran and Israel to release his brother had reached its final stages until Iran went back on its decision. He added that he still did not know why his brother had been captured for over 34 years.
Amir Motevaselian also said that Mughniyeh presented a proposal to the Iranians, telling them that they could conclude a swap deal with Israel to release Motevaselian, as he had taken a U.S. diplomat as hostage.
Motevaselian recounts that at that time, Mughniyeh acquired a “Benz” car that was offered by Hafez Al-Assad to Ahmad Motevaselian to facilitate his passage through military checkpoints.
Motevaselian also told Iranian Mizan News Agency that Mughniyeh took his American hostage to Al-Zabadani military base as a first step towards a swap deal that would lead to Ahmad Motevaselian’s release. He added that Mughniyeh was waiting for Iran’s response regarding his swap plan.
Motevaselian’s brother said Iranian officials “rejected the proposal and requested them to return to Tehran.” Subsequently, [Hezbollah] concluded a swap deal with U.S. officials leading to the release of 25 of its members while Motevaselian remained captured, he added.
Motevaselian’s brother criticized Iranian officials for ignoring his brother for over 34 years, urging them to reveal any tangible information on his fate.
Mughniyeh was killed on February, 12, 2008 by a car bomb that detonated as he passed by on foot in Damascus, Syria.