A US Congressional panel released a report late Wednesday alleging that Iran’s elite Al-Quds force offers support to Al-Qaeda, adding a new dimension to the militant threat to the United States.
In its report to the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, the strategic advisory firm Kronos highlighted what it says are increasingly strong links between the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps force and Al-Qaeda, according to Agence-France Presse.
The caucus released the report after US troops killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan that raised fresh doubts about Pakistan’s willingness or ability to track down Al-Qaeda suspects.
“Iran has quietly forged a strong working relationship with core Al-Qaeda’s leaders,” said the report’s author, Michael S. Smith II.
“This relationship has been established to counter American influence in the Middle East and South Asia,” according to his report.
“Through it, Iran will likely also help Al-Qaeda mobilize terrorists to carry out attacks against the US and our allies, providing the support required to extend Al-Qaeda’s operational reach,” the report added.
Mr. Smith argued that not enough attention has been paid to the links between the two entities because of a “pervasive” belief that Shiite and non-Arab Iran will not work with the Sunni Arab militants of Al-Qaeda.
The ties date back to the 1990s when Al-Quds members worked with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah to train and equip Bin Laden’s holy warriors. He cites the 9/11 Commission Report for operational linkages between the two.
“Since 9/11, these partnerships have become all the more pronounced. Hundreds of Al-Qaeda members, along with family members of core Al-Qaeda leaders like Osama Bin Laden, have found refuge inside Iran,” he wrote.
In appealing for US policy makers to address the links, Smith warned that “if left unchecked, Iran’s relationship with Al-Qaeda could cost America and our allies dearly.”
The congressional caucus’s Andy Polk said in an email to AFP that: “With the death of Bin Laden, and with Iran’s Al-Quds Force being listed as part of the new sanctions against Syria, this is an interesting and timely report.”
Mr. Smith told AFP that a member of the House of Representative’s permanent select committee on intelligence indicated there is “mounting interest” in the apparent links between Al-Quds and Al-Qaeda.
The member, who he did not name, suggested that Kronos could help by presenting a report about that relationship based on open-source materials, one that could be discussed with intelligence and defense officials.
Later, he said, a caucus representative contacted him and offered to distribute such a report to the nearly 100 members of Congress affiliated with the Anti-Terrorism Caucus.
Iran had said that there was no excuse for the United States to continue deploying troops in the Middle East after the killing of Mr. Bin Laden.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said the US can no longer send troops to the region under the pretext of fighting terrorism, The Associated Press reported on Monday citing Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
Iran said it cooperated with the US in fighting terrorism but instead of being rewarded, former President George W. Bush placed Iran in his “axis of evil.”
Iran said it has cracked down on Al-Qaeda operatives, especially along its border with Afghanistan, but also criticized the US for invading Afghanistan and Iraq, according to AP.
(Abeer Tayel of Al Arabiya can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)