In the beginning, there was military activity under the slogan "services office" in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden worked there and most of its activities surrounded the recruitment of Saudi and Arab youths as mujahideens to fight the Soviets. This was around 30 years ago. The Soviets eventually left and the office was shut down.
Al-Qaeda opens its doors
Iran realized, however, that this activity could lead to a direct confrontation with superpowers and regional countries alike. Therefore, the Iranians, in cooperation with the security regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, started to manage al-Qaeda without leaving their fingerprintsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The difference is that those managing the war, Iran along with the Syrian regime, have never openly appeared to be doing so. They have previously led operations by using Shiite youths in Lebanon and Kuwait.