The War in Bosnia and the Making of Iran’s Friendship with al-Qaeda

In his final days in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech outlining the ties between the Islamic Republic and Osama bin Laden’s notorious terrorist group. While conventional wisdom has long maintained that Sunni al-Qaeda would have no truck with Shiite Iran, the truth is that collaboration between the two is old news. By the time Israeli intelligence became aware of it in the mid-1990s, it had been going on for some time. Kyle Orton tells part of the story, which begins with the collapse of Yugoslavia, when Orthodox Serbs launch a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing against their Bosnian Muslim neighbors:

Unmentioned in Pompeo’s speech was one of the crucibles that forged this relationship, and forged al-Qaeda into something more than a regional menace, namely the Bosnian war of 1992-5. Thousands of foreign Sunni jihadists came into Bosnia in this period, many of them either with pre-existing links to al-Qaeda or established links once they were in country, and this rag-tag army of mujahideen found itself benefiting from the role of the Iranian revolution in Bosnia. . . . Iranian veterans of this campaign recently boasted in public about it.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda was receiving extensive support and training from Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah:

The 9/11 Commission Report confirms [a] meeting between bin Laden and [the top Hizballah officer Imad] Mughniyeh in Sudan, probably in early 1992, and the transfer thereafter of al-Qaeda jihadists to the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon for training with Iran/Hizballah.

This relationship continued into the 2000s, when bin Laden, in an internal memo, mentioned that the Islamic Republic allowed his organization’s “core facilitation pipeline” to run through its territory. And just two months ago, a high-ranking al-Qaeda terrorist was assassinated in Tehran.

Read more at Kyle Orton

More about: Al Qaeda, Bosnia, Iran, Mossad, Terrorism, Yugoslavia


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria