Bin Laden's "Brothers"
The conventional wisdom is that Hezbollah and al Qaeda are rivals, not partners. The conventional wisdom is wrong.
4:30 PM, Jul 27, 2006 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Jamal al Fadl added additional details. Al Fadl described a meeting between a Sudanese scholar named Ahmed Abdel Rahman Hamadabi, an Iranian Sheikh named Nomani (who was an emissary of the mullahs), and senior leaders of al Qaeda. In broken English, al Fadl answered Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's questions about the meeting:
Q: What happened when Sheikh Nomani came to the guesthouse in Riyadh City?
A: In front there they sit down and some of the higher membership, they got meeting and talking with the Sheikh Nomani and Hamadabi.
Q: Was Bin Laden there?
Q: Can you tell us what was discussed at that meeting?
A: They [Nomani and Hamadabi] talk about we have to come together and we have to forget the problem between each other and each one he should respect the other because our enemy is one and because there is no reason to fight each other.
Q: Who did they describe the enemy as being?
A: They say westerns. [sic] [emphasis added]
This would seem to contradict the Haykel and Pillar construct.
The confluence of interests has not been confined to rhetoric and meetings. Al Fadl told prosecutor Fitzgerald that he knew of several al Qaeda associates who were trained by Hezbollah. One exchange in his testimony was especially provocative:
Q: Did you ever speak to anyone who received any training from anyone who was a Shia Muslim?
Q: Who did you speak to?
A: Abu Talha al Sudani and Saif al Islam el Masry. . . .
Q: What did Saif al Islam El Masry tell you?
A: He say they go to south Lebanon to got training with the Shiites over there.
Q: Did he indicate what Shia group in south Lebanon provided the training?
A: I remember he told me it's called Hezbollah.
Q: What did Abu Talha tell you?
A: Abu Talha, he tell me the training is very good, and he bring some tapes with him.
Q: Did Abu Talha tell you what was on the tapes he brought back?
A: I saw one of the tapes, and he tell me they train about how to explosives [sic] big buildings. [emphasis added]
Al Fadl then went on to list several other al Qaeda terrorists who received Hezbollah training. One of them was a man named Saif al Adel.
AL ADEL HAS BEEN IMPLICATED in some of al Qaeda's most spectacular attacks, including the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (which, incidentally, used truck bombs similar to those employed by Hezbollah to destroy "big buildings") and the September 11 attacks. Al Adel is thought to have trained several of the hijackers.
Al Adel's early relationship with Tehran's terror proxy may help explain why he was able to find safehaven in Iran shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan. The Iranian government claims to have "detained" him, along with dozens of other senior al Qaeda leaders--including bin Laden's son Saad.
But this "detention" has not stopped al Adel, who has become one of al Qaeda's senior operations leaders, from ordering up attacks. Al Adel played a key role in orchestrating al Qaeda's May 2003 suicide attacks on three Western housing complexes in Riyadh from Iranian soil.
The testimony provided by Ali Mohamed and Jamal al Fadl was corroborated by the 9/11 Commission. The Commission's final report confirms that al Qaeda operatives received training from Hezbollah in Lebanon in addition to other training provided in Iran. The Commission also left open the possibility that al Qaeda and Hezbollah worked together on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing.
Remarkably, the Commission even left the door open for further investigation into the September 11 attacks. It cited evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives monitored the travels of eight to ten of the "muscle" hijackers prior to the attack. Such provocative threads of evidence led the Commission to report, "We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government."
Some analysts will continue to dismiss Zawahiri's remarks because they do not conform to the prevailing model for understanding terrorism. But the truth is that there is a long history of collaboration between al Qaeda and Hezbollah.
Thomas Joscelyn is an economist and writer living in New York.