Qaeda Rebuilt Itself with Iran's Help

Hamza bin Laden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Hamza bin Laden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Qaeda Rebuilt Itself with Iran's Help

Hamza bin Laden (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Hamza bin Laden (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Following a series of setbacks over the past few years, Al-Qaeda organization has rebuilt itself assisted by a remarkable pact with Iran, according to a report published by "The Atlantic" magazine in its recent edition.

The authors of the investigative reports interviewed several of Osama bin Laden's family members and Qaeda members and it concluded that a deal had been made with Iranians which allowed the organization to prepare for phase two.

The magazine pointed out that at the time ISIS is losing in Syria and Iraq, another terrorist group is calmly rebuilding itself.

The report was published few days after the CIA declassified a new set of documents from the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The document revealed that despite apparent criticism, negotiations between Qaeda and the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran were ongoing and confirmed the relationship between the two. It detailed how Hamza, Osama bin Laden’s son, sheltered in Iran and got married there.

The Atlantic revealed that Qaeda and Iranian covert agents attempted to broker an agreement more than two decades back, after Saddam Hussein's regime rejected Qaeda’s request for military support.

The report indicated that the deal between Qaeda and Iran boomed under the George W. Bush administration, precisely between 2001 and 2003.

Former State Department and White House officials were in contact with Iran through backdoor channels, and the vice president’s office, Dick Cheney, stated that nothing should be done worrying that the administration would undermine the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein. In addition, the campaign to oust Saddam was founded on claims that he sponsored Qaeda and concealed weapons of mass destruction.

According to sources, the VP’s office also told US envoys to Iran and Afghanistan that once regime change had succeeded in Iraq, Iran was next.

Mahfouz Ibn El Waleed (Abu Hafes al-Mauritani), a Mauritanian Qaeda commander, went to Iran on December 19, 2001. A bus in Quetta, Pakistan, transported Abu Hafes to Taftan on Iranian border, claiming he was “Dr. Abdullah,” a “medic, treating refugees from the Afghan war,” carrying a suitcase filled with US dollars. The bus had on its windows a wanted poster for bin Laden.

Abu Hafes' relations with Iran dates back to 1995 when bin Laden sent to win military support for Qaeda, after Saddam rejected his request.

Al-Quds Force, of the Revolutionary Guards, was open to Qaeda's proposal, according to Abu Hafes.

In 1995, Qaeda fighters were invited to attend a camp run by Hezbollah and sponsored by the Iranian Quds force in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

The magazine added that the trainers were researching how to manufacture explosives capable of penetrating armored vehicles.

In December 2001, the Mauritanian knocked on Iran's door once again and soon met with members of the Quds Force, who later organized a meeting with their commander General Qassem Soleimani, yet the magazine said that Iran was not yet fully committed to cooperating.

Quds Force planned to organize a secure plan for Qaeda leaders, and then the Mauritanian contacted Qaeda’s council in Baluchistan, Pakistan, who started to travelling to Iran. The first phase included Qaeda wives and daughters, along with hundreds of volunteers. The women were put in a hotel in Taleqani Street, Tehran. Husbands and unmarried fighters stayed in another hotel.

The Iranians then provided Qaeda members with false travel documents, saying they were Iraqi refugees. Some members traveled to other countries.

During the summer of 2002, top Qaeda leaders arrived in Iran including Saif al-Adel, accompanied by Mohammed al-Masri, and they were joined later by Abu Musab al-Suri.

The Mauritanian told The Atlantic that Qaeda soon reformed a military council in Iran and began planning for its first attack striking three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing more than 35 people (including nine US citizens) in 2003.

The magazine pointed out that Iranian officials made a pact with bin Laden’s family (one of the wives and many of the children) residing in Zabol, on Iranian borders. They were then transferred to a training annex in one of Shah's former castles in north Tehran.

Quds Force was under pressure from Qaeda to allow bin Laden’s family to leave Tehran in 2010. Hamza and his mother requested that the Quds force allow them to leave Iran to Qatar. Instead, Iranian officials offered to ensure their transfer to Pakistan. Eventually, bin Laden's wife arrived at Abbottabad in February 2011, a while before bin Laden was killed. Hamza hid in the Pakistani tribal areas on the Afghani-Pakistani border.



Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
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Israeli Polls Show Netanyahu Party Narrowing Gap Behind Gantz 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz attends a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.

The polls, for the left wing Ma'ariv daily and the right-wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma'ariv poll last week showed Gantz's party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.

The Ma'ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta'al alliance.

The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta'al.

Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz's National Unity Party.

Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu's coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.

However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right-wing pro-settler parties holds.