Updated: New Sanctions Curtail Iranian Support to al Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghanistan

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Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, now believed to be the 2nd in Command of Al Qaeda. Photo: FBI
David S. Cohen Photo: U.S. Treasury

The U.S. Treasury Department is accusing the Iranian authorities of aiding al Qaeda. The government has imposed financial sanctions on six people believed to be Qaeda operatives in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan. According to documents captured at the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the campaign against the international Jihadist terror group, that coordinated espionage and infiltration, targeted killing and financial pressure was highly effective in eroding the group’s fighting fore. Navy SEAL Adm. Eric T. Olson said recently that Osama bin Laden’s killing on May 2 was a near-fatal blow for the organization which is now ‘bloodied and ‘nearing its end’.

David S. Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury said Iran entered a “secret deal with al Qaeda, allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory.” The new sanctions seek to disrupt al Qaeda’s operations between those countries and Iraq, by denying the terrorist group’s external financial support.

Iran and Al Qaeda have not been openly associated before, as the global Jihadist group is a radical Suni oriented organization, often denouncing the Shiite sect that holds power in Iran. Furthermore, a conflict raged between Al Qaeda branch in Iraq and the country’s Shiite majority has often escalated to mass killing. Yet, Teheran’s passive support to the ‘enemies of their enemy’ is not new and the U.S. has sanctioned Al Qaeda operatives seeking refuge in Iran before, without publicly highlighting such actions.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, now believed to be the 2nd in Command of Al Qaeda. Photo: FBI

According to the new announcement, the U.S. Government suspects that Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, described as a “prominent Iran-based Al Qaeda facilitator,” is operating in Iran under an agreement between Al Qaeda and Tehran. Another operative the Libyan born Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, formerly Al-Qa’ida’s emissary in Iran, believed to relocated to Pakistan, to man the second position in Al Qaeda, under the new leader Ayman al-Zawahri. News reports have indicated he was killed in a U.S. strike in October 2010, but Washington still has one million US$ prize on his head. However, Atiyah is not showing on their most wanted terrorists list. How long will he be able to keep his position is unknown, but Atiyah should be realistic about it. In a letter he wrote Bin Laden in 2010, he expressed his frustration with the CIA drone campaign, saying the men at the organization’s chain of command were getting killed faster than they could be replaced.
By the end of August 2011 new information released in Pakistan claimed again Atiyah was killed by a U.S. drone attack on August 22. U.S. sources have not confirmed these reports.