During Iran Talks, we Knew Iran was Harboring al Qaeda

It is stunning, that not only has John Kerry declared that upon the completed talks and agreement(s) with Iran, Iran would normalized and be a peaceful accepted actor on the global stage, but it is easy to conclude that during the hostilities with Islamic State in Iraq, the West has essentially given Iraq over to Iran. The Baghdad government is owned by Tehran. Mentioning the billions of dollars, much of it U.S. taxpayer dollars to Iran is almost anti-climatic at this point, when the notion of Iran operating globally with terror is a rightful prediction in the coming months and years. The United States has financially aided Iraq with billions of dollars and with more than 100,000 Iranian Shiite fighters in Iraq, how do we keep our money meant for Iraq out of the hands of Iran? We don’t.

Related reading: Al Qaeda in Iran

There is much talk that Saudi Arabia was behind the attacks of 9/11, while there are key Saudi operators that do deserve a guilty outcome, Iran has an much if not more history and responsibility when it comes to al Qaeda.

Could this another reasons be the basis for the decision not to publically release all the bin Ladin documents found at his compound in Abbottabad?

U.S. blacklists three al Qaeda members living in Iran

Reuters: The United States on Wednesday blacklisted three members of al Qaeda living in Iran, saying they had helped the Islamist militant group on the battlefield, with finance and logistics, and in mediating with Iranian authorities.

Iran has held several al Qaeda high-ranking members and lower-level militants since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, though U.S. officials say the precise conditions of their confinement are unclear.

Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, a 31-year-old Saudi national, led an al Qaeda brigade and was serving as the group’s military commission chief in May 2015, Treasury said, describing him as “part of a new generation” of al Qaeda operatives. As of 2011, Khalidi liaised between al Qaeda associates, central council members, and leaders within the Pakistani Taliban.

Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, 48 and an Egyptian national, mediated with Iranian authorities as of early 2015, Treasury said, and helped al Qaeda members living in Iran.

Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn, 35, had control of the group’s financing and organization inside Iran as of 2015, Treasury said. Ghumayn, an Algerian, was previously based in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda and Iran’s government have a complex and sometimes tense relationship, according to documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan and made public. At times Iranian authorities promised to release and may have actually released al Qaeda figures, but one of bin Laden’s sons who had been held in Iran, Saad, reportedly was killed in 2009.

Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim rulers deny cooperating with al Qaeda, a Sunni group. Iranian officials call al Qaeda a terrorist group, and Iranian security forces periodically report the arrest of al Qaeda members.

An analysis by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point published in 2012 concluded that while it was obvious the al Qaeda-Iran relationship was antagonistic, the rationale behind Iran’s detention of al Qaeda militants for years “without due process” was unclear.

Treasury’s statement did not make clear what conditions the men were living under in Iran. Bayumi has been in Iran since 2014, Treasury said, but it did not say how long the other two men had lived there. Bayumi had been able to secure funds from Syria for al Qaeda members and facilitate al Qaeda funds transfers in 2015, Treasury said, suggesting he had some freedom to operate since moving to Iran.

Wednesday’s measure freezes any property of the three men in the United States, and bars U.S. citizens from dealing with them.

Iran Released Top Members of Al Qaeda in a Trade

NYT: The government of Iran released five senior members of Al Qaeda earlier this year, including the man who stepped in to serve as the terrorist group’s interim leader immediately after Osama bin Laden’s death, and who is the subject of a $5 million bounty, according to an American official who had been briefed on the matter.

Iran’s release of the five men was part of a prisoner swap in March with Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the group holding an Iranian diplomat, Nour Ahmad Nikbakht. Mr. Nikbakht was kidnapped in the Yemeni capital of Sana in July 2013.

The Iranian government, in a statement on Thursday after the release was reported by Sky News earlier this week, denied that the five men had been freed. The American official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the matter, confirmed the release of Saif al-Adl, a senior member of Al Qaeda’s ruling body, known as the Shura Council, who oversaw the organization immediately after bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011.

Analysts tracking Al Qaeda described the release as alarming, given the seniority of the five men. It comes at a time when much of the organization’s leadership has been lost in back-to-back airstrikes, including the death earlier this summer of Nasser al-Wuhayshi, considered to be the organization’s general manager. At the same time, the organization had been hemorrhaging members to the more brutal and media-savvy Islamic State.

Of special concern is the release of Mr. Adl, a former colonel in the Egyptian military believed to be in his 50s, who is listed on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, and who was indicted in the 1998 United States Embassy bombings in East Africa. Qaeda operatives have described him as the organization’s operational boss.

A passport photo of Saif al-Adl. Credit via Kronos Advisory LLC

Cynthia Storer, who was the Central Intelligence Agency’s first full-time analyst dedicated to tracking Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, called him a “founding father.” She added, “If the organization is having internal issues, he is someone that could bring it together.”

A Qaeda analyst, Michael S. Smith II of Kronos Advisory, who has tracked Mr. Adl’s rise, describes him as “the biggest fish of the big fish” and argued that Al Qaeda’s future would rest on the shoulders of Saif al-Adl.

It remains unclear when exactly the swap occurred, with some saying it happened almost six months ago. The release of Mr. Adl will act like “a shot of energy” in the leadership arm of Al Qaeda, said Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who retired last year after heading the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“The collusion between Al Qaeda and Iran is something we have seen before and this trade, if known by the U.S., should have been included as part of the Iran deal negotiations,” General Flynn said.

According to the official briefed on the details of the transfer, the other four men released by Iran were Abdul Khayr al-Misri, an Egyptian who formerly headed Al Qaeda’s foreign relations council; Abul Qassam, a Jordanian who was a deputy to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of the organization that later became the Islamic State; Sari Shibab, a Jordanian operative; and Abu Mohamed al-Misri, an Egyptian who helped orchestrate Al Qaeda’s major attacks before Sept. 11, 2001.

After those attacks, Mr. Smith, said, Al Qaeda decided to move several high-level leaders to Iran, believing that this would be one of the only places beyond America’s military reach.

Mr. Adl, for example, was dispatched alongside one of bin Laden’s wives and her children, and entrusted to organize their safe passage, he said.

It remains unclear when the men were detained by Iranian officials. They were held under house arrest, Mr. Smith said, and continued to communicate with Al Qaeda, according to intercepts and letters that were later recovered.

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Denise Simon