After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush drew a line
in the sand. “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to
make,” he said. “Either you are with us, or you are with the
Since then, some nations have fought with us, putting lives on the line.
Some have offered moral support. But a few have aided and abetted the
We distinguished among them. Until we didn’t.
For 37 years, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the
Islamic Republic of Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of
Tehran sponsors Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, Shia
militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic
Jihad in Gaza.
What about al Qaeda? In the early 1990s, Hezbollah trained AQs operatives
in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon.
In 1998, an indictment issued by a U.S. district court stated that al Qaeda
had “forged alliances” with the “government of Iran and its
associated terrorist group Hezbollah for the purpose of working together
against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United
In 2011, a federal judge in New York ruled that the Tehran regime had
provided support for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
From 2011 to 2016, the Obama administration repeated in formal terrorist
designations and other official statements that the Iranian regime had a
“secret deal” with AQ that allows the group to “to funnel funds and
operatives through” Iranian territory.
Under President Obama, the Treasury and State Departments described this
network inside Iran as al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,”
identified its leader as Yasin al-Suri, who had been allowed by “Iranian
authorities” to operate inside Iran since 2005. This month, the State
Department revealed that he is still working inside Iran.
A letter written by Osama bin Laden, found by the Navy SEALS who killed him
in 2011, included this: “Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel,
and communication…There is no need to fight with Iran unless you are
Another document seized during that raid, but not released until 2017,
states that AQ operatives in Iran were given “everything they needed,”
including “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon,
in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the
Then, two months ago, it was revealed that Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, AQ’s
second-in-command, a planner of the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in
Africa, had been living comfortably in Tehran, permitted to maintain a
false identity as a Lebanese history professor. He was about to go
somewhere in his car when assassins – presumably dispatched by Israel –
ended his career.
Which raised a question: To what extent are Iran’s rulers currently
enabling al Qaeda? Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided an
For the past five years, he told reporters at the National Press Club,
Iran’s rulers “have provided safe haven and logistical support –
things like travel documents, ID cards, passports – that enable al Qaeda
AQ leaders in Iran also are allowed to “to fundraise, to freely
communicate with al-Qaeda members around the world, and to perform many
other functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan or
He added: “As a result of this assistance, al Qaeda has centralized its
leadership inside of Tehran.”
He named and announced sanctions on two such AQ leaders, and designated
three members of an al Qaeda-linked group that, he said, operates on the
border between Iran and Iraq.
Most media covered Mr. Pompeo’s remarks dismissively. The Associated
Press told readers that “many in the intelligence community” found Mr.
Pompeo’s charges regarding the Tehran-AQ link “overblown given a
history of animosity between the two.”
The New York Times accused Mr. Pompeo of “demonizing Iran,” in order to
make “any effort by Mr. Biden to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal more
And, of course, those who sympathize with Iran’s rulers were outraged.
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC),
asserted that Mr. Pompeo has “leaked materials to the advocacy group
Foundation for Defense of Democracies aimed at supporting the claim of Iran
and al Qaeda ties.”
That’s false. Beginning in 2011, colleagues at FDD worked hard to
persuade the U.S. government to declassify and release primary source
documents retrieved from Osama bin Laden’s villa in Pakistan. Mr. Pompeo,
as CIA director, did that in 2017.
These documents are key for understanding how al Qaeda operates – in Iran
and many other countries. But, as noted, the fact that AQ had an
“agreement” with the Iranian regime had been revealed by the Obama
administration years earlier. Why NIAC would not want additional
information released I leave for you to consider.
The Obama administration ended up transferring billions of dollars to
Iran’s rulers in exchange for their promise to slow-walk their nuclear
program. The money was used to develop missiles that can carry nuclear
warheads, establish military bases in Syria, arm Houthi rebels, attack
Saudi oil facilities, and similar purposes.
And while Iran’s rulers remained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA) along with our European allies, they have repeatedly
violated their obligations, for example announcing this past weekend that
they were preparing to produce uranium metal, which they had agreed not to
do for 15 years.
France, Germany and Britain urged the theocrats to “return to compliance
with their JCPOA commitments without further delay.” A prediction:
Iran’s rulers will promise to do that if the price is right. But they
won’t keep their promise. Because they are not with us. They are with the
terrorists – including those who attacked us on 9/11.