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AP: US Studied Hitting Al Qaeda In Iran!

From a proud to be of service (to the enemy) Associated Press:

In this Aug. 13, 2003, file photo, escorted by his bodyguard, then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, left, speaks with media as he leaves a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran. ‘No,’ was Khatami’s brief reply when reporters asked if Iran would allow the United States access to al-Qaida operatives in Iranian custody.

AP Exclusive: Iran eases grip on al-Qaida

By Adam Goldman And Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press Writers

May 13, 2010

WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida operatives who have been detained for years in Iran have been making their way quietly in and out of the country, raising the prospect that Iran is loosening its grip on the terror group so it can replenish its ranks, former and current U.S. intelligence officials say.

This movement could indicate that Iran is re-examining its murky relationship with al-Qaida at a time when the U.S. is stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and weakening the group’s leadership. Any influx of manpower could hand al-Qaida a boost in morale and expertise and threaten to disrupt stability in the region…

Details about al-Qaida’s movements and U.S. efforts to monitor them were outlined to The Associated Press in more than a dozen interviews with current and former intelligence and counterterrorism officials, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The relationship between Iran and al-Qaida has been shrouded in mystery since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, when many al-Qaida leaders fled into Iran and were arrested. The Shiite regime there is generally hostile to the Sunni terrorist group, but they have an occasional relationship of convenience based on their shared enemy, the U.S.

U.S. intelligence officials have tried wiretapping and satellite imagery to watch the men. The CIA even established a highly classified program — code-named RIGOR — to study whether it could track and kill terrorists such as al-Qaida in Iran. Results have been mixed. Monitoring and understanding al-Qaida in Iran remains one of the most difficult jobs in U.S. intelligence…

A major concern among U.S. officials is that this movement foreshadows the release of al-Qaida’s "management council," including some of al-Qaida’s most dangerous figures…

The roster of al-Qaida figures in Iran is something of a who’s who for the terror group. One is Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, a bin Laden adviser who helped form the modern al-Qaida by merging bin Laden’s operation with Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Islamic Jihad. Al-Qaida’s longtime chief financial officer, Abu Saeed al-Masri, has been held there. So have bin Laden’s spokesman, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, and Mustafa Hamid, an al-Qaida trainer with a terrorism pedigree that spans decades.

Several members of bin Laden’s family also have been under house arrest.

All fled into Iran after al-Qaida’s core split up after the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden led some confidants toward the mountainous border with Pakistan. Al-Adel led others into Iran, which has historically allowed al-Qaida members safe passage through the country.

Iran arrested the men in 2003 and has held them as both a bargaining chip with the U.S. and as a buffer against an al-Qaida attack.

Using spy satellites, the U.S. has monitored vehicles in and out of the compound where the al-Qaida operatives have been held. U.S. officials have gleaned some information about the men through intercepted Iranian phone conversations and e-mails. But generally, the U.S. has only limited information about them.

If Iran were to release any of the major al-Qaida figures, it would be a violation of a United Nations resolution.

Then there is obviously nothing to worry about.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said Iran is well aware of U.S. concerns that they not be released.

Late in President George W. Bush’s administration, the CIA began developing a broad and lethal counterterrorism program, RIGOR, that targeted an array of terrorists in different countries. Part of the program examined the possibility of finding and eliminating al-Qaida inside Iran, former intelligence officials said.

They described the program as a feasibility study. One aspect was to figure out whether the CIA could slip spies into Iran to locate and possibly kill al-Qaida figures. RIGOR was separate from an earlier program involving contractors from Blackwater Worldwide.

RIGOR existed on the books for about two years but never progressed any further. CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled RIGOR last year. A U.S. official familiar with the program said a list of specific targets had not yet been identified when the program was nixed

The New York Times must be awfully red in the face this morning. Usually, they are the first to leak these kinds of national security secrets.

Oh well, if the CIA’s ‘feasibility study’ is over, what possible harm can it do for AP to tell the world about it?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, May 13th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “AP: US Studied Hitting Al Qaeda In Iran!”

  1. Right of the People says:

    “Al-Qaida operatives who have been detained for years in Iran have been making their way quietly in and out of the country,”
    How have they been “detained” if they are “making their way quietly in and out of the country,”? It’s more likely they have been using Iran as a safe haven and base.

    “Several members of bin Laden’s family also have been under house arrest.”
    House arrest as in mansion arrest? I don’t think they’ve been under any hardship.

    As far as hitting them in Iran, I doubt if you could swing a dead cat in Iran and not hit at least one terrorist.

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