U.S. Applies Sanctions Against Top Al-Qaeda Leaders in Iran

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The U.S. government has added three senior al-Qaeda leaders based in Iran to the Treasury Department list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” which means they will be subject to sanctions even as President Obama’s nuclear deal pours billions of dollars into Iran’s coffers.

As the Treasury Department describes these individuals in its press release:

Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi is “a senior al-Qaida official who was an emir of an al-Qaida brigade and part of a new generation of al-Qaida operatives.” He is an al-Qaeda “battalion commander” who was responsible for relations between his organization and another U.S.-designated terrorist organization, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan.

Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn, a “senior al-Qaida leader who has served in several financial, communications, and logistical roles for the group” who has “assumed control of the financing and organization of al-Qaida members located in Iran.”

Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi was “involved in freeing al-Qaida members in Iran” and “served as a mediator with Iranian authorities.” He was also involved in raising funds for al-Qaeda from his perch in Iran, and rendering “unspecified other forms of assistance” to fellow al-Qaeda operatives in the country.

As one might surmise from those thumbnail biographies, quite a few al-Qaeda operatives work from the safe haven of Iran.

Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard notes the Obama administration has bent over backwards to “dismiss reports of Iranian support for al Qaeda as the product of fevered minds” and a pack of “baseless conspiracy theories,” even though everyone knows it is true, and now Obama’s own Treasury Department confirms it.

Hayes notes that the trove of documents captured during the famed 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan included “letters describing the nature of the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda and specific ways in which Iran has aided al Qaeda’s network and operations.”

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration does not want the American people to see those letters. It would not do for voters to ask why Obama is granting legitimacy, plus billions in both international trade and U.S.-taxpayer-financed payoffs, and soon nuclear weapons, to a regime in league with the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

It would be particularly uncomfortable for Obama and his Party if the American people were widely aware that al-Qaeda operatives have been working on chemical and biological weapons with Iran, as some of the correspondence seized from bin Laden’s compound makes clear.

Choking on the administration spin that Iran now has a wonderful “opportunity” to demonstrate what a lovely nation it is by throwing al-Qaeda operatives into dungeons, Hayes notes the Iranians have been supporting al-Qaeda for more than a decade and hardly needed any fresh “opportunities” to turn against them. He calls the administration’s indulgence of Iran and al-Qaeda “illogical, insulting, and dangerous.”

“Regime elements in Tehran clearly see an advantage in sheltering a fairly extensive al-Qaeda operation that includes professional fundraisers and facilitators like Bayumi and Ghumayn,” writes Armin Rosen at Tablet.

“Never mind that al-Qaeda is a Sunni group whose Syrian affiliate is fighting the Iranian-backed pro-Shi’ite government in Syria,” said Rosen, “or that Iran’s potential utility in fighting Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaeda is part of the realist argument for the western powers upgrading their relations with Tehran.” He continued:

There’s still an influential faction within the ideologically anti-American and Shi’ite sectarian regime in Iran that simply does not care about all of that: al-Qaeda bogs down the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, and is committed to permanent war against a common enemy, and have thus been allowed to operate on Iranian soil.

As Rosen notes, The Treasury’s leveling of sanctions against these three al-Qaeda leaders in Iran demonstrates “just how little of an impact Iran’s supposedly moderate political leadership has had in terms of changing the behavior of the more ideologically committed and anti-American hardline elements of the regime.”

Obama and his foreign policy team love the narrative of “moderates vs. hardliners” in Iran, and the Iranians know it. They do not have to do much more than talk, unconvincingly, about a new generation of “moderate” leaders itching to drag Iran out of the Dark Ages to make this White House swoon.

The hard, cold reality can be seen in Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, not much of the administration, outside of the Treasury Department, seems eager to confront that reality.