Join Date: Nov 2013
Kyle W. Orton @KyleWOrton
Wrote about this a year ago:
Iran’s Partnership with al-Qaeda and Unanswered Questions
.@JoeLieberman rakes it all up, inc formal Iran-AQ deal in 1992, Embassy bombings
The Islamic Republic of Iran released five senior al-Qaeda terrorists in March, ostensibly as part of a prisoner exchange for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the murky circumstances in which al-Qaeda’s leaders were “held” in Iran and other inconsistencies cast some doubt on this version of events, and draw attention to some old questions about Iran’s support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots.
According to a September 14 report by Sky News, the five al-Qaeda leaders were freed—and will soon be allowed to leave Iran—in exchange for Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, an Iranian diplomat kidnapped by AQAP in July 2013 who landed in Tehran on March 5. Even on this version of events it means that the Iranian State media reports at the time, that Nikbakht was freed as the result of “intelligence operation,” were false.
Who Has Been Released?
The most important al-Qaeda leader freed by Iran is Sayf al-Adel. Regarded as al-Qaeda’s number three, al-Adel is one of al-Qaeda’s most capable military leaders. Beginning his career in the Egyptian military, before moving into Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), then led by Ayman az-Zawahiri, al-Adel was one of the masterminds behind the conspiracy that assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. By 1988, al-Adel was in Afghanistan and remained after the Soviets left.
Iran has long had friendly relations with Egypt’s Sunni Islamists and the alliance with EIJ was further strengthened via Hassan al-Turabi in the early 1990s, after which Zawahiri was the poster-boy for Iran’s policy of ecumenical support for anti-American Islamic radicalism. Al-Adel was among those trained by Iran through the Hizballah in Lebanon in the early 1990s, going on to serve on al-Qaeda’s Shura Council and as al-Qaeda’s security chief. Al-Adel is believed to have been involved in the 1998 Embassy bombings and the butchery of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, though, interestingly, al-Adel seems to have opposed to the 9/11 massacre.
Al-Adel was key in convincing Osama bin Laden to maintain relations with Abu Musab az-Zarqawi, despite Zarqawi and Bin Laden having a stormy initial meeting and retaining deep difference over the “far enemy” question. Zarqawi had extensive contacts in the Levant, al-Adel argued, and this “rolodex pragmatism” would carry the day—and quickly: al-Qaeda put Zarqawi’s contacts to use for the Jordanian end of the Millennium Plot in December 1999.
EIJ had operated quite freely in Iran in the 1990s and after the NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 al-Qaeda members and associates, al-Adel and Zarqawi among them, took shelter in Tehran and Mashhad, where Zarqawi was even reportedly trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC).
Zarqawi moved from Iran to an area of Iraq controlled by Ansar al-Islam, which was led by Zarqawi loyalists and received assistance from both al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in April 2002. The next month, Zarqawi moved to Baghdad with two-dozen senior al-Qaeda associates, including his successor Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Hammam as-Suri, the head of the military for Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), at least until he was supposedly killed in March. Zarqawi was allowed free movement in and out of Baghdad, and he conducted a tour of the Levant to set up the “ratlines” that brought foreign holy warriors into Iraq during the American regency. By November 2002, Zarqawi had taken direct charge of Ansar in northern Iraq.
Zarqawi and three-hundred jihadists were allowed to move back into Iran during the Iraq invasion, before being permitted to cross the border again later in 2003 to make war against constitutional government in Iraq. Once back in Iraq, Ansar would reassert its autonomy from Zarqawi, albeit remaining in coordination with him, and Zarqawi and his associates from the Herat camp in Afghanistan rebranded their group from Jund a-Sham to at-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which later became al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and eventually the Islamic State (ISIS). An al-Qaeda network maintained on Iranian soil, of which al-Adel was a senior member, was an important logistics and supply base for AQI.
From Iran, in collusion with Zarqawi, al-Adel organized the bombing of Riyadh in May 2003, after which the Iranian theocracy ostensibly placed al-Adel under some form of arrest, the terms of which were never made clear. Al-Adel was reported to have been released in a previous prisoner swap in 2010. After Bin Laden was struck down, it is said that al-Adel was the interim leader of al-Qaeda—which couldn’t have happened if al-Adel was truly detained. Several reports in the summer of 2011 said Tehran had allowed al-Adel to travel between Iran and Pakistan.
The other four al-Qaeda leaders set free by Iran are:
1.Abu Khayr al-Masri: An Egyptian member of al-Qaeda’s Shura Council, Abu Khayr was as a member of the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard unit, connected directly to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Abu Khayr was al-Qaeda’s chief of foreign relations and the principal conduit to the Taliban. Abu Khayr is one of the most-wanted men in his native Saudi Arabia. Reported to have travelled from Iran to Pakistan in 2010 with Saad bin Laden, Osama’s son, it is not clear how or why Abu Khayr ended up back in Iran and what exactly were the arrangements of his captivity.
2.Abu Muhammad al-Masri: One of the most important operational planners in al-Qaeda, Abu Muhammad is another Egyptian member of the Shura Council, and a close associate of al-Adel’s. Abu Muhammad is under U.S. indictment for the African Embassy bombings.
3.Khaled al-Aruri (a.k.a. Abu al-Qassam): A Jordanian national of Palestinian descent, al-Aruri was with Zarqawi in his formative period: they travelled together to Afghanistan in the late 1980s, were imprisoned together in Jordan in 1994 with Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and went back to Taliban Afghanistan together in 1999. Al-Aruri then moved with Zarqawi to Iran to Iraq back to Iran and then into Iraq again. Al-Aruri remained a deputy commander of AQI and one of Zarqawi’s closest companions until Zarqawi was killed in 2006.
4.Sari Shibab: A Jordanian al-Qaeda member of whom little is publicly known.
A History of Duplicity
Perhaps Iran really has been strong-armed into releasing these men—when al-Adel was last reported released in 2010, it is said that al-Qaeda had kidnapped an IRGC officer disguised as a diplomat in Pakistan to hasten a release process that was already in motion. But without clarity on whether al-Adel was released in 2010—or if he was, whether, when, how, and why he was rearrested—this raises more questions than it answers. And whatever the case might be, none of the confusion conceals the fact that Iran’s holding senior al-Qaeda leaders under “house arrest” is a sham.
"Remember Iran’s Role in 9/11"
Forgetful officials should not be rewarding Tehran for its deadly actions with gifts like sanctions relief.
Joseph I. Lieberman
Sept. 7, 2016 7:21 p.m. ET
‘Never forget” is the commitment the American people made after Sept. 11, 2001. Yet sometimes our leaders seem to have forgotten Iran’s role in that worst terror attack on American soil, and Iran’s continuing assistance to terror organizations and operations around the world.
Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-08-2016 at 04:59 PM.
Reason: Moved here from the Syria thread.