Sunday, March 10, 2013

Al Qaeda in Iran

With the capture and presumed interrogation of Abu Ghaith some interesting questions are cropping up on Iran's relationship with AQ.

Before going any further let's not pretend this is any kind of revelation--none other than the US Treasury Department has stated that Iran was helping our mortal enemy AQ and the 9/11 Commission determined that some of the hijackers had passed through their territory before Bushitler was even on the scene to blame Iraq.  Western media has been reporting about AQ in Iran for years.

And good grief, a federal judge even ruled that Iran was complicit in the 9/11 attacks themselves based on testimony from several defected Iranians who were presumed to have worked for Iranian intelligence after a civil trial in 2011:
In presenting evidence gathered by the attorneys and their outside investigator, Timothy Fleming revealed tantalizing details of still-sealed videotaped depositions provided by three defectors from Iranian intelligence organizations.
One of those defectors was “physically present” when al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, came to Iran in May 2001 for four days of intense closed-door meetings with the top leadership in Iran to discuss the impending attacks. Another took part in writing up the debriefing reports of Iran’s al-Qaida liaison, Imad Mugniyeh, once he returned to Iran from Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
The most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Fleming unveiled the identity of a third defector and described in detail the information he had provided. The defector, Abdolghassem Mesbahi, had been a confidant of Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, and headed up European operations for the new regime’s fledging intelligence service in the early 1980s. Then, Mesbahi actively took part in developing a set of terrorist contingency plans, called “Shaitan der atash” — meaning “Satan in the Flames,” or “Satan on Fire” — to be used against the United States.
“This contingency plan for unconventional or asymmetrical warfare against the United States was the origin of subsequent terror attacks against the United States, up to and including the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” Fleming said. “Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda joined the Iranian operational planning in the early to mid-1990s.”
How did that not become a huge story? Keep in mind Zawahiri also reportedly traveled to Iraq to visit members of the Saddam regime in 1998.  What the Yahoo story didn't report was an allegation that Mohammad Atta's cell phone was called on 9/11 by an Iranian pilot instructor who had worked in Florida. Since that suggests Iran might have had an "operational relationship" with AQ it proves a bit inconvenient.

Whether any of this will get new traction is unknown, but Peter Bergen, writing for CNN, today provided some interesting unknown nuggests, such as this one:
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence learned that some al Qaeda operatives were living in the northern Iranian town of Chalus, on the Caspian Sea. In 2002 a U.S. Navy SEAL operation into Chalus was planned and then rehearsed somewhere along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, called off the assault because the information about where precisely the al Qaeda members were living in Chalus was not clear.
Of course Bergen finds "irony" because at the time the Bush warmongers were still toeing Clinton's line about WMDs in Iraq and warning that bin Laden might Boogie to Baghdad and so forth. In other words, they didn't want to publicize the possibility of AQ members being in Iran when they were making the case they were working with Iraq.  But Bergen is basically sympathetic to the lefty version of GWoT theory.

He should acknowledge that Saddam himself was holding various terrorists who had killed Americans and had himself used WMDs before, while also trying to assassinate an ex-president.   Moreover, he should acknowledge it's possible that Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen and others were all in some form of loose cahoots against the United States leading up to 9/11, perhaps refreshing his memory on Hasan Turabi and his enemy of my enemy crusade back in the 90s, which appears to be corroborated by the testimony of the Iranians posted above and the fact we now know Tehran was hosting AQ members.

At any rate, it's nice to see the HIG group finally got some work (hopefully they won't be prone to furlough in case anyone else pops out of Iran in the next few months).   And, as Bergen says Abu Ghaith is more a rabel rouser than terrorist, so perhaps he did provide some useful information about the relationship between the Mullahs and AQ.   Obviously western intelligence would like to know what kind of sleeper arrangement they may have with Iran should Israel or someone else launch an attack on their nuke facilities, or in the least to better understand the Syrian conflict.   But even if something is learned the bigger question might be whether they are ready to do anything about it yet. 

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