Why would Iran, a predominantly Shi’ite Muslim land, work with a predominantly Sunni Muslim terror organization like bin Laden’s? The short answer is personal connections, shared goals, and a common enemy. Ayman al-Zawahiri, a bona fide Sunni extremist, has received financial support from Iran since 1988. Bin Laden himself is believed to have met with Iranian intelligence officials at Islamic conferences in Khartoum, Sudan, in the early 1990s. Both bin Laden and the mullahs share an Islamist worldview that calls for the armed overthrow of Arab dictatorships and the restoration of a single caliph who will rule according to Shari’a law.
Finally, they share enemies, including many Arab leaders, the United States, and the rest of the Western world.
Whether the Sunni-Shi’ite divide is as wide among radical Islamists as some analysts say, few can dispute that Iran’s increasing isolation and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has provided Teheran with a strong incentive to seek out new allies.
Bin Laden is not the only senior al Qaeda member who has reportedly sought sanctuary. Saad bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the western city of Kermanshah, hard on the Iraq border. Saif al-Adel, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s successor as commander of al Qaeda’s military wing, is also said to be there…
Administration officials expect bin Laden will most likely be captured in Pakistan. Yet policymakers would be wise to turn their attention to Iran’s documented links to global terrorist networks, including bin Laden’s. With vast oil revenues, a long history of supporting terrorists, and a fathomless desire to achieve its ideological aims at the expense of American lives, it certainly deserves its place on President Bush’s “Axis of Evil.”
Richard Miniter is also the author of “Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror.”