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No, Virginia, Iran isn’t in Bed with Al-Qaeda
The al-Qaeda documents released by West Point’s Center for Combatting Terrorism (which needs to be better funded by Congress) show that the whole warmonger meme that Iran and al-Qaeda are in bed is a complete crock. Ali Gharib at Think Progress shows that the flurry of Weekly Standard articles alleging al-Qaeda-Iran links in recent months is fairly firmly refuted by the actual documentary record.
Mark Hosenball at Reuters has more on the tense relationship of the mostly Wahhabi al-Qaeda with Shiite Iran.
The West Point Center writes,
References to Iran show that the relationship is not one of alliance, but of indirectand unpleasant negotiations over the release of detained jihadis and theirfamilies, including members of Bin Ladin’s family. The detention of prominental-Qa`ida members seems to have sparked a campaign of threats, taking hostagesand indirect negotiations between al-Qa`ida and Iran that have been drawn out for years and may still be ongoing.
In the first Arabic letter in the batch, Bin Laden notes that some al-Qaeda members were thinking of going to Iran, apparently in hopes of negotiating the release of their colleagues held by that country. Bin Laden slaps the idea down: “I don’t see Iran as appropriate.” He goes on to warn that if they are going to live in Pakistan instead, they should try to avoid areas prone to flooding. So the mighty flooding of the Indus is just about on the same level of undesirability as being in Iran.
The documents show that Bin Laden did not like or trust Iran, that al-Qaeda members who fled to Iran were surprised when they were rounded up and arrested by Iranian authorities, that they were dismayed when Iran started sending them back to their home countries, and that they felt that Iran often lied to them. They called Shiites “rawafid,” a nasty epithet used by Sunnis who don’t like Shiites very much.
They also show that sometimes al-Qaeda could get Iran to release its members, but hardly because they both hate the US and Israel. It was by mafia-like tactics such as kidnapping and threatening Iranian diplomatic personnel abroad (e.g. the consul at Peshawar) that al-Qaeda got a tiny bit of leverage over Tehran.
It isn’t just recently that a completely implausible cooperation between al-Qaeda and Iran was alleged. Among the first books about al-Qaeda was that of Yosef Bodansky, an Israeli security studies specialist who served as Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives from 1988 to 2004. His 1999 book on Usama Bin Laden manages to blame al-Qaeda at some points on both Iran and Iraq (neither is actually implicated). It seems to me fairly obvious that Bodansky is an Israel-firster propagandist and that AIPAC circles managed to plant him in an extremely influential position in Congress from which he could spin his fantasies. He clearly worked for US wars on both Iraq and Iran by attempting to hang Bin Laden around their necks.
Clifford May, former journalist and then policy figure promoting Neoconservatism, right wing Israeli interests, and American wars in the Middle East, also has made unfounded and inaccurate charges of an alleged Iran-al-Qaeda connection. Condi Rice took his advice, which is not the worst thing we know about her, but it is one of the worst.
Someone in the US intelligence agencies has been leaking to the press allegations about operational cooperation between Iran and al-Qaeda, an idea the documents show is completely implausible, this winter. The Telegraphwas punked in this way recently.
If unreliable intelligence personnel with an axe to grind can leak enough to the newspapers, and if the latter prove gullible, then a public record can be created for a false idea, which in turn can be quoted by Congressmen and -women and cabinet officials, and ultimately can become the basis for military action. That the US intelligence and security apparatuses have been infiltrated in recent decades by persons with such axes to grind, whether on behalf of the military industrial complex or on behalf of supposed foreign allies, seems an inescapable conclusion if we consider the record over the past decade or a little more of how disinformation has been successfully made the basis of US policy and war-making.
In a country where most congressional representatives were actually representing the public weal and had not been bought by the arms manufacturers or the domestic lobbies interested in war, the Center for Combatting Terrorism at West Point would be warmly supported and not have to limp along from year to year wondering if it would be funded.