The Assassination of al-Qaeda’s Second-in-Command Was a Message to Iran

Nov. 17 2020

Over the weekend, the news broke that on August 7, Mohammad al-Masri—the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s number two—was gunned-down on the streets of Tehran alongside Osama bin Laden’s daughter-in-law. According to multiple unnamed U.S. officials, he was assassinated by Israeli agents operating at Washington’s behest. Masri had organized the 1998 attack on the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which left a total of 224 people dead; in 2002 he orchestrated a botched attack on Israeli targets in Mombasa, Kenya, that left thirteen dead. Yoav Limor seeks to explain both the reasons for the strike on Masri, and for the decision to leak the details:

Israel’s declared policy is that assassinations are only a means for preventing future attacks, not exacting vengeance. Although Israeli officials have claimed Masri was busy planning attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets across the globe, it isn’t very likely considering the fact that al-Qaeda—which for years now has struggled to carry out high-profile attacks—is focusing its efforts on fighting the Americans and moderate Sunni regimes in the region, not Israel.

It’s more reasonable to assume that Israel lent a hand to its most important ally, despite concerns that doing so would make it a target of al-Qaeda. There is clear operational value in this, but also considerable deterrence value. Toward al-Qaeda, obviously, but mainly toward Iran, which understands it is again penetrated and is in the crosshairs of the Israelis and Americans. This message should not be underestimated: Iran is mulling its nuclear options.

Masri’s presence in Tehran also gives the lie to the Obama administration’s claim that Shiite Iran could be a useful ally in the fight against Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaeda. Of course, such a demonstration is hardly necessary, seeing as Osama bin Laden noted in correspondence with his lieutenants that his organization’s “core facilitation pipeline” ran through the Islamic Republic. Limor remarks:

Iran, which is fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, is hosting one of the organization’s most senior figures because he serves its interest by fighting the Americans in Afghanistan. It will continue doing this as long as it serves its objectives.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Al Qaeda, Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Security, US-Israel relations

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy