June 26, 2019

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

U.S. Intelligence Undercuts Trump's Case on Iran-al Qaeda Links (Michael Hirsh, Jun. 24th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

"The administration is grasping at straws," said Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We are at the lowest point since 9/11 in terms of al Qaeda numbers in that country. The numbers I have looked at suggest it's less than five [people]."

Jones, a former senior official in U.S. Special Operations Command and a counterterrorism specialist, co-wrote a study that came to this conclusion at the end of last year, and the U.S. intelligence community believes little has changed since then despite the rapidly rising tensions between the United States and Iran, experts say.

Beyond that, there is general agreement among experts that to the extent Iran and al Qaeda have a relationship, it is not one of terrorist collaboration but rather a cautious modus vivendi defined by mutual forbearance, in which they agree not to attack each other and occasionally supply harbor (in Iran's case, to use as a bargaining chip with Washington).

Indeed, given their religious enmity, Shiite Iran and Sunni-dominated al Qaeda have been mostly at odds since the terrorist group first emerged in the mountains of neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. Well before 9/11, Tehran had been backing the Northern Alliance Afghan guerrillas--who were also U.S. allies--fighting the Taliban hosts of al Qaeda. After 9/11, the Iranians rounded up and allegedly placed under house arrest several al Qaeda figures who were inside Iran, and those numbers have fluctuated since then.

Posted by at June 26, 2019 7:53 PM

  

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