The CIA released on Wednesday approximately 470,000 files of materials from the trove recovered during the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The materials include internal documents, practice reels for public speeches, audio correspondence, and imagery gathered or generated by al Qaeda for a variety of purposes.
“Today’s release of recovered al-Qaeda letters, videos, audio files and other materials provides the opportunity for the American people to gain further insights into the plans and workings of this terrorist organization,” said CIA Director Mike Pompeo. “CIA will continue to seek opportunities to share information with the American people consistent with our obligation to protect national security.”
The newly released materials provide some additional insights into al Qaeda’s operations. They also expose the Obama administration’s misrepresentations regarding al Qaeda’s strength, which may be one reason Obama administration officials resisted a public release of this magnitude.
Obama boasted regularly that al Qaeda was “decimated” and “on the run” during his 2012 presidential campaign. He made these claims despite having been informed privately by his intelligence team that al Qaeda was spreading into other regions, including in Africa, while still operating under a central leadership.
In August 2013, Obama said that al Qaeda’s “tightly organized and relatively centralized al Qaeda that attacked us on 9⁄11 has been broken apart and is very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity.” He went on to characterize al Qaeda as made up of “regionalized organizations.”
When Obama made his claims, he had available to him contradictory information gleaned from a handwritten, 228-page journal kept by Osama bin Laden himself, which was part of the trove secured in the raid. That document has now just been publicly released.
The regional groups Obama referred to were not decentralized. “Groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Shabaab (in Somalia) regularly sought and received the al Qaeda master’s direction,” the Long War Journal concluded from its analysis of the journal. “And al Qaeda continued to maintain a significant footprint inside Afghanistan, relocating personnel to the country in 2010 and fighting alongside the Taliban.”
Another newly released document calls into question Obama’s decision to pursue better relations with Shiite Iran, which he seemed to think could serve as a counter-balance to radical Sunni terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS. On the theory that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Obama was willing to normalize relations with the expansionist, terror-sponsoring radical regime in Tehran even if it meant jeopardizing America’s historic alliances with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Notably, Obama’s obsession with reaching his disastrous nuclear deal with Iran led him to look the other way as Iran increased its footprint in Iraq and Syria under the guise of fighting the Sunni terrorists. The truth is that the Iranian regime had a longstanding relationship with al Qaeda.
The newly released document contains a senior jihadist’s assessment of Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda. Though the relationship was complicated, it was far from a combative one. Iran offered some “Saudi brothers” in al Qaeda “everything they needed,” including “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf,” according to the document’s author, as quoted by the Long Journal. There were disagreements to be sure, including with respect to the treatment of certain al Qaeda operatives who had received safe haven in Iran but were said to have broken the terms of the safe haven agreement. Bin Laden also expressed some concern about Iran’s growing influence in the region. However, al Qaeda and Iran had intersecting interests, and were willing to cooperate in fighting against their common enemy – the “enemy of America.”
This newly released information builds on a previously released letter in which Osama bin Laden described Iran as al Qaeda’s “main artery for funds, personnel, and communication.”
Was this artery still open for business while Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for better relations with Iran and reached the nuclear deal with Iran that freed billions of dollars for the Iranian regime to use in funding terrorists? Does the artery remain open today between the terror sponsoring regime in Tehran, flush with money thanks to Obama, and al Qaeda? After all, the Sunni jihadists certainly agree with the statement by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei just this week that “America is the number one enemy of our nation.”
The latest revelations confirm how badly Obama first misjudged and then deliberately misrepresented to the American people the continuing strength of the jihadist terrorist threat on his watch. He also sought to conceal from the public a fuller picture of the Iranian-al Qaeda connection that the newly released bin Laden documents expose. The decision of the Trump administration to release so much material should shed more light on the truth and dispel the myth that the Iranian regime can be trusted.
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