Most fair-minded observers would agree that Iran supports terrorism in ways we do not yet fully understand. According to a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute, Abu Azzam al Tamimi — a former commander of a Sunni insurgent group linked to al Qaida in Iraq — insisted, “Iran intervenes in every aspect in Iraq.” When asked what he meant by this comment and who the Iranians supported in Iraq, this former insurgent leader responded, “Everybody [Iran] works with the government, with the opponents of the government, with the opponents of the government’s opponents, with al Qaida, with the enemies of al Qaida, with the militias, with the enemies of the militias,” concluding “Iran spreads its investments everywhere with the Shi’ites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds.”
However, during last year’s presidential election, John McCain made a supposed “gaffe” in which he suggested that Iran was assisting the al Qaida network in Iraq. Barack Obama, then a candidate, quickly jumped on the alleged mistake. “Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shi’ite, Iran and al Qaida,” Obama stated. “Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaida ties.”
This admission by Obama revealed that he had no understanding of Iraq’s prewar ties to al Qaida (I recommend he read the 600,000 pages of translated data from the Institute for Defense Analysis). Sunnis and Shi’ites work together frequently, including the Shi’ite extremists ruling Iran and the Sunni-Wahhabi killers of al Qaida. One hopes the presidential daily briefings have enlightened Obama’s take on the cooperation among Middle Eastern terror groups.
This cooperation does not mean that the mullahs are in ideological agreement with al Qaida, nor does it imply that the Iranians are masterminding everything al Qaida is doing. Far from it. But the belief that the divide between Sunnis and Shi’ite is wide and irreversible is foolhardy. In some instances, there is no “divide” at all. The Iranians support Sunni Hamas, after all. They assist the Wahhabis in the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia. They are aligned with the Ba’athists in Syria. They are believed to be giving sanctuary to al Qaida linchpin Saif al Adel and Osama bin Laden’s son and heir, Saad.
Now that he's President, Obama is likely seeing intelligence that shows this, undercutting his previous assertions regarding the Iran-al Qaida link. The only question is, will he keep this in mind when his “new diplomacy” with Iran begins in full?
McCain did not “confuse” Sunni and Shi’a. McCain merely stated a fact: Iran and al Qaida have been in bed before, and may one day yet again work together against the United States and our allies.
Now that Obama and his supporters are in power, they still seem to have trouble absorbing this.
For example, retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak, one of Obama’s senior military advisors during the campaign, went on the record saying, “Iran is a big enemy of al Qaida.” Gen. McPeak continued, elaborating that “they,” the Iranians, “were a big enemy of the Taliban [The Iranians] cooperated with us quite completely in the initial phases of our Afghanistan operation. And it was us that insulted them by including them in the ‘axis of evil’ and making sure they understood we didn’t like them very much.” McPeak concluded, “That drove us apart.”
Was McPeak implying that the non-stop Iranian onslaught of U.S. forces in the region — roadside bombs and suicide attacks in Iraq, sabotage and assassination squads in Afghanistan — were the byproduct of a 2002 State of the Union “insult” and a natural response from the insulted? Does McPeak still feel this way? Does President Obama?
This is an incomprehensible position for someone in power to hold, and the country would best be served if some brave journalist asked Mr. Obama the $64,000-question: “Mr. President, do you believe Iran has a connection to al Qaida?”
The 9/11 Commission report believes it does. The report concludes, among other things, that (a) in late 1991 or early 1992, Iran agreed to train al Qaida operatives during meetings in Sudan, and shortly thereafter al Qaida members traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives; (b) al Qaida operatives traveled to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to receive training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have trained and equipped nearly every international terrorist gang since 1979; (c) Iran facilitated the transit of Sunni terrorists to al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan via Iranian territory, opting not to stamp their passports when they passed through Iran, thus making it impossible for the U.S. and others to know when or if someone had attended a terror camp in Afghanistan; (d) this Iranian negligence allowed eight or nine of the 9/11 hijackers to transit through Iran prior to the attack; (e) al Qaida and Tehran officials maintained friendly contact after bin Laden’s move from Sudan to Afghanistan.
Does President Obama still deny this reality today?