Posted by: Lister | May 4, 2007

House arrest and safe Haven in Iran

The headline reads: Al-Qaida finds safe haven in Iran — with the subheading But former leaders reportedly under house arrest.

Men such as Saif al-Adel, the former military commander of al-Qaida, and Suleiman Abu Ghaith, the bespectacled bin Laden spokesman, are not in hiding but rather in the care — or custody — of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

“They are under virtual house arrest,” not able to do much of anything, said one senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

[…] “We believe that they’re holding members of al-Qaida’s management council,” Fran Townsend, President Bush’s counterterrorism czar, said of Iran.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw two weeks ago, she added: “And we have encouraged and suggested that they ought to try them, they ought to admit freely that they’re there — which they have not done — that they’re holding them. Or they ought to return them to their countries of origin, which they’ve also been unwilling to do.”

— Declare who you are holding prisoner (although America likes to rendition and torture in secret)
— Try them in an open court or release them to go home if you can’t give them a fair trial

!!!!!!!!!!! Yes. Iran should do those thiings. Just like America should do those things with the prisoners America holds.

After they were bombed in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda split. The top members (like bin Laden and Zawahiri) going to Pakistan and others going to Iran (including two of bin Laden’s teenage sons).

That’s not to say the Iranians, with their Shiite leadership, held any love for the Wahhabis and Salafists. Iranian intelligence had tried to kill Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, at a palace built for him by bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“They missed, but it wasn’t for lack of trying,” said a Pentagon counter terrorism official at the time of the 2000 attempt. “It was one big truck bomb. I know. I saw pictures of the crater.”

The al-Qaeda operatives, America says, were allowed communications. They claim a bombing in Tunisia (killing 6 Tunisians and 15 tourists near one of the oldest synagogues in Africa) was orgainised by Sa’ad bin Laden.

Then, on the advice of Mustapha Nasar Setmariam (also supposed to be in Iran), al-Qaeda decided it would be safer to not have a hierarchy.

The reason al-Qaeda is now under house arrest in Iran is because (America believes) the Saudis had an agreement that Iran would not help al-Qaeda organise attacks in the Kingdom. The quid-pro-quo was that Saudi would not co-operate with a US investigation into the bombings of the Khobar Towers in 1996. (1 Saudi, 19 US service personel died and 372 wounded.)

“The Saudis let the Iranians know and, citing the earlier agreement, demanded that the Iranians put a halt to the operations of the management council, leading to the Iranians putting the 20 to 25 al-Qaida officials in Iran under virtual house arrest,” the official said.

And that’s just what happened, say current U.S. officials. According to reports in the Arab media, they were rounded up and taken to two locations guarded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards: one in villas in the Namak Abrud region, near the town of Chalous on the Caspian coast, 60 miles north of Tehran, and the other in Lavizan, a region northwest of the capital that also houses a large military complex.

[…] Whether it was a quid pro quo with the Saudis is uncertain to this day, say U.S. officials, but it’s better that they are under some sort of control and not operating freely.

Nice how they manage to voice the uncertainty in such announcements, these days. Progress, I suppose.

More horse trading:

[…] Iran first proposed the exchange of al-Qaida operatives for leaders of the group Mujahedeen E. Khalk who are under U.S. control in Iraq. The MEK has been on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations since 1998, when the Clinton administration was trying to open up lines of communications with Iran. The State Department blames the group for the killings of five Americans in the run-up to the Iranian revolution in 1979 and various murders and attacks on Iranian diplomats and civilians both inside and outside Iran.

“The exchange was never formally proposed, but several general offers were made through third parties, not all of them diplomatic,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “One reason nothing came of it was because we knew that there were parts of the U.S. government who didn’t want to give them the MEK because they had other plans for them … like overthrowing the Iranian government.”

[London-based Arab newspaper reported] that the total number of al-Qaida operatives in Iran was 348 and leaders 18.

[…] Sharq al Awsat also reported that Tehran handed over wanted Saudi militant Khaled bin Odeh bin Mohammed al-Harbi to Saudi authorities.

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