Iran, al Qaeda, and the secret bin Laden files.Mar 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The arrest earlier this month of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and former spokesman, has sparked renewed interest in an old question: What is the extent of the relationship between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda?
Along with a cadre of other senior al Qaeda operatives, Abu Ghaith was sheltered inside Iran for almost the entire post-9/11 period. The U.S. government has never quite known what to make of this fact. The Iranians have repeatedly supported al Qaeda henchmen even while holding some others under house arrest. This seemingly contradictory policy has baffled counterterrorism officials, who are, in any event, not keen to connect too many of these dots because of the possible policy ramifications for the war on terror the administration would prefer to be over.
Since Abu Ghaith’s arrival in New York City, where he is to be tried for conspiring to kill Americans, journalists have attempted to grapple with the Iran-al Qaeda nexus. Their published accounts are a mix of fact and speculation. But the press has missed an important storyline. The Obama administration has refused to release the best evidence for evaluating the relationship: Osama bin Laden’s complete archive.
The Weekly Standard previously reported that hundreds of thousands of documents and files were recovered during the raid that killed bin Laden in May 2011. The Obama administration has released just 17 of them. A year after the raid, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) published this paltry set online.
The documents released were chosen by White House officials to push their preferred spin: Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda is on the verge of extinction. Many documents that contradict this politicized narrative remain behind a classified wall.
Al Qaeda operatives do discuss their relationship with Iran in some of the 17 documents the CTC received. But those records provide only a narrow window into complex, decades-long ties. The administration-approved set highlights tensions between bin Laden’s terrorists and Iran’s functionaries. But other documents, according to several U.S. officials with direct knowledge of bin Laden’s files, show extensive collusion. The administration did not give those documents to the CTC and has not released them to the public.
The White House’s selective release of bin Laden’s documents has distorted the public discourse. Consider the effect it had on Joby Warrick’s article in the Washington Post last week, “Iran, al-Qaeda relationship is showing cracks, U.S. officials and analysts say.” Warrick did a far better job than most journalists in reporting on the Iran-al Qaeda axis. He offered a balanced view of the relationship, juxtaposing evidence that cut both ways. Unlike many reporters, Warrick did not shy away from evidence of ongoing collusion.
Warrick noted that the documents released to the CTC demonstrate al Qaeda’s “wariness” in dealing with Iran. “The Iranians are not to be trusted,” bin Laden wrote in one email. “It is possible that they may plant chips,” he warned, to track al Qaeda’s terrorists. Those documents also reveal that al Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian official, and then used this official as leverage with the regime. Some have cited these documents as evidence that the entire relationship is hostile.
What Warrick and Washington Post readers don’t know is that the CTC selection presents Iran-al Qaeda relations in the worst possible light. It is true that there have been, to use the CTC’s description, “antagonistic” episodes between the two. It is true that bin Laden did not fully trust Iran. Then again, al Qaeda’s CEO likely trusted few people wholeheartedly—he may have had his own mentor killed. None of this conflict stopped bin Laden from seeking or receiving the Iranians’ assistance.
“We believe that Iran continues to allow al Qaeda to operate a network that moves al Qaeda money and fighters through Iran to support al Qaeda activities in South Asia,” Warrick quoted David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, as saying.
The Treasury and State Depart-ments have led the way in shedding light on the Iran-al Qaeda partnership. Since President Obama was first sworn in, these departments have designated numerous al Qaeda terrorists who operate on Iranian soil. Several U.S. officials contacted by The Weekly Standard say that Osama bin Laden’s documents, along with other evidence, played an important role in these designations, which highlight the Iranian regime’s support of al Qaeda.
Howard Dean cogitates on the merits of American justice versus international justice in the war on terror.3:20 PM, Dec 2, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
HOWARD DEAN wants Osama bin Laden to get 30 years to life. No hanging by the neck until dead. No firing squad. Not even a lethal injection for being the mastermind behind the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans.
That's the upshot of Dean's exchange with Chris Matthews last night, an exchange ignored--and in one case glossed over--by a Dean-friendly press.
MATTHEWS: Who should try Osama bin Laden if we catch him? We or the World Court?
DEAN: I don't think it makes a lot of difference. I'm happy . . .
Dec 1, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 12 • By
The Old News on Saddam and Osama
Stephen F. Hayes's article last week on the history of friendly contact between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden ("Case Closed") provoked criticism from several quarters, including from the Pentagon itself--where the secret memo on Iraqi-al Qaeda links obtained by Hayes originated.
Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball get the Osama-Saddam memo wrong.12:26 PM, Nov 20, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
A NEWSWEEK article by investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball about the memo linking Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein dismisses a recent WEEKLY STANDARD report as "hype" and concludes, the "tangled tale of the memo suggests that the case of whether there has been Iraqi-al Qaeda complicity is far from closed."
