There have been pro-flotilla rallies throughout the Muslim world and some of them have been attended by especially notorious figures. Consider the rallies in Yemen. On June 1, thousands gathered to denounce Israel. Another rally, where the attendees sang chants praising Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was held this past weekend. In attendance at both rallies was Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Zindani.
Sheikh Zindani is a longtime confidant of Osama bin Laden and was designated a terrorist in 2004. The Yemeni regime has defied requests by the U.S. Government to deport him or otherwise hold him accountable. Zindani’s roots inside Yemen run deep. He is the spiritual head of the Islamist Islah party, which frequently supports President Saleh and has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Zindani himself is a Muslim Brother.
As Jonathan Schanzer also pointed out last week, the red-bearded Zindani is a top official at a “charity” named the Union of Good. This same Hamas-backed organization spawned the IHH – the Turkish “charity” responsible for organizing the flotilla.
During last week’s rallies in Yemen, the well-connected Zindani had some noteworthy things to say.
According to the Yemen Observer, Zindani chastised Arab weakness in response to Israel: “Israel has ignored our weakened governments so much, and has done all these dirty actions with no consideration to the Arab governments.”
Zindani added: “I salute Amr [Moussa] for the initiative that he suggested. The initiative of Neighboring Countries Nexus, which gather countries like Turkey and Iran with the Arab countries.”
This is a remarkable statement.
For the past few months, Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, has been pushing an agenda of dialogue and cooperation (when possible) between the Arab states, Iran, and Turkey. (See here and here. For reporting from Iran on Moussa’s proposition, see here and here.)
Moussa has cited Iran’s burgeoning nuclear capability as a reason for the Arab states to find common ground with the mullahs. That is, there is a palpable angst throughout the Middle East as Arab leaders assume it is only a matter of time until Iran gets the bomb.
Moussa would prefer for the Arab states to engage the mullahs now in order to lesson tensions and explore whatever common ground there may be. That common ground includes, of course, opposition to Israel. As press accounts have noted, Moussa’s plan could help undermine any efforts by the U.S. to isolate the Iranian regime.
Moussa’s vision has not yet come to fruition, however. Still, he continues to push for it and has received some support. In particular, both Turkey and Iran have been receptive on at least a superficial level.
And, interestingly enough, Sheikh Zindani has now spoken up to lend his support to the effort. It is worth recalling the details of Zindani’s terrorist dossier. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, in a 2004 press release entitled “United States Designates bin Laden Loyalist”:
AL-ZINDANI has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders. In this leadership capacity, he has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al-Qaeda training camps. Most recently, he played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
AL-ZINDANI also served as a contact for Ansar al-Islam (Al), a Kurdish-based terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda, which is included in the UN 1267 sanctions Committee list.
Many analysts pretend that the Muslim world can be carved up into neat, self-contained boxes, with the Shiite state of Iran in one box and Sunni states in another (or others). Likewise, some analysts pretend that al Qaeda could never collude with the Shiite mullahs, despite a long evidentiary record that leads to precisely the opposition conclusion.
Here we have a significant additional piece of data.
Isn’t it interesting that a notorious Islamist sheikh, who has been close to Osama bin Laden for decades, would openly praise the idea of collaboration (on some level) between the Arab states, Turkey and Iran? And this, he claims, is necessary to counter their common foe -- Israel.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.