Osama bin Laden ordered his al-Qaeda deputies not to attack Iran, which he called a “main artery” for his terror organization’s operations, recently-disclosed documents from his Pakistan compound reveal.
The order was part of a collection of 112 letters taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. special ops forces after he was killed in 2011. The collection was made public Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In a 2007 letter, bin Laden criticized an operative for threatening to attack Iran. “We expect you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages,” he wrote.
Ties between Iran and al Qaeda have been reported for years, with numerous ways by which Iran served as al-Qaeda’s “main artery.”
The Weekly Standard reported in 2012 on the trial of an al-Qaeda terrorist who had been caught while planning terror attacks in several European cities. The plans were inspired by the November 2008 terror attacks and siege in Mumbai, which had been ordered by bin Laden.
In testimony before the court, [Ahmad Wali] Siddiqui described how he and his co-conspirators planned different travel routes in order to avoid suspicion beginning in early 2009. But their travels had a common theme: Iran was their principal gateway to jihad.
According to Siddiqui, two of his co-conspirators—Rami Makanesi and Naamen Meziche—traveled from Vienna to Tehran in order “to not get caught.” Their trip was booked in a Hamburg travel office by an unknown Iranian. Siddiqui explained that the pair could not travel directly to Pakistan because they are Arabs. Pakistani authorities would have questioned the duo’s intentions and perhaps detained them, but by traveling through Iran they avoided such scrutiny.
Although [ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani] didn’t explicitly state that al Qaeda had a deal with Iran “to safeguard its interests and supply lines,” the U.S. government has said it has evidence of such an agreement. The U.S. Treasury Department noted in the July 2011 designation of six al Qaeda operatives who were based in Iran that the Iranian government had a “secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory.”
That same designation declared that Iran is “a critical transit point for funding to support al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with Al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David S. Cohen said when the Treasury made its 2011 announcement.
Other government and news sources have also reported on ties between Iran and al-Qaeda. The Canadian government announced in 2013 that two suspects in a plot to attack a passenger train had been supported by members of al-Qaeda who were based in Iran. An spokesman for ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, said in 2014 that al-Qaeda did not target Iran so that it could leave its network inside Iran intact. The pan-Arab newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat reported in February of last year that Saleh al-Qarawi, a senior member of al-Qaeda who operates in Iran, had been targeting American interests in the Gulf since 2007.
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