Wednesday, May 21, 2003

In the aftermath of the Riyadh bombings, the administration is once again accusing Iran of being in league with al-Qaeda. However, as near as I can tell, the case that Iran is in league with al-Qaeda is more or less the same as the case that Spain is. Iran has arrested numerous al-Qaeda members, including high-profile ones, and sent them to their home countries for trial. However, there remain al-Qaeda activists in the country. Yesterday while making supper I saw an administration-connected terrorism expert on FOX News making the connection case, and he argued that Iran was not rooting al-Qaeda out of Khurasan, along the Afghan border, though he admitted there had been some cooperation between Iran and the U.S. on that score.

So...the presence of al-Qaeda cells you can't root out now qualifies you as in league with terrorists. Sure. Even Brit Hume seemed to want to question that a bit. Iran probably has a lot of al-Qaeda members for the same reason Pakistan does in the NWFP. One Iranian I know said that there are probably a few radical mullahs in Iran just like there are in most countries, and some of these might be sheltering al-Qaeda in some way, but that's about it.

Defending the border isn't as easy as Rumsfeld would have us believe. During the days of the Taliban, that area was the site of massive drug smuggling, and if the Iranians could have shut that down, they certainly would have. The fact that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism is also irrelevant to the question of whether they support al-Qaeda. Iran supports terrorist groups which attack Israel, which in the Muslim Middle East, regardless of where you stand on it, is considered a separate issue. Iran is most prominently a sponsor of Hizbullah, which many people even in Europe don't consider a true terrorist organization.

There may be some case that Iran is helping al-Qaeda, but based on what we're hearing, I sort of doubt it. The administration was convinced Iraq was in league with al-Qaeda, and the most we've found even after raiding the Ansar al-Islam camp is a document suggesting some people were thinking about cooperating five years ago. Compare this to the connections between al-Qaeda and Liberia, which I discuss here and which AfricaPundit goes into here. As it is, one must at least suspect the Bush administration of simply continuing old conservative foreign policy goals under the "War on Terror" propaganda banner.


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