Iran and Al-Qaeda partners in terror

Huda Al Husseini

Recently, Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone attack upon his return from a secret visit to Iran. That was reportedly not his first visit to Iran.
EU Special Representative in Afghanistan Franz Michael Mellbin revealed that Iran is working with Taliban on creating a buffer zone on the Iran-Afghanistan borders to keep Daesh from that area. According to Mellbin, Iran wants to secure its borders. The zone is expected to be between Helmand province in the south and Kunduz in the north.
On the latest developments, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said that his country wanted Iran to work constructively with Kabul and the international community to promote Afghanistan’s sovereignty and unity. Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said that Iran refused to hand over Washington Al-Qaeda’s fugitives who sought refuge in Iran.
Since the beginning of this year, Al-Bina’a Daesh bulletin published a series of testimonies of “The Lebanese Abu Obeida” who disassociated himself from Al-Qaeda to join Daesh. “Abu Obeida” was an important security official in Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He later joined Daesh and revealed many of Al-Qaeda’s inside stories. He also revealed the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iran.
In Al-Bina’a’s issue number 19, he is quoted as narrating his journey to Syria via Iran. He said that it was an easy task as coordinators from Al-Qaeda overlooked the arrangements of members entering Iran. He explained that travelers stay in “Guest Houses” until their travel arrangements to Syria are done, adding that Iranian government and security forces are aware of this. Abu Obeida stressed that it was easy and that as soon as a traveler entered the “Guest House”, intelligence knew of his arrival.
He explained that supervisors of these homes meet with Iranian Intelligence every week and that all the houses and their phones are monitored. Abu Obeida said that his stay was long in the Guest House until Al-Qaeda coordinators made sure he wouldn’t travel to the land of Daesh, “but that’s exactly what I did.”
Al-Qaeda in Iran is mentioned on the US list of terrorist groups, which only means that the statement of Abu Obeida has been verified by an independent source (the US government). Since July 2010, the United States Treasury has been targeting Al-Qaeda network in Iran through a series of sanctions imposed on its main leaders. On July 28, 2010, US Treasury named six members of the network including its extremist supervisor “The Syrian Yasin”. The US named “The Syrian” as one of the prominent leaders in Al-Qaeda who lives in Tehran for the facilities provided to the organization.
The strange thing about the Iran-Al-Qaeda deal is that they are on opposing sides in Syria. Yet, according to the US government, Al-Qaeda leaders are using Iran to send money and fighters to Syria. Those members would then instantly join Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. Al-Nusra is fighting to topple the Syrian regime and Al-Qaeda is fighting Iranian Forces and appointed members (like Hezbollah) in Syria. This raises an important question: Why would Iran allow Al-Qaeda to continue its work through its network even though both are at war?
In one of his testimonies, Abu Obeida said, “It might be strange to say that Iran allowed fighters to pass to Syria even though they are fighting its army and militias. But this is the truth. Iran’s biggest fear is for these operations to happen on Iranian ground.” He then added, “Iran guaranteed the loyalty of Al-Qaeda by hosting most of its leaders like Ateyyah Abdul Rahman who was allowed to travel freely. He was Osama Bin Laden’s Chief of Staff who was killed in a drone in August 2011.”
US Treasury mentioned weeks ago that Abdul Rahman was killed and was Al-Qaeda’s envoy in Iran, which allowed him to travel to Iran with permission from officials. Abu Obeida said that other members like “Seif Al-Adel” and “Abu Mohammed Al-Masri” are in Iran. In 2015, Iran swapped those two with an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. He said that some Al-Qaeda officials consider Iran an ally in their war against the United States, as Iran uses them to double the pressure on the US and its allies in the Gulf region.
In his testimonies, Abu Obeida speaks of Al-Qaeda’s rejection for Daesh’s approach and the role of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, whether in Iran or Syria and the deep disagreements between branches of Al-Qaeda and branches of Daesh. It is important to interpret the role of Iran in the relationship with Al-Qaeda and sending fighters to Syria. There may be many goals, but the clearest one is to extend the duration of war in Syria and destroy the Syrian opposition.
— Courtesy: Arab News

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