While it's refreshing to see the establishment media pick up the story, the News
A close examination of the Defense Department's latest statement.11:00 PM, Nov 18, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT late Saturday, November 15, issued a statement that began: "News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate."
The statement didn't specify the "inaccurate" news reports, but most observers have inferred that the main report in question was an article in the most recent issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD--
From the November 24, 2003 issue: The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.Nov 24, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 11 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Editor's Note, 1/27/04: In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank reported that "Vice President Cheney . . . in an interview this month with the Rocky Mountain News, recommended as the 'best source of information' an article in The Weekly Standard magazine detailing a relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda based on leaked classified information."
Here's the Stephen F. Hayes article to which the vice president was referring.
Hugo Chavez supports Saddam Hussein and terrorism. Several congressional Democrats support Chavez. What's wrong with this picture?11:00 PM, Mar 10, 2003 • By THOR HALVORSSEN
LATE LAST YEAR, 16 U.S. congressmen voiced their approval for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Representatives Barney Frank, John Conyers, Chaka Fattah, Jan Schakowsky, Jose Serrano, and others complained in a letter to President Bush that the United States was not adequately protecting Chavez against a groundswell of internal opposition to his increasingly authoritarian rule--an upsurge that might lead to his ouster. Elected to power in 1998, Lt. Col.
A look at the ten most popular objections to war and some common-sense responses to them.11:00 PM, Mar 5, 2003 • By FRED BARNES
THOSE OPPOSED to military action in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, destroy his weapons of mass destruction, and liberate the 24 million Iraqi citizens under his control cite at least 10 objections to going to war now. These objections range from the arguable to the totally absurd. Let's examine them.
(1) Rush to war. This is a favorite of congressional Democrats. But the rush is more like a baby crawl. Iraq has been in material breach of United Nations resolutions since a few weeks after the Gulf War ended in 1991.
Does Osama bin Laden plan to become the ultimate suicide bomber?11:00 PM, Feb 18, 2003 • By MANSOOR IJAZ
OSAMA BIN LADEN, or some good likeness of him, spoke from the ether again on two occasions last week, releasing two undated audiotapes as Muslims completed their pilgrimages to Mecca. His call to Jihad did not stop at tying himself to Iraq's people, by which he had clearly hoped to provoke Washington into immediate unilateral military action against Saddam Hussein. Nor did it end with his messianic recitation of verses in the Koran that clearly demonstrated he knows the end game is near.
Today Colin Powell will deliver evidence not only of Saddam's U.N. violations, but of Iraqi cooperation with al Qaeda.11:00 PM, Feb 4, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
COLIN POWELL travels to the United Nations today to "make the case" for war in Iraq. He will detail Saddam Hussein's possession, ongoing development, and continued concealment of weapons of mass destruction. It's a solid case, and most Americans buy it. As Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) told me last week, "There is no doubt in my mind that if Saddam Hussein were put on trial for having weapons of mass destruction, he would be found guilty." Those predisposed to agree with us will find it compelling. So will most of the fence-sitters, including Russia.
. . . and let slip the U.S. Special Operations Command.11:00 PM, Jan 22, 2003 • By CHRISTIAN LOWE
FOR MANY, it may seem like the news of the day is "All Iraq All The Time." But don't forget the United States is still waging a fierce war against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the globe. President George W. Bush reportedly still keeps a running tally of the 22 Most Wanted terrorists and their dispositions in his desk drawer.
The CIA's top counterterrorism official, Cofer Black, has been given the mandate to track these terrorists down and kill or capture them.
The most powerful man in Saudi Arabia.Dec 23, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 15 • By BILL TIERNEY
IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA, the trappings of monarchy obscure the police state that keeps the Saud family in power. But beneath the veneer of gracious luxury, internal security has never been more important than it is today to a regime that constrains the press and commerce, struggles to provide the generous benefits promised its citizens, and has made the country a breeding ground for Islamic extremism. Enmeshed as we are in an alliance of necessity with the Saudis, Americans should be asking: Who runs Saudi internal security?
Today's Washington Post provides yet more evidence of something we've already known for months: Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda are working together. A true war on terrorism requires taking on both.3:50 PM, Dec 12, 2002 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
THIS MORNING'S front page article in the Washington Post, "Report Cites Al Qaeda Deal For Iraqi Gas," should not come as a surprise. Over the past months, we have had several detailed reports of links between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Woodward and Sammon on Bush as war president.Dec 2, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 12 • By FRED BARNES
Bush at War
by Bob Woodward
Simon & Schuster, 349 pp., $28
The War on Terrorism from Inside the Bush White House
by Bill Sammon
Regnery, 400 pp., $27.95
LET'S GET RIGHT to the scoreboard. The winners in Bob Woodward's account of President Bush's response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA director George Tenet, and, to a lesser extent, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. And Bush himself, who Woodward believes figured out quickly how to be an effective commander in chief.