Saturday, May 15, 2010

The U.S. Government Knows Iran Helps al-Qaida But Does Nothing About It

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By Barry Rubin

Here’s a story that should mark the pivotal moment in U.S. foreign policy. It should be on the lips of every White House and State Department official. It should fundamentally transform the nature of Obama Administration foreign policy.

It’s that important. But it isn’t that new. The basic information here was supplied almost two months ago and covered by me HERE. Yet in all that time, since General Petraeus publicly revealed this fact, there has not been one word or action that indicates the Obama Administration is responding. Indeed, a new article reveals that President Obama has known about this increased cooperation since shortly after he took office.

So what is this big development? Hard data showing that Iran has been helping al-Qaida. You remember al-Qaida, the group that staged the September 11 and many other attacks against Americans which have killed more than 3,000 of them. It is the only group in the world with which the current U.S. government sees itself at war.

Now in a detailed report, drawing on interviews with U.S. officials, Associated Press documents this relationship. Tehran is responding, in part, to U.S. pressure over the nuclear weapons’ program. The message from Iran is: If you annoy us we can hurt you bad.

[Another rare mention was a statement made on almost the Bush Administration's last day in a U.S. Treasury document warning Iran of some kind of financial action, though nothing ever happened.]

Al-Qaida fundraisers and the planners of terrorist attacks have been using Iran as a safe haven. Of course, Iranian officials monitor them closely and know precisely what they are doing. What do you think they are working on? Obviously, planning attacks to kill Americans.

According to AP:

"The roster of al-Qaida figures in Iran is something of a who's who for the terror group. One is Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, a[n Usama] bin Ladin adviser who helped form the modern al-Qaida by merging bin Ladin's operation with Ayman al-Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad. Al-Qaida's longtime chief financial officer, Abu Saeed al-Masri, has been held there. So have bin Ladin’s spokesman, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, and Mustafa Hamid, an al-Qaida trainer with a terrorism pedigree that spans decades.”

Some of these people may nominally be under house arrest at times but they are allowed to function. Iran isn’t exactly offering to turn them over to the United States for punishment. Incidentally, the AP story reveals so much about U.S. intelligence efforts to monitor them that it is hard to believe that this effort isn’t compromised as a result.

Now a proper government would be building up this story, along with Iranian covert operations to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, to mobilize support among the American people and internationally for a tough policy toward Tehran. There would be recognition of the fact that Iran views itself as being at war with America. This doesn’t require going to war with Iran but engaging it in this struggle on every level.

This is not, however, the path chosen by the Obama Administration which, at worst, still hopes to talk Iran into moderation and, at best, favors weak sanctions now and tough declarations later to tell Iran to behave properly.

But what happens when al-Qaida planners, with Iran’s knowledge and help (at least, beneficial non-interference) stage major successful or failed terrorist operations against U.S. territory and citizens? Remember, such an outcome would be a completely forseeable policy failure, not an unavoidable surprise.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood: The Organization and Policies of a Global Islamist Movement. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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