- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

In the wake of last week's horrific events, some media are enthusiastically reporting that Syria and Iran have denounced the attacks, have expressed "condolences" over the American loss of life and may be prepared to join a U.S.-led international coalition against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network, which the Taliban harbors. Much has been made in the press, for example, over the considerable friction between Iran (which is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim) and Afghanistan (which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim), and over Iran's reported decision to close its border with Afghanistan.
It would be a very positive development indeed if Iran were to abandon its anti-Western radicalism. But, given the extensive history of ties between Iran's terror network and bin Laden's operatives, there is more than ample reason for skepticism that Tehran has made any such decision.
New York Post correspondent Niles Lathem, for example, reported Saturday that the FBI is uncovering evidence that other Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Hamas, are suspected of working with bin Laden's operatives to carry out the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on American soil. "Most of the evidence points to Osama bin Laden. But the speculation at the end of the road is that he was very much involved with Hezbollah and others," said Sen. Charles Grassley, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Indeed, Ali Mohammed, a bin Laden operative who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, testified about meetings between bin Laden and Hezbollah officials and told of explosives training provided to al-Qaeda operatives by Hezbollah. Indeed, the New York Post reported, representatives of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical groups held a February 2001 meeting in Beirut to form a terrorist coalition to fight the United States.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that American and European officials now believe that the terrorists who struck the United States last week were linked with Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. "The officials said the operation's scope would have required its leaders to turn to militant groups in Iran and Iraq for assistance," the L.A. Times added. "Bin Laden's followers and allies have sought help from these and other countries in the past. For instance, authorities now believe that Lebanon's Hezbollah extremist movement gave bin Laden's followers equipment used in the suicide boat attack last fall against the guided [U.S.] missile destroyer Cole" in Yemen. "Hezbollah, in turn, receives much of its support and material from Iran's Revolutionary Guards," added the Times. "That material arrives in irregular air shipments from Iran to Syria. Similar support, officials say, might have been critical to Tuesday's attacks."
It's fine to hope that some of these radical states are changing that tune. But given Tehran and Damascus' deplorable record of supporting terror, Washington needs to go in with its eyes open.

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