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

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority