“The Exile,” a book written by two investigative reporters has revealed information regarding al-Qaeda members hiding in Iran between 2001 and 2011 and their ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy wrote on how Mauritanian cleric Mahfouz Ibn al-Waleed – who chaired al-Qaeda’s Shariah committee in the years before 9/11 – fled Afghanistan and went to Iran after the 2001 attacks in order to “lie low.”
According to a review of the book by the Guardian, Waleed was “sensitive to political trends in Tehran,” and so, instead of contacting the Iranian government, he “dealt solely with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”
The Guardian review added: “With the promise of immunity from al-Qaeda attacks, Iran indicated it was receptive and by March 2002 there was a steady flow of senior al-Qaeda figures and Bin Laden relatives moving into Iran.”
But this sparked a “degree of animosity and distrust between the factions in Iran,” the review explains.
“When pro-government personnel in the ministry of intelligence and security tracked phone calls from the al-Qaeda leaders in Iran to their affiliates left behind in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they started making arrests. The Iranian government even went as far as sending some al-Qaeda members back to their countries of origin. Outmaneuvered by these decisions, the Revolutionary Guard was left imploring the al-Qaeda leaders not to use their phones.”
Many critics of Iran have suggested that Iran's relationship with al-Qaeda was not hostile, even cooperative at times.
Some American conservatives claimed that Iran was complicit in the September 11 attacks, and that, afterward Iran had provided a comfortable safe haven and base of operations for al-Qaeda personnel fleeing US military operations in Afghanistan.
According to a study in 2012, al-Qaeda considered Iran as an alternative base for its activities after the US attacked its Afghanistan safe havens in late 2001.
The study noted that a senior deputy to Bin Laden, Saif al-Adl, suggested in public writings that al-Qaeda had established contact with supporters in Iran affiliated with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, though not with the Iranian government.
At the time that he wrote about this, Adl himself was believed to be under detention by Iranian authorities, as were the families of other al-Qaeda militants who had fled Afghanistan.
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