Despite appearing in the 9/11 Commission report, Democrats and their foreign policy allies have denied Iran’s ties to Al Qaeda The 9/11 Commission report noted that “senior managers in al Qaeda maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hezbollah” and that “Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah.” The report went on to describe how Al Qaeda was able to move its people through Iran.
After Iran’s terror boss Qasem Soleimani was taken out, Vice President Mike Pence laid out the case by tweeting that he had “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan” of some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks. This would be in line with the 9/11 commission report, as well as admissions by Al Qaeda terrorists, describing the travel of hijackers involved in all four 9/11 attacks passing through Iran.
As was the case each time that the connection between Iran and Al Qaeda came up, media fact checkers and experts swarmed to ridicule the idea. This despite the fact that top Al Qaeda figures, including the man who has now been named as its new leader, were in a safe house operated by Soleimani’s Qods Force, and that Soleimani had personally approved the Al Qaeda base and that even the “welfare of Osama’s family was the personal responsibility” of Soleimani.
Denial has become much harder now that a UN report officially named Al Qaeda’s leader, after the death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, as being Saif Al-Adel who has been in Iran since 2003.
According to reports at the time, Al-Adel had “fled to Iran last year to avoid U.S. forces searching for him in neighboring Afghanistan, but continued to operate” while also supposedly being under “house arrest”. He has now been under house arrest for twenty years and in those two decades, he’s gone from Al Qaeda’s no. 3 to no. 2 and now all the way to no. 1.
When Al-Adel headed to Iran, he was wanted for the deaths of Americans in the ‘Black Hawk Down’ attacks in Somalia and the bombings of our embassies in Africa. Even while supposedly in Iranian custody, he ordered the 2003 bombings in Saudi Arabia that killed 9 Americans.
Saif Al-Adel had been trained by the Soviets when he was in the Egyptian military before he fought against them, and it’s more likely that he was running Al Qaeda than Osama bin Laden or Zawahiri. Certainly after Bin Laden’s death, Al-Adel became Al Qaeda’s ‘shadow’ emir. With the fall of Afghanistan and growing pressure on Pakistan, Al Qaeda moved its core operations to Iran, where they would be completely out of our reach and where they could coordinate with the regime on waging a Sunni-Shiite terror campaign against American forces in Iraq.
Or at least that was the plan.
The UN report, collecting the information of member states, concedes that “Sayf al-‘Adl is now the de facto leader of Al-Qaida” but that “his leadership cannot be declared because of Al-Qaida’s sensitivity to Afghan Taliban concerns” and “the fact of Sayf al-‘Adl’s presence in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. But after ignoring the fact that a top Al Qaeda leader wanted for the deaths of numerous Americans was in Iran for this long, our leaders will go on ignoring it.
The State Department, like Al Qaeda and Iran, are all trying to avoid the elephant in the room.
And that’s because Al Qaeda isn’t what we think it is and it never really was. Making Osama bin Laden into the public face of Al Qaeda, complete with videos of him posing with a Kalashnikov in a cave, and connecting Al Qaeda to the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, manufactured a myth that was useful in recruiting Muslim terrorists and misleading Americans.
With Bin Laden long dead and Al Qaeda much less relevant, few even know that this was propaganda. When we found Osama, he wasn’t hiding in a cave but living in luxury in a Pakistani military town. He had a limited role in the actual leadership and had been laboring to persuade the group that would become ISIS, which back then was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, to leave Iran’s Shiite allies alone. Instead, ISIS would go on to wage a Sunni-Shiite civil war.
Al Qaeda became a rebranding of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a Muslim Brotherhood splinter group, led by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama’s successor, and in which Saif Al-Adel, Zawahiri’s successor, played a key role. Behind the mythos of fighters in Afghanistan posing with weaponry in the scrub were a bunch of Egyptians from the Muslim Brotherhood like Zawahiri and Al-Adel.
Al Qaeda was really just the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in drag. And EIJ had been backed by Iran as payback against Egypt’s Sadat, whom it suspected of plotting to bring it down and restore the Shah’s regime, and later to undermine the Soviet presence next door in Afghanistan.
That is still not too dissimilar from Al Qaeda’s current role as an Iranian puppet.
The Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda were at the center of Iran’s plans for a grand Sunni-Shiite alliance that would topple Egypt and Saudi Arabia and drive out America.
Saif Al-Adel’s sojourn for decades in Iran testifies to the ambitious scheme and the real reason for Al Qaeda’s downfall.
When Al Qaeda provided seed money for what would become ISIS, an Iraqi Jihadist movement that brought together Saddam’s old guard with a Jihadist pipeline running through Syria, the Sunni-Shiite alliance appeared underway. The Iraq War became what we know it as: a failed effort that cost a lot of American lives. But the alliance between Iran and Al-Qaeda did not prove to be a model for bringing Iraqis together to fight the United States. Instead it divided Al Qaeda.
