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Al-Qaida and Iran: what it means


According to Time Magazine and other publications, the 9/11 Commission has uncovered startling new facts about Iran's ties with al-Qaida, facts that put Tehran uncomfortably close to the 9/11 plot.

Is it possible that the CIA, in its eagerness to please a President unshakeably fixated on a mythical alliance between al-Qaida and Iraq, overlooked a matter of the highest consequence? Did the U.S., in effect, go to war with the wrong country?

The Time report reads, in part,

A senior U.S. official told TIME that the Commission has uncovered evidence suggesting that between eight and ten of the 14 "muscle" hijackers--that is, those involved in gaining control of the four 9/11 aircraft and subduing the crew and passengers--passed through Iran in the period from October 2000 to February 2001. Sources also tell TIME that Commission investigators found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border. This practice dated back to October 2000, with Iranian officials issuing specific instructions to their border guards--in some cases not to put stamps in the passports of al-Qaeda personnel--and otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier. The report does not, however, offer evidence that Iran was aware of the plans for the 9/11 attacks.
Only some of this is new. We were warned. Richard Clarke told us, earlier this year. From pages 283-84 of Against All Enemies:
When the Bush administration talked about Iraq as a nation that supported terrorism, including al Qaeda, and was developing weapons of mass destruction, those comments perfectly suited Iran, not Iraq. It was Tehran that had funded and directed Hezbollah since its inception. ... While the "ties" and "links" between Saddam and al Qaeda were minimal, al Qaeda regularly used Iranian territory for transit and sanctuary prior to September 11. Al Qaeda's Egyptian brance, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, operated openly in Tehran. It is no coincidence that many of the al Qaeda management team, or Shura Council, moved across the border into Iran after U.S. forces finally invaded Afghanistan.
But the President of the United States simply wasn't interested in this line of inquiry. From page 32:
Later, on the evening of the 12th [of September 2001], I left the [White House] Video Conferencing Center and there, wandering alone around the Situation Room, was the President. He looked like he wanted something to do. He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. "Look," he told us, "I know you have a lot to do and all... but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way..."

I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. "But, Mr. President, al Qaeda did this."

"I know, I know, but... see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I wanted to know any shred..."

"Absolutely, we will look... again." I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive. "But, you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of al Qaeda and not found anything real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen."

"Look into Iraq, Saddam," the President said testily and left us. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty stared after him with her mouth hanging open.

In the days and weeks to come, we will undoubtedly learn what bits of intelligence were collected when, and not only what we knew, but what we should have known on the basis of information available at a given time. It will take longer to learn the price of one man's private obsession.


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by Analyst @ 09:44 AM CST [Link]


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Replies: 6 comments

Do you bet the others went in and out of Afghanistan through Pakistan?

So what?

They din't have much other choice with the Alliance in the North.

Iran and Pakistan had no reason to impede movements from friends of the government of their neighbouring country.


Posted by Paul @ 07/21/2004 12:00 AM CST

If Iran is the more likely target, isn't it interesting that there are now US Forces on three sides of it?

Posted by Midwest Charlie @ 07/21/2004 06:52 PM CST

Paul is mistaken. Iran supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, who massacred Afghanistan's Shi'ites, who in turn took refuge in Iran. At one point, the Taliban killed a group of Iranian diplomats, sparking a crisis between Iran and Pakistan.

The Iranians helped an anti-American and anti-Saudi terrorist organization move clandestinely through their country, before and after 9/11. We are talking about sneaking them through in hopes of evading notice.

For what it's worth, I'm no fan of Pakistan, either.

Posted by Analyst @ 07/22/2004 05:10 AM CST

They didn't have enough invading Irak. Now Bush fellows are trying to find an argument to invade Iran?

Posted by Rafael @ 07/22/2004 07:15 AM CST

Why should the White house and it's allies always find a way of hitting Islamic states and take away it's wealth and as well as spreading their deseases there? can't they see?

Posted by ziki @ 08/05/2004 11:06 AM CST

Al Qaeda is mostly privately sponsored, but of course there were some pre-9/11 ties. I.e., Al Qaeda --> Taliban --> Pakistan. Al Qaeda --> Saudi intelligence. Bin Laden --> United Arab Emirates. Before that, bin Laden --> Sudan. Egyptian Islamic Jihad of course is from Egypt and later merged with al Qaeda, though the Egyptian government was no great fan. One of the hijackers was Lebanese. Osama's ancestors are from Yemen. Etc. etc. If you want to find ties, you can find them. Most of them aren't jaw-dropping. And most of them definitely aren't in Iraq.

Posted by drt @ 08/09/2004 12:09 PM CST

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