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Politicizing Iran's ties to Al Qaeda

8:15 AM, Mar 12, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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According to the Treasury Department, the “MOIS has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.”

The MOIS has also “provided money and weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)...and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.”

That is three times in less than one year that Obama’s own officials have made a big deal about Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda. Contrary to Obama’s remarks in September 2007, the Bush administration rarely discussed the issue of Iran and al Qaeda. In January 2009, the Bush administration designated several senior al Qaeda members who received safe haven inside Iran after 9/11. But the Bush administration did not claim that the Iranian government has an ongoing agreement with al Qaeda, as the Obama administration has said.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain said Iran was working with al Qaeda in Iraq. The media wrongly claimed this was a gaffe. Extensive evidence shows that McCain got it right. Senator Obama, however, took the opportunity to criticize McCain’s supposed ignorance.

Here is how the Huffington Post reported Obama’s remarks in March 2008 (emphasis added):

And speaking today, Sen. Barack Obama, used the misstatements as evidence that McCain's claims of foreign policy experience do not give him a superior understanding or judgment of the terrorist threat or Iraq policy.

"Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and Al Qaeda," said Obama. "Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no Al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades."

Senator McCain claimed that Iran was training al Qaeda operatives and sending them back into Iraq. The Obama administration has not addressed that aspect of the collusion between al Qaeda and Iran. Other evidence shows that McCain was right on that specific count. Ironically, however, the Obama administration’s own designations make it clear that McCain was generally right – Iran has supported al Qaeda in Iraq in a variety of ways.

And McCain was not simply confusing, in Obama’s words, “Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda.” McCain was pointing to a dangerous nexus that Obama and his many allies pretended did not exist. Many of Obama’s supporters still pretend it doesn’t exist, even though the Obama administration has repeatedly said it does and it is worrisome.

President Obama and his supporters like to claim that their political opposition has politicized the intelligence on Iran, including the mullahs’ terrorist ties. This is a type of projection. Obama repeatedly politicized the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda during the 2008 campaign.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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