Foreign and Defense Policy

ThinkProgress steps in it on Iran-al Qaeda ties

The folks over at ThinkProgress are waging full rhetorical jihad against anyone who suggests that Iran is a threat to America. The latest example is this feeble attack by Eli Clifton on Max Boot for his Los Angeles Times column this week  laying out the record of the mullahs’ hostility and aggression against America and the West.

Clifton really steps in it when he attacks Boot’s assertion that there are “significant links between Iran and Al Qaeda” and his claim that “Iran has provided safe haven to Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden’s son.” Writes Clifton:

Boot’s column is equally troubling in that it dramatically misrepresents the facts on the ground. Boot suggests that Iran and al Qaeda are in league, even while admitting that the 9/11 report cleared Iran of any role in the 9/11 attacks.

Of course, Clifton offers no evidence whatsoever that Boot got his facts wrong, simply accusing Boot of “hyping of an Iran-Al Qaeda link” and falsely suggesting that “Iran and al Qaeda are in league.”

But they are in league—at least according to the Obama administration.

In July, the Obama Treasury Department issued this press release announcing the designation of six al Qaeda facilitators operating a network in Iran under a “secret deal” between al Qaeda and the Iranian regime. The release declared (emphasis mine):

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the designation of six members of an al-Qa’ida network headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a prominent Iran-based al-Qa’ida facilitator, operating under an agreement between al-Qa’ida and the Iranian government. Today’s action, taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, demonstrates that Iran is a critical transit point for funding to support al-Qa’ida’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This network serves as the core pipeline through which al-Qa’ida moves money, facilitators, and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia, including to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a key al-Qa’ida leader based in Pakistan, also designated today.

“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al-Qa’ida allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “Today’s action also seeks to disrupt this key network and deny al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership much-needed support.”

As Rick Perry might say, “oops.”

According to Treasury, the six members of this Iran-facilitated al Qaeda network are:

1.    Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil. Khalil (a.k.a. Yasin al-Suri) is an Iran-based senior al-Qa’ida facilitator currently living and operating in Iran under an agreement between al-Qa’ida and the Iranian government. Iranian authorities maintain a relationship with Khalil and have permitted him to operate within Iran’s borders since 2005. Khalil moves money and recruits from across the Middle East into Iran, then on to Pakistan for the benefit of al-Qa’ida senior leaders, including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. Khalil has collected funding from various donors and fundraisers throughout the Gulf and is responsible for moving significant amounts of money via Iran for onward passage to al-Qa’ida’s leadership in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also facilitated the travel of extremist recruits for al-Qa’ida from the Gulf to Pakistan and Afghanistan via Iran. Khalil requires each operative to deliver $10,000 to al-Qa’ida in Pakistan.

As al-Qa’ida’s representative in Iran, Khalil works with the Iranian government to arrange releases of al-Qa’ida personnel from Iranian prisons. When al-Qa’ida operatives are released, the Iranian government transfers them to Khalil, who then facilitates their travel to Pakistan.

2.       Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. Al-Rahman is al-Qa’ida’s overall commander in Pakistan’s tribal areas and as of late 2010, the leader of al-Qa’ida in North and South Waziristan, Pakistan. Rahman was previously appointed by Usama bin Laden to serve as al-Qa’ida’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.

3.      Umid Muhammadi. Muhammadi is an al-Qa’ida facilitator and key supporter of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI). Muhammadi has petitioned Iranian officials on al-Qa’ida’s behalf to release operatives detained in Iran. Muhammadi has been involved in planning multiple attacks in Iraq and has trained extremists in the use of explosives. He has also received training in Afghanistan on the use of rockets and chemicals.

4.      Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari. Al-Kuwari provides financial and logistical support to al-Qa’ida, primarily through al­-Qa’ida facilitators in Iran. Based in Qatar, Kuwari has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial support to al-Qa’ida and has provided funding for al-Qa’ida operations, as well as to secure the release of al-Qa’ida detainees in Iran and elsewhere. He has also facilitated travel for extremist recruits on behalf of senior al-Qa’ida facilitators based in Iran.

5.      Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar.  Al-Khawar has worked with Kuwari to deliver money, messages and other material support to al-Qa’ida elements in Iran. Like Kuwari, Khawar is based in Qatar and has helped to facilitate travel for extremists interested in traveling to Afghanistan for jihad.

6.      ‘Ali Hasan ‘Ali al-’Ajmi.  Al-’Ajmi is a Kuwait-based associate of Khalil who provides financial and facilitation support to al-Qa’ida, AQI and the Taliban. ‘Ajmi has collected money from individuals in Gulf countries and provided these funds to AQI facilitators as well as to the Taliban. He has also supported al-Qa’ida by facilitating travel for individuals associated with the group so that they could take part in fighting in Afghanistan.

Does Clifton have any evidence that this information is false? Is he alleging that the Obama administration is “misrepresenting the facts on the ground” when it says that Iran has struck a secret deal with al Qaeda, and that Treasury is “hyping an Iran-al Qaeda link” that does not in fact exist? If not, he owes Boot an apology and a retraction.

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