politics, history and the war on terror
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Terror, Inc.  

The reports from Time and Newsweek which indicated links exist between al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Iran were accurate. The 9-11 Commission's report debunks another of the myths about cooperation between different sects of Islamic terrorists:

It is unlikely Sunni (al Qaeda) and Shia (Hezbollah/Iran) terror organizations would cooperate as their hatred for each other and ideological difference are far too great.
The 9-11 Commission's report clearly lays out the case for cooperation between al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Iran:

Page 50-51
Bin Ladin seemed willing to include in the confederation terrorists from almost every corner of the Muslim world. His vision mirrored that of Sudan’s Islamist leader,Turabi, who convened a series of meetings under the label Popular Arab and Islamic Conference around the time of Bin Ladin’s arrival in that country. Delegations of violent Islamist extremists came from all the groups represented in Bin Ladin’s Islamic Army Shura.  Representatives also came from organizations such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support—even if only training—for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983. The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations. As will be described in chapter 7, al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued in ensuing years.

Page 240
Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al Qaeda As we mentioned in chapter 2, while in Sudan, senior managers in al Qaeda maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hezbollah, which is based mainly in southern Lebanon and Beirut. Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah. Intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security officials and senior al Qaeda figures after Bin Ladin’s return to Afghanistan. Khallad has said that Iran made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with al Qaeda after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, but was rebuffed because Bin Ladin did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia. Khallad and other detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan.For example, Iranian border inspectors would be told not to place telltale stamps in the passports of these travelers. Such arrangements were particularly beneficial to Saudi members of al Qaeda.

Our knowledge of the international travels of the al Qaeda operatives selected for the 9/11 operation remains fragmentary. But we now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi “muscle” operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.

In October 2000, a senior operative of Hezbollah visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate activities there. He also planned to assist individuals in Saudi Arabia in traveling to Iran during November. A top Hezbollah commander and Saudi Hezbollah contacts were involved.

Also in October 2000, two future muscle hijackers, Mohand al Shehri and Hamza al Ghamdi, flew from Iran to Kuwait. In November, Ahmed al Ghamdi apparently flew to Beirut, traveling—perhaps by coincidence—on the same flight as a senior Hezbollah operative. Also in November,Salem al Hazmi apparently flew from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.  In mid-November, we believe, three of the future muscle hijackers,Wail al Shehri,Waleed al Shehri, and Ahmed al Nami, all of whom had obtained their U.S. visas in late October, traveled in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and then onward to Iran. An associate of a senior Hezbollah operative was on the same flight that took the future hijackers to Iran. Hezbollah officials in Beirut and Iran were expecting the arrival of a group during the same time period. The travel of this group was important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hezbollah. Later in November, two future muscle hijackers,Satam al Suqami and Majed Moqed,flew into Iran from Bahrain. In February 2001, Khalid al Mihdhar may have taken a flight from Syria to Iran, and then traveled further within Iran to a point near the Afghan border. KSM and Binalshibh have confirmed that several of the 9/11 hijackers (at least eight, according to Binalshibh) transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan, taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports. They deny any other reason for the hijackers’ travel to Iran. They also deny any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah.

In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers. There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000. However,we cannot rule out the possibility of a remarkable coincidence—that is, that Hezbollah was actually focusing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this same time frame, rather than the future hijackers. We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation. After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda. A senior Hezbollah official disclaimed any Hezbollah involvement in 9/11. We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.
Further investigation indeed. This is a scathing indictment of Iran's involvement with international terror and proof that ideologically different terror orgainizations are more than willing to cooperate to defeat their common enemies. After the "remarkable coincidences" that were ignored prior to 9-11, we should not downplay Iran's important role in fomenting terrorism or their willingness to assist al Qaeda or other enemies of the United States.  Whether or not Iran had initmate knowledge of the 9-11 plot, its facilitation of the hijackers movements, offerring of support and sanctuary to al Qaeda both prior to and after 9-11, ongoing sponsorship of Hezbollah, and pursuit of WMD, specifically nuclear program, make it the most dangerous of terror nations. Barring an overt move against the United States or one of its allies, Iran will not be addressed until after the presidential election in November. The next president has a very difficult decision to make with respect to Iran, and it is highly unlikely the diplomatic and law enforcement options without the threat of intervention will carry much weight with the Mullahs of Iran.



Posted by bill roggio @ 12:05 AM

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