Days before Donald Trump ended presidency, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a shocking thus long-waited revelation stating: Imagine the vulnerability we’d have if Iran gave al-Qaeda access to its satellite networks. This is a terror organization, buried deeply inside a nation-state with advanced capabilities … Imagine that al-Qaeda starts carrying out attacks at Iran’s behest, even if the control is not perfect. Who is to say that this isn’t the next form of blackmail to pressure countries back into a nuclear deal?
With Iran’s track record of being one of the key patrons of global terrorism, a robust, fully cooperative relationship between Al Qaeda and Iran is undoubtedly a frightening matter. While Al Qaeda remains determined to kill Americans and destabilize a number of Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, this dangerous jihadist outfit has been silently expanding its foot print despite continued counterterrorism. According to experts, for Tehran, a group like Al Qaeda is of great use as it can strike the United States as well as those enemy nations of Iran in the Middle East.
While President Joe Biden and his entire team are moving ahead with the pre-planned blueprint of re-entering into nuclear deal with Iran, where Tehran will get the opportunity of extorting billions of dollars under the pretext of compensation, pro-left media in the US in particular has been vigorously pressing the propaganda stating, any relations between Iran and Al Qaeda is a “remote” possibility. They say, “Al-Qaeda’s concerns with Iranian duplicity and ideological embarrassment have often led it to distance itself from Tehran, just as Iran has at times endured harsh words and targeted attacks from the group”.
They are also saying “The reported assassination of Iran-based al-Qaeda operative Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, and his daughter Maryam in Tehran may temporarily render the relationship even more distant. Though Iran’s accommodation of al-Qaeda is provocative to the West and non-trivial for the group, it pales in comparison to the extensive support Tehran has offered its proxy groups in the region”.
Iran-Al Qaeda discreet connections
Even as it held al-Qaeda operatives and families in prison, in 2005, Iran began allowing al-Qaeda facilitator Yasin al-Suri to operate from its territory. Al-Qaeda senior leaders were aware of al-Suri’s activities, as a document from Abbottabad profiling several middle-level al-Qaeda operatives describes al-Suri’s role in greater detail. His “current work,” the document notes, revolves around “connecting Abdullah Khan’s routes with Iran and bringing in brothers from abroad.” Al-Suri seems to have curried favor with Iranian authorities, as a late 2009 letter by senior al-Qaeda leader Shaykh Saeed described him as having served as the group’s “envoy” in Iran. In another from early 2010, Shaykh Saeed notes that al-Suri is a “very acceptable figure for the Iranians.” Several missives from bin Laden’s compound describe the importance of al-Qaeda’s logistical hub in Iran.
Iranian passive support has not come without restrictions on al-Qaeda operatives’ behavior. In the wake of its arrest campaign in 2002-2003, Iran apparently relayed to al-Qaeda that it was the group’s own fault for violating Tehran’s conditions, according to a document from bin Laden’s compound. Writing in May 2010, a senior al-Qaeda operative described how the Iranians had passed the group a message declaring:
We do not mind that brothers (Arab and non-Arab) come and work in coordinating, collecting money, and other tasks through Iran. But, they should not come through official routes. Rather, they should come via smuggling, and they should not bring in brothers from abroad through official routes, especially airports, but instead through smuggling routes (from Turkey or other countries). [Also,] do not associate with any Iranian (meaning, do not employ Iranians in your work and do not interact with Iranians in your work).
A 2012 U.S. Treasury designation subsequently revealed restrictions on al-Qaeda’s behavior. In return for “freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families” on Iranian territory, the Islamic Republic demanded that al-Qaeda “refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities”.
Pompeo similarly emphasized that Iran allowed al-Qaeda to establish an “operational headquarters” so long as “al-Qa’ida operatives abide by the regime’s rules”.