The Blog

Iran Assists al Qaeda Cell Based in Bahrain?

4:42 PM, Feb 22, 2008 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson of the Washington Institute recently visited Bahrain, where the government has recently convicted five men on terrorism charges including "receiving explosives and weapons training, engaging in terrorism overseas, and terrorism financing targeting 'friendly countries.'" They received relatively light sentences for their crimes, just six months in jail. One of the defense lawyers explained, "the six-month jail sentence is nothing, and we consider this to be an acquittal."

But this isn't the real story. As Levitt and Jacobson report:

Lost in the coverage, however, was the important role Iran played, either explicitly or implicitly. According to Bahraini investigators, several of the cell members traveled from Bahrain to Afghanistan via Iran. First, they flew to Tehran and met up with several al-Qaeda-affiliated individuals at the airport. Al-Qaeda facilitators then passed the cell members along from "person to person" until their arrival in Afghan training camps. . . .

Bahraini authorities do not know whether the Iranian government actively facilitated the cell members' travel to Afghanistan. But given the regime's track record, Iran's possible involvement with the cell is worth exploring further.

Indeed, this story is worth investigating further--as are the possible ties between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and al Qaeda's 9/11 hijackers on the other. As I wrote in my latest piece, the 9/11 Commission found that Iran and Hezbollah may have facilitated travel for a majority of the 9/11 hijackers in a manner very similar to this Bahraini al Qaeda cell. The Commission called for further investigation into the matter, but we are still waiting. If any such investigation is ever begun, the story of this Bahraini cell should also be looked into. The pattern of behavior is very similar.