Remembering Iran’s Role in al-Qaeda’s U.S. Embassy Bombings

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the coordinated truck-bombings, carried out by al-Qaeda, of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania—which left 224 dead and thousands wounded. In planning the bombing, its most deadly attack prior to September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda received help and training from Iran and its proxy Hizballah, and it seems that Osama bin Laden deliberately modeled the attack on Hizballah’s 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Thomas Joscelyn writes:

In early November 1998, the U.S. government indicted various al-Qaeda members for the embassy bombings. The indictment included this sentence: “Al-Qaeda also forged alliances with . . . the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hizballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.” . . . [O]fficial sources continued to build upon [this allegation] in the years that followed. . . .

Ali Mohamed agreed to a plea deal as part of the embassy bombing proceedings. . . . Here is . . . what Mohamed said about al-Qaeda’s relations with Iran and Hizballah: “I was aware of certain contacts between al-Qaeda and . . . Iran and Hizballah on the other side. I arranged security for a meeting in the Sudan between [Imad] Mughniyeh, Hizballah’s chief [of operations], and bin Laden. Hizballah provided explosives training for al-Qaeda. . . . Iran supplied Egyptian Jihad [an affiliated organization that later merged with al-Qaeda] with weapons. Iran also used Hizballah to supply explosives that were disguised to look like rocks. . . .

Some commentators, including a former Obama administration official, impugn the motives of anyone who raises the issue of Iran’s relationship with al-Qaeda. They argue that this is all about justifying a war with Iran. That is an attempt to change the conversation.

But facts are stubborn. The evidence [of collaboration between Iran and al-Qaeda] comes from Clinton-era federal prosecutors, al-Qaeda witnesses, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report, and Clinton-era intelligence reports. To this list we may add a string of additional official pronouncements. Between July 2011 and July 2016, the Obama administration’s own Treasury and State Departments repeatedly pointed to a separate “agreement” between the Iranian regime and al-Qaeda. This arrangement allows al-Qaeda to operate its “core facilitation pipeline” on Iranian soil.

This is not all there is to Iran’s dealings with al-Qaeda. There have been multiple antagonistic episodes between the two sides. . . . Yet some al-Qaeda leaders have managed to maintain a foothold inside Iran despite of the conflict between the [two].

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More about: Al Qaeda, Hizballah, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East