As evidence of Iran’s ties to Sunni terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, becomes overwhelm -ing, U.S. policymakers and spokesmen for the intelligence community are responding in ways all too familiar to Washington: denial, ridicule and outright lies.
And yet, despite the tremendous vigor of the policy community’s refusal to confront this clear and present danger to the United States, every now and then the truth peeks through the heavy layers of classification and double talk.
The latest example of truth-telling came buried in the Pentagon’s first annual report to Congress on Iran’s military capabilities and intentions, first reported by this newspaper on April 21.
In that report, released quietly in unclassified format, the Pentagon ran through Iran’s long-standing ties to a number of Sunni terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Then it dropped a bombshell: Iran is also providing weapons, training and other assistance to the radical Wahhabi Hezb-i Islami party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatiar and to the Taliban.
To those of us who have been following Iran’s terrorist operations and the strange bedfellows with whom Iran’s Shia Muslim leaders lie down, this was old news.
But it was a bombshell coming from a Pentagon that has been politically corrected under the leadership of Robert M. Gates, who has systematically denied Iran’s terror ties to Sunnis and who downplayed Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons as recently as last week.
“Arms caches have been recently uncovered [in Afghanistan] with large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons, to include 107-millimeter rockets, which we assess IRGC-QF [Islamic Revolution Guards Corps-Quds Force] delivered to Afghan militants,” the report says.
“Tehran’s support to the Taliban is inconsistent with their historic enmity, but fits with Iran’s strategy of backing many groups to ensure that it will have a positive relationship with the eventual leaders,” the report continues.
Referring to the Quds Force specifically, the report makes this comment: “Although its operations sometimes appear at odds with the public voice of the Iranian regime, it is not a rogue outfit; it receives direction from the highest levels of government, and its leaders report directly, albeit informally, to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, employing complementary diplomatic and paramilitary strategies.”
In plain English, that means that Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the IRGC to provide weapons and training to the Taliban and to other Sunni Muslim groups despite the conventional wisdom that for years has paralyzed the U.S. intelligence community into believing such cooperation is impossible because of their sectarian differences.
Military sources who worked under Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq tell me that they saw reports “all the time” about al Qaeda in Iraq using Iranian-built armor-piercing “explosively formed projectiles,” or EFPs. These deadly devices accounted for 10 percent of all U.S. combat deaths in Iraq last year. “Unless al Qaeda was raiding Quds Force safe houses and stealing them, the likely conclusion is that Iran provided them to al Qaeda,” my source said.
Recently, a Beltway defense contractor was asked to compile a public source report on Iran’s support for Sunni terrorist groups. The report, called “Dawn of Jihad,” was so explosive that its contents were classified immediately even though the report’s author, a retired U.S. military officer, had not drawn on classified sources.
Among other revelations, “Dawn of Jihad” demonstrated that the ties between Iran’s current leaders to Sunni terrorist groups go back to the 1970s, years before the Iranian revolution, when Ahmad Khomeini (the son of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) and other revolutionaries trained in Lebanon with various PLO factions.
Furthermore, drawing on banking documents seized during a federal criminal prosecution, the report found that the same Swiss bank account used to fund the operations of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood was used to charter the Air France Boeing 747 that flew Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his entourage to Iran in January 1979, just days after the Shah fled the country.
The latest chapter in this saga comes in the form of a documentary film made by Icelandic filmmakers Thorkell (Keli) Hardarson and Orn Marino Arnarson that includes a stunning interview with a Tajik smuggler who claims to have met Osama bin Laden six times since October 2004 - each time in Iran.
The film, “Feathered Cocaine,” began as a simple documentary of the illicit trade in hunting falcons to Middle East desert sheiks. But as the filmmakers delved deeper into their subject, they discovered a dark underworld where terrorism and falcon smuggling met with astonishing regularity.
I first reported on the revelations contained in this film more than a year ago at Newsmax.com, after the filmmakers granted me exclusive access to the entire 55-minute interview with the smuggler, whom they dubbed “T-2.” The film premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and already has attracted significant attention from puzzled reviewers.
Perhaps the most stunning revelation contained in “Feathered Cocaine” is the refusal of the U.S. intelligence community even to consider the offer by the filmmakers to make their sources available to track and capture Osama bin Laden in Iran.
“It became clear to me that the United States doesn’t want to capture Bin Laden alive,” said Alan Parrot, president of the Union for the Conservation of Raptors and the main character in the film.
Why? There’s the rub. Since the moment Ruhollah Khomeini and his Islamic thugs seized control of Iran, the United States has systematically downplayed the evidence of Iran’s terrorist ties to Sunni terror groups, starting with Khomeini’s close relationship to PLO chief Yasser Arafat.
Even the Sept. 11 commission was puzzled by this behavior. After stumbling at the last minute upon a ream of NSA intercepts detailing the travels to Iran of eight to 10 of the “muscle” hijackers between October 2000 and February 2001, the report’s authors concluded: “We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.”
Until now, that investigation has never been done. It’s time for it to begin today.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a contributing editor for Newsmax Media and president of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.