The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned three senior members of al-Qaeda on Wednesday, two of whom are based in Iran. The Treasury accused the individuals of moving “money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East.”
One of the men, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, has operated out of Iran since 2014 and has, since early 2015, served as a liaison between al-Qaeda and Iranian authorities. Journalist Armin Rosen wrote in Tablet, “There’s still an influential faction within the ideologically anti-American and Shi’ite sectarian regime in Iran that simply doesn’t care about [sectarian differences]: al-Qaeda bogs down the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, and is committed to permanent war against a common enemy, and have thus been allowed to operate on Iranian soil.”
Iran’s ties with al-Qaeda have previously been documented. A letter discovered during the 2011 raid of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan revealed that the leader warned his operatives in 2007 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.” When current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al -Zawahari first joined the group, bin Laden sent operatives to train in Iran and Lebanon under the Iran-sponsored terrorist group Hezbollah. Israeli intelligence found that senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyah 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. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who later headed al-Qaeda in Iraq, was based in Iran for several months beginning in December 2001. In 2011, Treasury sanctioned 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-Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.”
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