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.
As international attention shifted away from Afghanistan in the 1990s, Bin Laden, who was at odds with the Saudi Arabian government, and Ayman Zawhiri, the Muslim Brotherhood defector who was at odds with the Egyptian government, returned and reopened the office under a new banner titled "al-Qaeda."
Al-Qaeda opens its doors
Over the period of two decades, the concept of the "services' office" was cloned by promoting Islam, recruiting youths and managing a war from afar. Ever since, the organization has been active at targeting many areas, except Iran and Israel.
After its defeat in Afghanistan in 2001, al-Qaeda abandoned the idea of a centralized organization and turned into a chain of "supermarkets" that spread under different names like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and others.
If we understand the concept of the old "services' office,” which recruited youths to fight the Soviets, then we can understand al-Qaeda's confrontation with the other camp.
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.
Imad Mughaniyah was one of the most prominent fighters. These youths led al-Qaeda for 1o years and implemented audacious operations like hijacking planes, kidnapping foreigners in Beirut and attempting to assassinate Kuwait's emir.
An outside influence
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 fingerprints.
Al-Qaeda, upon Iran's orders, targeted Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United States. A number of al-Qaeda leaders moved to Iran, like Sief al-Adel, Suleiman Abu al-Ghaith and Bin Laden's sons.
Others like Nasser al-Qaraawi and Majed al-Majed also moved there. The justification for the move was that they were using Iran to serve their own aims.
The truth of the Iranians' management of al-Qaeda appears clearer in Syria today. Al-Qaeda, through its branch the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), sabotaged the Syrian revolution by assassinating its leaders and targeting its areas. The ISIL is winning Syria's war while al-Assad's forces, Hezbollah's militias and Iraqi's League of the Righteous, are failing. The ISIL succeeded at robbing people of their children and money and at the same time gaining their sympathy via its propaganda campaigns in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq.
For years now, we have been talking about the lie of al-Qaeda and about the falsification of the meaning of jihad, but it seems it's difficult for believers to think with their heads when they listen with their hearts. Iran managed to use these groups to target its rivals in the region, tarnish their image and pit the world against them. Iran, thanks to false jihad, has become the one governing Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and threatening the Gulf and Yemen, and has convinced the Americans that it has all the bargaining chips.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 5, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the 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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