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Politicizing Iran's ties to Al Qaeda

8:15 AM, Mar 12, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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In “Politician-in-Chief,” Steve Hayes writes about President Obama’s frustration with, as Hayes puts it, Republican “criticism of the difficult decisions he is facing as president on matters of war and peace.” In particular, Obama claims that his Republican challengers are simply politicizing the threat from Iran in criticizing his administration’s handling of the situation. Hayes goes on to show that Obama himself is guilty of the very same politicization he accuses his opponents of practicing.

Indeed, I would add another example. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly politicized the issue of Iran’s ties to al Qaeda.

Hayes cites Obama’s September 12, 2007 national security speech, in which then candidate Obama trumpeted his longstanding opposition to the Iraq war. Obama also warned the Bush administration against war with Iran. Here, in part, is what Obama had to say (emphasis added):

Iran poses a grave challenge. It builds a nuclear program, supports terrorism, and threatens Israel with destruction. But we hear eerie echoes of the run-up to the war in Iraq in the way that the President and Vice President talk about Iran. They conflate Iran and al Qaeda, ignoring the violent schism that exists between Shiite and Sunni militants. They issue veiled threats. They suggest that the time for diplomacy and pressure is running out when we haven't even tried direct diplomacy. Well George Bush and Dick Cheney must hear - loud and clear - from the American people and the Congress: you don't have our support, and you don't have our authorization for another war.

Obama’s argument was straightforward and has been repeated many times by others in recent months, especially as the debate about what to do about Iran has heated up. Putting aside the much more complicated issue of Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda, which Obama has always discussed in politicized terms, candidate Obama was simply wrong on Iran and al Qaeda.

And you don’t have to take the Bush administration’s word for it. Officials in President Obama’s own Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly pointed to the collusion between Iran and al Qaeda – something Obama implied was impossible because of the “violent schism that exists between Shiite and Sunni militants.”

In July 2011, Obama’s Treasury Department announced “the designation of six members of an al Qaeda network headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, operating under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.” Treasury officials explained that it was necessary to expose Iran’s “secret deal” with al Qaeda because the terror network’s Iranian branch 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.”

Rahman, the Treasury Department continued, “was previously appointed by Osama bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.” Rahman was subsequently killed in a U.S. drone strike. According to press reports, he was tasked with orchestrating a terror plot to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Khalil’s network also supports al Qaeda in Iraq, according to Treasury.

In December 2011, the State and Treasury Departments announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Khalil, who also goes by the name Yasin al Suri. The Treasury Department's assistant director of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Eytan Fisch, spoke at a briefing when the reward was announced. Fisch described al Suri as a “senior al Qaeda facilitator” whom Iranian authorities have allowed “to operate within Iran's borders since 2005.” The reward is one of the highest offered by the U.S. government for any terrorist.

Just last month, on February 16, the Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Iran’s chief intelligence organization, for its sponsorship of terrorism and human rights abuses. Among the terrorist groups the MOIS has supported are al Qaeda and its affiliate, al Qaeda in Iraq.

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