The Treasury Department on Thursday accused the Iranian authorities of aiding Al Qaeda and said it was imposing financial sanctions on six people believed to be Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan.In May, a congressional panel released a report detailing military ties between Al Qaeda and the Al Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Weighing in on the puzzling question of whether Iran’s Shiite regime seeks to help the primarily Sunni Al Qaeda, Treasury officials asserted that the Iranian government had entered into an agreement with operatives of the terrorist group and was allowing the country to be used as a transit point for funneling money and people from the Persian Gulf to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The officials say they have become convinced that Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, whom they described as a “prominent Iran-based Al Qaeda facilitator,” is operating in Iran under an agreement between Al Qaeda and the government.
“This network serves as the core pipeline through which Al Qaeda moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia, including to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a key Al Qaeda leader based in Pakistan,” the Treasury said in a statement.
Mr. Rahman, another of the six people named in the Treasury action, is believed to have recently ascended to the No. 2 position in Al Qaeda, reporting directly to the organization’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after the death of Osama bin Laden.
“By exposing Iran’s secret deal with Al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
[O]ne senior administration said the action sought to expose both “a key funding facilitation network for Al Qaeda and a key aspect for Iranian support for international terrorism.”
“Our sense is this network is operating through Iranian territory with the knowledge and at least the acquiescence of Iranian authorities,” the official said in a conference call with reporters.
A footnote in this MEMRI report on a previously unknown Al Qaeda leader who emerged after Bin Laden's assassination notes that he had lived in Iran for years.
None of this is strong evidence for high-level cooperation between Iran and Al Qaeda, but there is no reason to doubt that they do cooperate when it is convenient for both of them.