Since the late 1990s, Osama bin Laden was deliberating with the board members of the organization about the “dream operation” he intended to execute, while whispering in the ears of his assistants that his plan can change the course of history.
The third man of al-Qaeda and chief adviser Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, aka Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, narrates that he had intense debates with Osama. Al-Qaeda’s mufti had refused the execution of these operations for pure Sharia reasons. The US visa that the members of the organization used to enter, was considered an “agreement” that could not be broken with anyone, even if it was an enemy.
This Fiqh (jurisprudential) problem will become the separation point between the two men. Just before the September 11, 2001 attacks were carried out by mere days, Abu Hafs submitted to bin Laden his resignation from all responsibilities assigned to him, and promised to keep the resignation a secret until the operation is done. Bin Laden reluctantly accepted his resignation, but he didn’t pay any attention to the opinions of those who opposed him in the organization’s council.
Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iran began in the early 1980s, but fully developed before the September 11 attacks. The CIA’s testimony, as reported by Asharq al-Awsat in March of 2016 confirms that many of the September 11 twin attacks’ perpetrators received support from IranFahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Abu Fahs stated: “After long discussions, we became aware that Osama has taken the decision. I know him well enough and I know that when he sets his mind to something, no one can stand in his way.”
After his resignation, he wrote his memoirs, which are more than 1,000 pages. He did interviews and made long televised testimonies all about his memories with the organization., His testimonies are actually a rich and indispensable document for any researcher looking into the history of the organization, its transformations and conflicts.
Al-Qaeda’s ties with Iran
One of these testimonies revolves around al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iran. Bin Laden assigned his Mauritanian assistant with handling the coordination of relations between the organization and Iran. In his testimonies and memoirs, he did not only prove the strong and solid relationship between the two parties, which included prisoner exchange deals, but he also noted that Iran has tried to strengthen and solidify this relationship.
He adds that there are reasons behind the formation of this alliance; including the pressing geographical reality as the organization needed a region from which they could pass from the caves of Afghanistan to Europe and the United States. The organization found in Iran the suitable strategic choice. Bin Laden did not want to publically display his coordination with the “Shiite state” because the members of the organization in the Arabian Peninsula would be shocked.
Abu Hafs admits that the organization is well aware that Iran is using them as a blackmail card with Europe and the United States, but at the same time it (the organization) knows how to deal with Iran if it is ever betrayed or let down. Yet, Iran kept its part of the agreement, which Abu Hafs, Osama bin Laden’s representative, had reached.
Throughout the history of the organization, neither Iran nor its interests came under any attack or serious damage, except for the kidnapping of Iranian diplomats for “limited purposes.” Both parties worked on “organizing the dispute.” Abu Hafs admitted that the “Abbottabad documents” released by the US intelligence, which included the correspondences of bin Laden, are all “true in content.” As such, bin Laden’s talk about Iran in his letters shows how al-Qaeda has protected Iran from any danger and how Iran has protected the organization’s leaders.
Warnings against targeting Iran
In his letters, bin Laden warns against targeting Iran and reminds that his family members live there. He considers that targeting Iran is ineffective because it will open a fruitless front, especially since Iran has become a shelter for the Mujahedeen after the US bombing of Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iran began in the early 1980s, but fully developed before the September 11 attacks. The CIA’s testimony, as reported by Asharq al-Awsat in March of 2016 confirms that many of the September 11 twin attacks’ perpetrators received support from Iran, in two stages; at the beginning through financial support and then through strategic field support.
They crossed Iran’s bridge before going to the United States; the road to Manhattan was safe by virtue of the generous aid from Iran!
The alliance between al-Qaeda and Iran can still be characterized by a “strong coordination.” Many of the organization’s leaders, such as Saif al-Adel, Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, Mustafa Hamza and Hamza, the son of Osama bin Laden (the new face who is a strong contestant to be the new leader of al-Qaeda) have lived peacefully in Iran. For example, in his memoirs, Saif al-Adel describes how Iran became the starting point for major operations.
Finally, in a message written by Osama bin Laden to Karim, one of the organization’s members, he said: “I have some notes about your threats against Iran. I hope you and your brothers take this well. You did not consult with us in this dangerous matter that harms everyone’s interests. We expect you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel and communication, as well as for the matter of hostages.”
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.