Iraqi Shiites wanted payback against the Sunni minority that had ruled them. And Iraqi Sunnis, including those funded by Al Qaeda, found that the quickest way to become popular and recruit fighters was by targeting Iraqi Shiites. Both hated each other even more than they hated us.
Al Qaeda defeated our plans for Iraq, but at the cost of making a mockery of its own ambition to unite the Muslim world. A year after Al-Adel relocated to Iran, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, built with a few thousand in seed money from Bin Laden, accused Shiites of being pagans, infidels and atheists, and responsible for Islamic defeats throughout history.
“The Shiite, have declared a secret war against the people of Islam. They are the proximate, dangerous enemy of the Sunnis, even if the Americans are also an archenemy. The danger from the Shiite, however, is greater and their damage is worse and more destructive to the nation than the Americans,” he wrote.
The grand Islamic alliance came apart into Sunni-Shiite civil wars in Iraq and Syria: where Assad’s support for the pipeline of Al Qaeda Jihadis into Iraq, backfired with those same terrorists coming after him. What had been Al Qaeda in Iraq was reborn as ISIS and spent as much time fighting Al Qaeda and other elements of the Muslim Brotherhood as anything else.
The original Al Qaeda was eclipsed by ISIS. Both groups took credit for crowdsourced attacks and other operations abroad, primarily in Europe, but had moved on to conventional insurgencies fought, for the most part, against other Muslims. History had repeated itself.
In Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has forced the Taliban and the former Haqqani allies of Al Qaeda to play defense for the Shiites, protecting their mosques and appeasing Iran. The rise of the Sunni-Shiite civil war as the defining conflict has spread from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan proving that Islamic infighting can be even more seductive than fighting us.
But that has been true throughout Muslim history. One reason we’re all not living under Sharia is that its proponents have a tendency to kill each other over their theological debates.
The complex role of Al Qaeda and Iran in Syria’s civil war is driven home by the UN’s mention that Hurras al-Din, an Al Qaeda branch in Syria, is taking orders from Al-Adel. Even while the conventional narrative depicted a Sunni-Shiite conflict, the civil war was actually a much messier situation in which Syria, Iran, Russia, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and ISIS were alternately allying and fighting each other in the kind of conflict that only makes sense if you understand Arab clan warfare. Even as Iran acted as Assad’s lifeline, it was also funding and arming elements of Al Qaeda that alternated between fighting Assad and ISIS.
Toward the end of the Obama administration, Iran had rebooted Al Qaeda, using Osama’s son and Al-Adel, from a global terrorist organization to the command network for militias that it kept on a fairly loose leash in the hopes of being able to do some damage to its rivals and enemies.
America had fought Al Qaeda, but Iran had suborned it into its own creature.
When Al Qaeda’s people first arrived after 9/11 en masse, Iran rolled out the red carpet for them. The Exile, by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, describes how “they were put up at the white monolith of the four-star Howeyzeh Hotel on Taleqani Street, just down from General Suleimani’s headquarters in the former U.S. embassy” with “room service, a ladies-only gym, movies, and a swimming pool for the children” where “former fighters sat down together in comfort for the first time since 9/11.” The hotel did what Gitmo failed to do to Al Qaeda.
But it was the Iraq War and the Arab Spring that proved fatal to Al Qaeda: albeit not in any way that the Bush or Obama administrations could have imagined or anticipated. The war seemingly gave Al Qaeda what it really wanted, the opportunity to take over countries, but in the form of a poisoned chalice. The dream of carving our emirates or even a caliphate has failed.
Al Qaeda is at war with itself, divided into multiple splinter groups, the unrelenting grand vision of ISIS, detached from the theological infrastructure and the globalism of the Muslim Brotherhood founders, and an Al Qaeda command infrastructure that has become Iran’s puppet.
No wonder Al Qaeda doesn’t want to announce who its new leader is and has been for some time. Saif Al-Adel once sowed terror into Americans, now the great triumph of the ‘Sword of Islam’ was being allowed out by Iran to fight ISIS on its behalf in Syria.
Islam’s great dream is the unity of the Ummah, but its reality is the eternal civil war. The Sunni-Shiite divide is just the grand metaphor for the endless fighting between clans, family members, and movements. Osama might have thought that the Ummah was the truth of Islam, but toward the end of his career even he must have come to realize that it was Fitna.
Al Qaeda had set out to unify Islam and defeat the West. Instead it divided and defeated itself.
Islamic terrorism remains a grave threat, but the greatest threat is not posed by planes flying into New York City buildings, but planes landing at JFK Airport. For all of Gaddafi’s madness and eventual degrading death, he saw the future much more clearly than Osama bin Laden.
“We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquest—will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades,” the Libyan leader predicted.
We have one fewer decade and millions more immigrants since he said those words.
America and the free world face a serious threat, but it’s not as serious as the demographic threat. Osama’s approach could kill thousands of Americans, Iran’s nuclear weapons can kill millions or tens of millions, but only Gaddafi’s demographic weapons could eliminate America.