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U.S. Links Iran to Both Al-Qaeda and Taliban Terrorists

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The U.S. Treasury Department is again linking the Iranian regime to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. On August 21-22, it sanctioned several terrorists and disclosed their Iranian ties. Yet again, it is confirmed that Shiite and Sunni terrorists are willing to cooperate against common enemies.

An August 22 press release announces the sanctioning of Abdul Mohsen Abdullah Ibrahim al-Sharikh, described as an Al-Qaeda facilitator and strategist in Syria. He is also a senior leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and very active in social media.

The Obama Administration explains that he also played a leading role in Al-Qaeda’s pipeline in Iran that operates with the consent of the regime:

“Prior to his work in Syria with [Jabhat al-Nusra], al-Sharikh served in early 2013 as chief of al-Qaida’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network before the return of already designated al-Qaida facilitator Yasin al-Suri to the position. Al-Sharikh has also previously served al-Qaida as a key financial facilitator in Pakistan.”

A press release from a day prior announced that the Treasury Department was sanctioning the Basir Zarjmil Hawala based in Chaman of Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province. Hawala networks are underground money transfer systems in the Muslim world.

The U.S. government says the Basir Zarjmil Hawala became the “principal money exchanger” for Taliban leaders in Pakistan in 2012. It provides a list of branch offices, with one being in Iran. Given the tyrannical nature of the Iranian regime and suspicion of Sunni terrorists, it is inconceivable that the regime is unaware of this major operation. Other offices are in Afghanistan and Dubai.

The Clarion Project’s fact sheet on Iranian sponsorship of terrorism details how the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations have all asserted that the Iranian regime supports Al-Qaeda, despite their intense ideological divisions.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Iran and Al-Qaeda began collaborating in late 1991 or early 1992. Al-Qaeda operatives began receiving training, particularly in explosives, inside Iran and Lebanon.

The report leaves open the possibility that Al-Qaeda worked with Iran in carrying out the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996. The attack killed 19 U.S. soldiers. The Iranians wanted to expand the relationship after Al-Qaeda’s bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, but Osama Bin Laden was worried about losing Saudi supporters.

 “The relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shi’a divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations,” the 9/11 Commission concluded.

Al-Qaeda operatives, including many relatives of Osama Bin Laden and current Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, fled to Iran after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan. The Obama Administration confirms that the Iranian regime continues to allow Al-Qaeda to operate a pipeline through its territory.

The U.S. State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism states:

“Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saq al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria.

Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.”

The Obama Administration first confirmed the alliance between Iran and Al-Qaeda in January 2004. The Treasury Department sanctioned four Al-Qaeda operatives linked to Iran. They were:

  • Mustafa Hamid, who “negotiated a secret relationship between Osama Bin Laden and Iran” in the mid-1990s so Al-Qaeda members could transit the country. He acted as a liaison between the Iranian regime and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He was detained in Iran in 2003.
  • Muhammad Rab’a al-Sayid al-Bahtiyti is a trusted aide to current Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. After the 9/11 attacks, he arranged the movement of Zawahiri’s daughters to Iran. He was detained in Iran in 2003.
  • Ali Saleh Husein, who oversaw the movement of Al-Qaeda members to Iran after the 9/11 attacks. He was also detained in 2003.
  • Saad Bin Laden, a son of Osama Bin Laden who oversaw the movement of Bin Laden’s family members to Iran after the 9/11 attacks. He also helped manage Al-Qaeda from Iran and was detained in 2003. He was reportedly allowed to leave Iran in September 2008. He was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2009 in Pakistan.

In July 2011, the Obama Administration publicly revealed that Al-Qaeda and Iran had a “secret deal” that allowed the terrorist group to move money and operatives through Iran.

The Treasury Department sanctioned six Al-Qaeda operatives connected to an Iran-based “core pipeline” for Al-Qaeda’s operations; enabling it to move personnel and resources back and forth from the Middle East to South Asia. The operatives were:

  • Yasin al-Suri, who has served as Al-Qaeda’s representative in Iran since 2005. He oversees the transfer of money and recruits through Iran and negotiates the release of Al-Qaeda detainees held in Iran.
  • Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Al-Qaeda’s overall commander in the Pakistani tribal areas and previous Al-Qaeda ambassador to Iran.
  • Umid Muhammadi, an Al-Qaeda facilitator and trainer involved with Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He has used his contact with the Iranian regime to request the release of detained Al-Qaeda members.
  • Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, who is based in Qatar and works with the Iran-based Al-Qaeda operatives in arranging travel and money transfers.
  • Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar, who is based in Qatar and delivers money, material and other items to Al-Qaeda’s leaders in Iran. He also makes travel arrangements for terrorists.
  • ‘Ali Hasan’ Ali al-Ajmi is based in Kuwait and works with Yasin al-Suri. He provides travel and financial assistance to Al-Qaeda in general, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban.

In October 2012, the Treasury Department sanctioned two Al-Qaeda leaders in Iran that manage its “critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network.” The two terrorists were:

  • Muhsin al-Fadhil, the leader of the Al-Qaeda pipeline in Iran. He arrived in Iran in 2009 and was detained. After he was released in 2011, he replaced Yasin al-Suri as the pipeline’s manager.
  • Abdel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi joined the Iran-based network in early 2011 and acts as al-Fadhil’s deputy. He oversees the movement of Al-Qaeda members to Iraq and Afghanistan via Iran.

Al-Qaeda’s network in Iran is being used to wage jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Iran is therefore complicit in the ongoing killings of U.S. soldiers. The network is also a direct threat to the U.S., as it enables Al-Qaeda to sustain its global operations.

A great example of the threat posed by Al-Qaeda’s pipeline in Iran is an Al-Qaeda plot to derail a train going from New York to Toronto that was foiled in April 2013. After two of the terrorists were arrested, Royal Canadian Mounted Police official James Malizia said, “The individuals were receiving support from Al-Qaeda elements in Iran.”

Malizia cautioned, “There is no information to indicate that these attacks were state-sponsored.” He may be technically correct that the Canadian authorities did not possess evidence of direct Iranian regime involvement, but that does not absolve the regime of responsibility.

The U.S. government repeatedly stated that Iran knows about these Al-Qaeda elements and actively assists them. The regime undoubtedly closely monitors their activities. At the very least, Iran tolerates Al-Qaeda’s terrorist activity with the knowledge that it could result in an attack on America—and that’s what almost happened.

Iran is offering to help the U.S. defeat the Islamic State (formerly Al-Qaeda in Iraq) if sanctions are lifted on its nuclear program. The Iranian regime is acting like a firefighter that sets blazes so it can come to the rescue.

The Shiite Iranian regime and the Sunni terrorists of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State may kill and condemn each other, but they are far closer to each other than they are to us. The history of the relationship shows that they will work together against us, even as they fight tooth-and-nail in Syria and Iraq.

At the end of the day, Islamist terrorists will always choose each other over us. We ignore that demonstrated behavior at our own cost.

 

 

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Ryan Mauro

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow, national security analyst and the director of Clarion Intelligence Network. Mauro is also an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.