Charging Iran with Supporting Al-Qaeda

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Scheme for More Pressure or Securitization?

Cyrus Faizee
Expert on Middle East & US Affairs

The United States has recently charged that the Islamic Republic of Iran is cooperating with the terrorist group al-Qaeda. A Syrian national called Ezzeddin Abdolaziz al-Khalil has apparently been channeling a lot of money for al-Qaeda in Pakistan through a terrorist leader called Atiyya Abdurrahman who is under sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department and is a target for CIA. This story can be taken advantage of in a number of ways. Firstly, intelligence reports cannot be easily confirmed. That is, officials are not allowed to confirm an intelligence report because such reports are not documented and are based on guesswork. Therefore, no solid proof can be produced in their favor. Most countries facing such reports suffice to cursory references to them. The fact that such a story has become ground for the US new propaganda against Iran shows that other issues are most probably involved. Secondly, it may connote that the United States has established closer intelligence ties to Saudi Arabia and Israel and has concocted this story in order to put more pressure on Iran in areas where it sways high influence, including Syria. Thirdly, the United States may have decided to get militarily engaged with Iran and needs to securitize international atmosphere against Tehran. Here, I discuss every one of these probabilities.

In fact, it is very difficult to connect Iran to al-Qaeda in any way. Both in words and practice, al-Qaeda has shown that it is a staunch foe of Shiism as its leaders are members of extremist Salafis and Hanbalis. They believe that Shias are apostates and, therefore, killing them has been allowed by their religious tenets. Although al-Qaeda does not want to be engaged with Iran militarily for the present time because they have more important goals such as confrontation with the United States, Israel and Saudi leaders; they are nonetheless potential enemies of Tehran and Shiism.

On the other hand, another proclaimed goal of al-Qaeda is to punish those leaders of the Islamic world who are in alliance with the Western countries and have allowed them to be present in sacred lands of Islam. Saudis, therefore, are one of their major targets. During the occupation of Afghanistan by Taliban in 1996, which was followed by murder of the Iranian diplomats, organized assassinations were carried out against Shias in Afghanistan with the main goal of totally eradicating the influence of Shiism in Afghanistan. Conflicts between Shias and Sunnis have been a longstanding problem in Pakistan, but those conflicts have taken a more violent turn since the rise of Taliban. The conflict only abated relatively in recent years after Shias proved wise enough to keep their distance from Taliban. Al-Qaeda was but the main factor behind those conflicts and skirmishes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some authorities in Tehran even insist that al-Qaeda is the main cause of internal insecurities in Iran, especially in border areas when Shias coexist with Sunnis. Researchers of security and intelligence issues such as Richard Mackenzie and John Kooly have pointed to the relationship between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, on the one hand, and regional extremism, on the other. Planning those relations has been largely carried out by such high-ranking Saudi figure as Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was in charge of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence apparatus for long years, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in direct collaboration with CIA.

Iran has been a regular goal for this scheme. Iran and the United States got close when they worked together to annihilate Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. At that time, Iran was satisfied with the United States because the latter was eliminating al-Qaeda, which was the most serious adversary of Iran both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been cooperating with the United Nations and other countries involved in the war on terror since 9/11 and has identified and arrested terrorist along its borders on many occasions. Moreover, in parallel to cooperating with those countries, Iran has always insisted that its eastern borders are vast and cannot be easily controlled due to complex situation on both sides of those borders.

I think that the third probability, that is, “securitization” of the Islamic Republic of Iran as target of a future attack cannot be taken seriously. Given the United States budgetary deficit which has turned into Achilles’ hill of Democrats and has cast serious doubt on winning a second term in office by their presidential candidate, attacking Iran seems well-nigh impossible as it requires huge funds. Defense and security developments in the US also attest to this fact as secretary of state and CIA chief have been blamed for inefficiency while military budget has proved problematic. Although the new incrimination can be part of political and military propaganda launched by Democrats to justify changes they have made to security officials, securitization of Iran with the final goal of attacking the country is neither possible, nor logical.

As a result, I go for the second probability which can be discussed from various viewpoints. Firstly, the United States, Saudi Arabia and their Western allies may have reached the conclusion that it is time to deal seriously with Assad’s government in Syria where the Islamic Republic of Iran sways great influence and is a powerful barrier to US efforts. Perhaps, they are putting more pressure on Iran in order to facilitate their future action in Syria. Secondly, the wave of Islamic awakening which is greatly inspired by the Islamic Revolution of Iran can be very dangerous for Arab dictators and pose serious threat to the West’s influence in the Middle East region. If political forces behind the Islamic awakening became united after doing away with dictators to implement a common plan in the whole region, it would be a terrible nightmare for the United States and its Arab allies. I also take another possibility into account. Saudi Arabia is currently in competition with Iran. It has regularly used “incentives” as the sole tool to influence political forces in other countries and to attract cooperation from the United States and the West. The United States is not willing to tie its interests to those of Saudi Arabia, but it may want to move in that direction for a short time. In that case, that cooperation will be just “tactical” and not serious enough to cause concern.

Now, there are other possibilities which should be taken into consideration here:

1. Barbara Slavin has pointed to another possibility in an article. She wrote that CIA may suspect that a great deal of money is to be channeled to al-Qaeda to possibly hit Kuwait or Qatar. Perhaps, the United States is putting pressure on Tehran to cooperate more and prevent al-Qaeda operations which may lead to insecurity and even political changes in the said two countries. This is what concerns Washington and Riyadh the most.

2. Paul Pillar maintains that democrats are influenced by conservative figures in their domestic policies and are trying to prove that they have no plan of showing any lenience toward Iran. This is also a reaction to election-related pressures put on them by Republican figures that insist on firm treatment of Iran.

3. The United States is trying to reduce its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and this has greatly concerned Arab countries that Iran may use the subsequent opportunity to beef up its presence in those countries as a substitute to the United States. This is why certain Arab countries are trying to curb Iran’s growing influence in the region.

More By Cyrus Faizee:

*Leaving Afghanistan: US’ New Regional Policy:’_New_Regional_Policy.htm

*Saudi Arabia Expecting Revolutionary Developments:

*Israel and Democratic Developments in the Middle East:

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