The Hezballah-al Qaeda connection

Washington Post:

While it found no operational ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network had long-running contacts with Iraq's neighbor and historic foe, Iran.

Al Qaeda, the commission determined, may even have played a "yet unknown role" in aiding Hezbollah militants in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, an attack the United States has long blamed solely on Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors.

The notion that bin Laden may have had a hand in the Khobar bombing would mark a rare operational alliance between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups that have historically been at odds. That possibility, largely overlooked in the furor of new revelations released by the commission last week, comes amid worsening relations between the United States and Iran, which announced on Thursday that it would resume building equipment necessary for a nuclear weapons program.


But perhaps most startling was the commission's finding that bin Laden may have played a role in the Khobar attack. Although previous court filings and testimony indicated that al Qaeda and Iranian elements had contacts during the 1990s, U.S. authorities have not publicly linked bin Laden or his operatives to that strike, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen. A June 2001 indictment of 14 defendants in the case makes no mention of al Qaeda or bin Laden and lays the organizational blame for the attacks solely on Hezbollah and Iran.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads the Washington office of Rand Corp., said that although bin Laden's then-fledgling group was an early suspect in the blasts, "the evidence kept pointing to an Iranian connection, so people tended to discount a bin Laden connection."

"What the commission report is raising is that the relationship might have been much tighter and was in fact operational and not just spiritual," Hoffman said.

U.S. officials who have worked on the Khobar case are more skeptical. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the case, who declined to be identified because of the ongoing criminal investigation, said authorities searched carefully for an al Qaeda connection but found no basis for it.


"There were reports in the months preceding the attack that bin Laden was seeking to facilitate a shipment of explosives to Saudi Arabia. On the day of the attack, bin Laden was congratulated" by al Qaeda militants, the report says.

The report recounts some of the previously alleged contacts between al Qaeda and Iran or Hezbollah and concludes, "We have seen strong but indirect evidence that [bin Laden's] organization did in fact play some as yet unknown role in the Khobar attack."

The report also says that several years before the Khobar attack, "bin Laden's representatives and Iranian officials had discussed putting aside Shia-Sunni divisions to cooperate against the common enemy." A group of al Qaeda representatives then traveled to Iran and to Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon for "training in explosives, intelligence and security," the report says.

When it comes to making war on the US bin Laden was quite ecumenial. Iran, Iraq, Hezballah, what ever it takes. The Iranian regime and their Hezballah agents need to be destroyed in the course of the war against Islamic terrorist and their state sponsors.


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