Sunday, February 16, 2014

AQ in Iran Update

This is an interesting development.  A right hand man to AQ leader Ayman Zawahiri, formerly ensconced in Iran, is on the loose...
The U.S. document describes Shihata as an “experienced operational planner” and “respected among al-Qaeda rank and file.” It was not clear when Shihata departed Iran, but a former U.S. official, who also requested anonymity, said he was believed to have traveled to Libya. The CIA declined to discuss Shihata’s whereabouts.
Shihata, or Shehata, is a big fish.  That he might be in Libya makes it more interesting considering the capture of Anas al-Liby, another legacy fish who would likely have some knowledge about Shehata.  Wonder if they were able to get any intel from al-Liby about Shehata before he lawyered up?  Thirwat could lead to Zawahiri and a possible true collapse of AQ "core".

Anyway, the fact Shehata's on the run may or may not be good news.  First the optimistic approach. Since it's assumed he didn't escape from Iran then the Ayatollahs deliberately released him.  Why?   Well, the WaPo reporter speculates aimlessly (as everyone does on this stuff) but he does notice the strange bedfellow situation between having Sunni AQ members in Iran while they support Hizballah and Assad forces fighting Sunni rebels and AQ elements in Syria.  One of his speculative guesses is they had no further use for him and just showed him the door.  But that sounds too simplistic.

Perhaps they made a secret deal with Obama, letting Shehata go or even killing him in return for the extra oil they've been exporting over and above the 1 million barrel per day restriction based on the recent diplomatic meetings.  But wouldn't people notice?  Under Bush they would, but under Obama the media won't be interested on a large-scale basis until the released terrorist is captured, which means a poll bounce for the president--something that could upend the plethora of gay stories from the front pages.

On the negative side maybe Iran is just as evil as the Jooooooos claim and are allowing his release so he can meet up with his buds to finalize preparations for another terrible attack, an exercise of leverage as the US continues to press for a diplomatic solution (after telegraphing we have no intentions of using our military).  Or maybe they made a deal with Zawahiri about something else, such as a prisoner swap.

It's worth noting that Usama Bin Laden's leading jihadi son, Saad bin Laden, was released by Iran in 2009 and reportedly killed by a US drone in Afghanistan some time later, the kill confirmed by AQ in 2012. Certainly a departure from the safe confines of Iran opens these AQ guys up to the global US surveillance dragnet and the dreaded hellfire surprise, which is a good thing.

But it's never a sure thing.  AQ bigwig Saif al-Adel, another Egyptian with a background with Zawahiri, has been rumored to have been in and out of Iran since 9/11.  By all accounts he's still alive.  Further west, Bashar Assad, Iran's man in Damascus, supposedly released Mustafa Setmariam Nasar back in 2011, shortly after the US began saying Assad's days were numbered.  He hasn't been found dead either.  So the news may not be all that good, especially if all those guys are still out there 'on the run', perhaps with access to chemical weapons or worse.   Wonder if that non-secret secret non-classified summary of the framework deal with Iran could shine some light on all of this?  

Oh, and one more thing.  Did you catch the comment about Snowden?
A top-secret 2008 U.S. document, which was leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, lists 13 senior al-Qaeda figures or associates in Iran. Five were listed as “senior management” in the terrorist group and of those, three have left Iran in recent years. Among them was Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, al-Qaeda’s ideological chief better known as Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, who returned to his native Mauritania in 2012.
If indeed he released top secret documents pertaining to national security matters aside from the NSA bulk data collection affecting average citizens then he's solidly a traitor and needs to be treated as such.

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