Iran is getting rid of its terrorist trash… for now

The recent story revealing that Iran has released – or more precisely, expelled – senior al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel along with four other members of the group is very important.

The five men were reportedly part of a prisoner-exchange operation with Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which is said to be holding Iranian diplomat Nour Ahmad Nikbakht.

What is noteworthy is that the Iranian government has begun to get rid of the people involved in issues that are part of its conflict with the United States. This may be the outcome of the reconciliation deal regarding the Iranian nuclear program in order to lift the sanctions imposed on Iran.

Outcome of nuclear deal

Last month, we started to notice the first indications of the outcome of this deal with the arrest of Ahmed al-Mughassil, who was the most wanted suspect for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Mughassil killed 19 Americans and wounded 500 others when he detonated the Khobar Towers bomb. He was then put on the top of the FBI’s most wanted persons list. The FBI offered a $5 million reward for his arrest.

Iran got rid of its most toxic waste in one month: Ahmed al-Mughassil, who masterminded the al-Khobar bombing, and Saif al-Adel, one of the worst terrorists in al-Qaeda.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Iran had hidden him for 19 years; it acknowledged his existence on its territories but refused to hand him over. After the arrival of the wanted al-Mughassil at Beirut airport with an Iranian passport, he was arrested and transferred to Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian Saif al-Adel’s story is similar to al-Mughassil’s. He was also wanted by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Both terrorists were protected by Iran. Al-Adel is the mastermind of the bombing of Riyadh in 2003 in which eight Americans were killed and 35 others wounded. The U.S. government has also accused him of being behind the attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 200 were killed. He had taken refuge in Iran after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. It is believed that he trained a large number of assailants.

This means that Iran got rid of its most toxic waste in one month: Ahmed al-Mughassil, who masterminded the al-Khobar bombing, and Saif al-Adel, one of the worst terrorists in al-Qaeda.

A positive indicator…?

If Iran has truly stopped supporting terrorist and extremist groups in general, as part of a political change project based on reconciliation with its western enemy, this could be a positive indicator.

This will also mean that Iran will get rid of Sunni organizations that are affiliated to it, such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. It will also have to stop supporting Shiite extremist groups in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen. Its biggest test will be the Lebanese Hezbollah, which it will have to stop supporting it on the military level.

I discard the possibility of the transformation of a country where the Revolutionary Guards still plays the key role, especially given that supporting regional terrorism is the backbone of its strategy.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

… Or temporarily pleasing the Americans?

If the above turned to be true, we could say that Iran has really changed, and that the nuclear deal played a positive role in the stability of the region.

However, I have doubts. I discard the possibility of the transformation of a country where the Revolutionary Guards still plays the key role, especially given that supporting regional terrorism is the backbone of its strategy.

In my opinion, Iran has decided to temporarily please the Americans, and meet the demands that are essential for any reconciliation. This is why it has now decided to get rid of all those who were involved in the bloodshed of Americans. Iran will keep on hosting the rest of the killers on its territories, detaining them as winning cards to be played at the right moment.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:56 - GMT 10:56
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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