Iran, Hezbollah Reportedly Backing Al-Qaeda Attacks Against US Interests in the Middle East
Iran and Hezbollah have been supervising and funding fighters linked to Al-Qaeda to target US interests in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, independent Lebanese online newspaper Naharnet reported on Sunday citing a breaking report from pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran is playing a central role in running the affairs of Al-Qaeda, and even, surprisingly, Jabhat al-Nusra, after it has taken in a number of leading fighters in order to plan terrorist attacks against these US interests.
The sources confirmed that the fighters have been moving between Iranian cities, including Tehran, Meshad and Zahdan. Meanwhile, Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah has been taking care of planning and providing them with financing.
The sources added that the Saudi Saleh Al-Qar’awi, known as “Najm Al-Kheir [the Star of Beneficence]” – the former leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades – is the most prominent of the individuals leading Al-Qaeda’s operations from Iran. Accompanying him are a number of individuals who have close relations with Iranian officials.
The sources cited in the report also noted that Qar’awi plotted with the Saudi Abdel-Muhsin Al-Sharekh – one of those wanted under the Saudi “List of 85” in addition to being sanctioned by the UN Security Council – to kidnap a group of foreigners in Saudi Arabia. But for various reasons, the plot was not carried out. Qar’awi also schemed with others to attack American interests in Saudi Arabia.
Qar’awi also plotted to blow up the US armed forces headquarters in Jordan, after a Jordanian named “Firas” suggested that he carry out the operation in a housing compound frequented by US service personnel. The plot failed, as it was discovered by Jordanian authorities.
Qar’awi also supported a plot to destroy the US Embassy in Dubai by using a drone equipped with explosives, or a suicide attack by a pilot flying a training aircraft. To that end, he smuggled explosives into the UAE, and Qar’awi was awaiting the announcement of the attack, so that his group could take responsibility for it. Yet, this plan was also not carried out. He also plotted to blow up a Japanese oil barge in the Straits of Hormuz in 2010, and a bombing in Heathrow Airport in London.
The cooperation between Iran and these Al-Qaeda elements is unexpected, since Iran and its proxies have taken the side of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war against rebel and opposition groups, including Jabhat Al-Nusra. Perhaps most famously, Hezbollah and Jabhat Al-Nusra clashed in the 2013 battle of Qalamoun in Syria, bordering the Lebanese Bekaa Valley, resulting in a decisive Hezbollah and Syrian Army victory.
However, this is not the first instance of Iranian cooperation with Al-Qaeda, with the most recent instance being the 2013 Iranian-backed Al-Qaeda plot to blow up trains in Canada.