CIA documents ‘conclusive proof of Al-Qaeda-Iran ties’

Osama bin Laden’s house in Pakistan, from where the documents were seized, being demolished on Feb. 26, 2012. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2017
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CIA documents ‘conclusive proof of Al-Qaeda-Iran ties’

JEDDAH: Wednesday’s release by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of documents seized during the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden has “conclusively proved” the terror chief’s cosy relationship with Iran, experts say.
US intelligence officials and prosecutors have long said Iran formed loose ties to Al-Qaeda from 1991 onward.
This was noted in a 19-page report in Arabic that was included in the release of some 47,000 other documents by the CIA.
Iran has long denied any involvement with Al-Qaeda, but the report included in the CIA document dump shows how Bin Laden partnered with Tehran to target the US.
The Associated Press (AP) examined a copy of the report released by the Long War Journal, a publication backed by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank fiercely critical of Iran and skeptical of its nuclear deal with world powers. The CIA gave the Long War Journal early access to the material.
“Anyone who wants to strike America, Iran is ready to support him and help him with their frank and clear rhetoric,” AP quotes the report as saying.
The unsigned report is dated in the Islamic calendar year 1428 (2007), and offers what appears to be a history of Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iran.
It says Iran offered Al-Qaeda fighters “money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia.”
This coincides with an account offered by the US government’s 9/11 Commission, which said Iranian officials met with Al-Qaeda leaders in Sudan in either 1991 or early 1992.
The commission said Al-Qaeda militants later received training in Lebanon from the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
US prosecutors also said Al-Qaeda had the backing of Iran and Hezbollah in their 1998 indictment of Bin Laden following Al-Qaeda’s truck bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the documents provide for the first time direct evidence of the symbiotic relationship between Al-Qaeda’s most senior operatives and Tehran.
“Without Iranian support and safe haven, Al-Qaeda as an organization couldn’t have endured for as long as it did following the international backlash it faced after the 9/11 terror attacks,” Shahbandar told Arab News.
“That Bin Laden was personally involved in establishing Al-Qaeda’s network in Iran shows how shrewd and cynical the regime in Tehran truly is, and how capable and willing it is to support international extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and its successor Daesh.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh said he is not surprised by the damning revelations.
“There has long been strong evidence showing the connection between Tehran and Al-Qaeda, including the fact that the Iranian regime has sheltered Al-Qaeda leaders,” he told Arab News.
“Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism. Its regime supports, funds, arms and trains any terrorist group that shares its revolutionary values, such as anti-Americanism and pursuing hegemonic ambitions in the region,” he said.
“As a US federal judge found, Iran was a key player in facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The US should’ve confronted the Iranian regime, not Iraq,” Rafizadeh added.
“The US should hold the Iranian regime, and those leaders who helped facilitate the 9/11 attacks, accountable through various means such as sanctioning them, bringing them to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and isolating them.”
On Thursday, the semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), dismissed the CIA documents as “a project against Tehran.”


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.