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SWJ Blog 07-28-2011 09:31 PM

Iran & AQ: a safe haven or holding cell?
US Accuses Iran of Secret Al-Qaida Ties

Entry Excerpt:

US Accuses Iran of Secret Al-Qaida Ties - Voice of America

The United States accused Iran of having a “secret deal” with al-Qaida as Washington announced sanctions Thursday on six suspected al-Qaida operatives.

The Treasury Department did not offer many details. But it says the operatives are part of a network headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, described by U.S. officials as an al-Qaida facilitator based in Iran.

The Treasury statement says Khalil has been operating under an “agreement” between the Iranian government and the terror group.

The department says Iran is a “critical transit point” for funding to support al-Qaida's activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There was no immediate reaction from the Iranian government.

But Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen says a “secret deal” in which Iran allows al-Qaida to funnel resources through its territory has been exposed. He says the case illuminates what he called another aspect of Tehran's “unmatched support for terrorism.”

The sanctions on Khalil and the five other reputed operatives freeze any U.S. assets that they may have and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in financial transactions with them.

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davidbfpo 02-03-2012 10:45 PM

Iran & AQ: a safe haven or holding cell?
Another strange development, an AQ leader and / or strategist who has been reportedly in a Syrian jail has been reported as being released; similar to the AQ planner released awhile ago from detention in Iran.

I have read his biography awhile ago, so here's a slim background:

Two recent commentaries by ICSR, one nearly a week ago:

Note the possible link to a kidnapped American charity worker in Pakistan months ago:

The second today, reflecting "chatter" on Jihadist forums:

T'is a murky world diplomacy, hostage negotiation and "talking to the enemy".

davidbfpo 09-23-2012 08:55 PM

Still a mystery
Zenpundit has a short update:

Credible sources at the forums said al-Suri was released then, but no word on him since.

One wonders if Syria holds other AQ cadre and the inevitable question what will happen to them?

davidbfpo 12-26-2012 07:30 PM

Iran & AQ: a safe haven or holding cell?
As we approach 2013 the media turn to reflection and reminding us of the best articles published, amidst is an offering from Foreign Affairs is a substantial article I missed 'Al Qaeda in Iran: Why Tehran is Accommodating the Terrorist Group' by Seth Jones, in January 2012:

Seth opens with:

Virtually unnoticed, since late 2001, Iran has held some of al Qaeda's most senior leaders. Several of these operatives, such as Yasin al-Suri, an al Qaeda facilitator, have moved recruits and money from the Middle East to central al Qaeda in Pakistan. Others, such as Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian that served as head of al Qaeda's security committee, and Abu Muhammad al-Masri, one of the masterminds of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, have provided strategic and operational assistance to central al Qaeda. The Iranian government has held most of them under house arrest, limited their freedom of movement, and closely monitored their activities. Yet the organization's presence in Iran means that, contrary to optimistic assessments that have become the norm in Washington, al Qaeda's demise is not imminent.
I know scattered around SWC are comments on the sometimes puzzling relationship between Iran and AQ. Iran at times appearing to act as an internment camp for AQ cadres, with the occasional release to return to the fray in Afghanistan.

Three relevant threads are:'Iran & USA allies in Afghanistan:stranger than reality', posts mainly from 2007:, 'AQ-Central to relocate?': and the mysteries of AQ internment in Syria in 'Abu Musab al-Suri is free? AQ's No.4':

IIRC CWOT has touched upon this subject in his polling analysis.

Perhaps other matters have stopped official action on Iran's stance, notably movement towards a nuclear capability.

Added 2013:

davidbfpo 01-26-2013 03:04 PM

There has been no update on whether al-Suri remains in Syrian custody, but in a discussion with open source analysts there were two comments. First, from a Jihadist on-line "chat" watcher al-Suri remains in Syria, if he had been released there would have been "chatter".

Secondly given his long detention, since October 2005, what condition is he in? If he is ill (physical / mental) what would be gained by AQ announcing his release. Or IMHO a transfer to another state - Iran comes to mind.

davidbfpo 02-03-2013 12:09 AM

Bin Laden's son-in-law returned to Iran
An odd update:

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was arrested in Ankara by Turkish security forces after Washington allegedly informed Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) about his location, daily Milliyet reported today.

Suleyman M., son-in-law of former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, was allegedly staying at a camp in Iran after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. He entered Turkey using a fake Saudi Arabian passport.
He was released and returned to Iran!

Link: and a slightly confusing account after translation:

xf4wso 02-11-2013 07:16 PM

Bin Laden's Son-in-Law Arrested
This is a story that does not seem to have made it into the major English-language news services. According to a leading Turkish daily, Milliyet, Bin-Laden's son-in-law Sulayman Jasim abu Ghaith was arrested in Ankara around 3 February 2012 after entering Turkey on an illegal passport from Iran. The story claims that a CIA tip led to his arrest, but that Turkey did not intend to turn him over to the US. Since his only crime in Turkey was entering illegally, he would be deported back to Iran. I haven't seen any follow-up to this story, but the Arab news sites picked it up and seemed to confirm it.

This is the link to the original story:

This is the main Arabic source:

xf4wso 02-11-2013 08:27 PM

Bin Laden's Son-in-Law Arrested
This does not seem to have made it into most of the English-language press- a Turkish paper, Milliyet, reported on 3 February (the day after the suicide bombing at the US embassy) that Bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulayman Jasim abu Ghaith, was arrested in Ankara following a CIA tip. The Arabic press also carried the story, but I haven't seen anything else since the initial story (not unusual). Did anyone else see anything related to this?

If anyone is interested I can provide URL for the story in Milliyet and Ash-Sharq al-Awsat.

Stan 02-11-2013 08:54 PM

Well, he slightly made the State Department's press briefing :D

With a diplomatic fuss over his extradition, seems Foggy Bottom has gone silent and Abu Ghaith just can't compete with the likes of Pope Benedict or the Africa Cup of Nations at the BBC.

With that, Turkish news will have to do :rolleyes:

davidbfpo 03-02-2013 10:21 PM

What’s with the old al Qaeda guys leaving Iran?
Clint Watts blogsite looks at this issue:

He ends with:

So what does all this mean?

Well it seems my Iran wild card fears of summer 2012 may not be worthy of much attention. If Suleiman was in fact the last al Qaeda member held by the IRGC, then, at least on the surface, it would appear that Iran is not intending to use al Qaeda, a Sunni extremist group, as a strategic proxy against the West and Israel in the way that it backs other Sunni groups like Hamas.

I wonder if the release of Suleiman and other al Qaeda members has some connection to the emerging proxy battle brewing between the IRGC and al Qaeda linked al Nusra Front in Syria? I’m guessing there is no way to know but the recent movement of Suleiman is quite curious. Stays in Iran for more than a decade and suddenly decides to leave? What’s up?
Even more curious is that Suleiman is reportedly in Kuwait now!

davidbfpo 03-07-2013 07:57 PM

Iran to Turkey to Jordan to NYC
A Reuters report on Suleiman Abu Ghaith:

A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden who served as al Qaeda's spokesman was arrested in Jordan and then brought to New York in an operation led by Jordanian authorities and the FBI, U.S. government sources said on Thursday.
Curiously there was no official comment, so whether acting on a "leak" is unclear, nor whether he wanted a "scoop" it came from:

... Representative Peter King, a senior Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Link: (added later) and:

davidbfpo 03-08-2013 03:29 PM

Iran to Turkey to Jordan to NYC Part 2
From a FP email:

He was first arrested in Turkey last month and was then detained by American officials during a stopover in Jordan after Turkish authorities deported him to Kuwait.
I am sure FP is wrong on the US role in Jordan; detained by the Jordanians under the existing extradition agreement and once that process was completed onto a flight to NYC. Looks like some deft diplomacy and LE coordination.

Link via FP:


Intelligence officials have long debated how the group of operatives — several who are members of Al Qaeda’s “shura council” — has been treated inside Iran, and his trial could shed light on its members’ lives there. Some officials described them as being under a kind of house arrest, and point out that Iran — a country run by a Shiite Muslim theocracy — would be wary of any alliance with Al Qaeda, a Sunni terrorist network. Others believe that Iran might at least be using the group to keep open communication channels with senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.
NYT notes several trials are now due in NYC; well I'll wait till they do appear in court.

davidbfpo 03-12-2013 08:42 AM

Abu Ghaith and al-Qa’ida’s Dissident Faction in Iran
An impressive, detailed explanation on Jihadica, with links to interviews of those who had been in Iran and more:


sources suggest that these men constituted a dissident faction within al-Qa’ida, one which in recent years had become increasingly vocal in their criticism of Bin Ladin, Zawahiri, and the direction that the latter had taken al-Qa’ida since the September 11 attacks.
It appears on my first quick read that Iran might have been a far safer place to be - from AQ - than anywhere else.

davidbfpo 04-24-2013 09:02 PM

Montreal, Toronto and Tehran - a long train journey
An odd update by CWOT and a long way from Iran itself 'Strange “al Qaeda in Iran” supported plot disrupted in Canada':

A very thin report on the arrests:

davidbfpo 04-25-2013 01:51 PM

Iran's AQ ties: fluid, murky and deteriorating
An update from Reuters, with some interesting comments by ex-insiders, notably IISS's Nigel Inkster and a short reference to the Canadian case:

davidbfpo 05-09-2013 10:53 AM

Within a much broader paper on the future of AQ, by the Canadian CSIS, is this passage:

In addition, at least a dozen or more key Core Al-Qaeda personnel are still being sheltered in Iran, including Saif al-Adl. If allowed their freedom, they could easily strengthen the existing central

bourbon 05-29-2013 04:37 PM

Where in the world is Abu Musab al-Suri?
The Master Terrorist We Gave Away, by Christopher Dickey. The Daily Beast, May 28, 2013.

It has been a while since we heard directly from "the architect of global jihad," "the mufti of murder," the apostle of "individualized terror" known by his nom de guerre Abu Musab al-Suri. Indeed, most people outside jihadist circles have never heard of him at all.

But thanks to the shadowy practices of the Bush administration in its global war on terror, this Syrian-born former adviser to Osama bin Laden is now at large— and an inspiration to a whole new generation of killers, including, it would seem, those in Boston and London.

davidbfpo 09-25-2013 10:35 PM

Chatting to a London-based open source analyst this week a reference was made to al-Suri. The analyst was convinced he was still in official Syrian detention; no mention of him was being made on "likely suspect" websites or chat rooms and for the Jihadists he was a possible national, Syrian born leader - so why should he be released. In response I wondered in the absence of news, was al-Suri actually dead?

davidbfpo 11-15-2013 07:16 PM

The next Bin Laden: he might just be free
Within a wider article is a fascinating glimpse of how the USG regards al-Suri:

Al-Suri is out there somewhere. He was said to have been rendered to Syria by the CIA after his 2005 capture in Pakistan, but President Bashar al-Assad reportedly released him. Today his whereabouts remain a mystery. "We don't even know for sure that he was released," says the intelligence expert contracted to the Pentagon, who is privy to classified reports on al-Suri. "The Syrian government announced that they let him go, but there have been no sightings and little chatter about him." With the United States calling for Assad's overthrow—despite signing a pact with him banning chemical weapons—it stands to reason that the Syrian dictator would relish seeing the jihadists he is fighting turning their attention to American targets. Yet even the senior diplomatic, intelligence, and defense officials who run the U.S. government's "Rewards for Justice" program, which offers money for tips leading to top terrorists, are unsure whether al-Suri is at large: A State Department official told National Journal this week that defense and intelligence agencies are still discussing whether to put him back on the wanted list.

davidbfpo 01-27-2014 04:18 PM

Sheikh Abu Musab al-Suri, may Allah release him
Hat tip to War on the Rocks for a sign to read The Long War Journal, even if there is this caveat:

A message purportedly written by Ayman al Zawahiri's top representative in Syria, Abu Khalid al Suri, was posted on jihadist websites yesterday. The message has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, which notes that it "could not be authenticated." Therefore, we do not know if this message is really from al Suri.
The message (clipped) starts with:

Sheikh Abu Musab al-Suri, may Allah release him...
Then TLW's commentary:

First, the writer mentions Abu Musab al Suri (Mustafa Setmariam Nasar), who is a major al Qaeda ideologue and Abu Khalid al Suri's longtime companion. The phrasing "may Allah release him" means that the author believes Abu Musab al Suri is still imprisoned. According to other sources, Abu Khalid does believe that his compatriot is in custody. This is interesting because there have been credible reports that Abu Musab was let out of prison in the wake of the Syrian uprising. We've cited those reports at The Long War Journal but careful readers will note that we added a caveat (see the note at the bottom here, for example), because we can't be sure one way or the other.

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