A U.S. District Court in New York ordered Iran last Wednesday to pay approximately $10.5 billion total to the families of 9/11 victims and to insurance companies who paid claims resulting from damages incurred during the attacks. Documents related to the lawsuit allege that some of the 9/11 hijackers visited Iran prior to the attacks and did not have their visas stamped, and that Hezbollah aided and instructed them. The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by the wife of a 9/11 victim.
Iran’s ties with al-Qaeda have previously been documented. In a 2007 letter discovered during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout and recently made public, the al-Qaeda leader warned his operatives not to attack Iran because “Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “8 of the 14 Saudi ‘muscle’ operatives [who partook in the 9/11 attacks] traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.” In the 1990s, Iran and Hezbollah helped bin Laden create his terrorist organization and there were close relations between Egyptian jihadists, including today’s al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Iranian intelligence. Zawahari visited Iran seeking assistance for his jihadist organization in 1991. When Zawahari later joined bin Laden in al-Qaeda, bin Laden sent operatives to train in Iran and in Lebanon under Hezbollah. Thomas Joscelyn, senior editor of The Long War Journal, assessed that the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania were “directly modeled” after Hezbollah’s suicide bombings against U.S. Marines and the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983. Indeed, Israeli intelligence found that Imad Mughniyah, a senior Hezbollah operative, had trained some of the men who later perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.
After the attacks, several members of bin Laden’s family and inner circle found shelter in Iran, including Saif al-Adel, al-Qaeda’s military chief. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who later headed al-Qaeda in Iraq, was based in Iran for several months beginning in December 2001. According to a senior Jordanian intelligence official, Iran “gave [Zarqawi] automatic weapons, uniforms, military equipment.” In 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department designated six al-Qaeda members who were operating within the framework of an agreement between the terror organization and the Iranian government. David S. Cohen, then-Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and currently the Deputy Director of the CIA, announced at the time, “By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al-Qa’ida allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.”
[Photo: Ken Lund / Flickr ]