Despite the Sunni-Shiite Divide, al-Qaeda and Iran Work Together

Sept. 8 2022

When the Obama administration negotiated its 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, it hoped doing so would foster a new Middle Eastern order in which Shiite Iran would use its power against Sunni jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State—relieving America of the burden of fighting them. This strategy rested on a number of false premises. Jonathan Schanzer explores one:

A photo, first posted on an anonymous Twitter account, circulated last week among terrorism watchers here in Washington. It received scant attention in the mainstream media. The now authenticated photo, dated 2015, shows three of al-Qaeda’s top leaders smiling casually. . . . Their location: Tehran. All three men served in key leadership positions for the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. And all three men were apparently circulating freely in Iran.

The photo questions—yet again—the notion that al-Qaeda and the Islamic Republic were at odds. If anything, they appear to cooperate, even if Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions prevent a full-blown alliance. American officials (mostly those advocating for a nuclear deal with Iran) have repeatedly and falsely asserted that the Iranian regime maintained an antagonistic relationship with al-Qaeda, placing members of the world’s most dangerous terrorist group under house arrest.

This assertion has been regurgitated by prominent beltway analysts such as Nelly Lahoud and Peter Bergen. Both wrote books recently, parroting lines proffered by U.S. officialdom, downplaying the ties between Tehran and al-Qaeda. Both got it wrong.

Earlier this year, [meanwhile], a federal judge found in favor of victims and families that sued Iran for providing “material support” to al-Qaeda, among other groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks against American servicemembers and civilians in Afghanistan.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at FDD

More about: Al Qaeda, Barack Obama, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy