Iran and al-Qaeda

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Iran and al-Qaeda have been linked by Obama.

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The Leveretts are skeptical about recent allegations from the Obama administration linking al-Qaeda and Iran:

Not even the George W. Bush Administration was prepared to make concrete accusations that the Islamic Republic was deliberately facilitating al-Qa’ida’s terrorist activities. Now, however, the Obama Administration is advancing specific, on-the-record charges that Iran is helping al-Qa’ida. There is no reason for anyone to have any confidence that official Washington “knows”, in any empirically serious way, that Tehran is cooperating with al-Qa’ida in the ways that are alleged.

Of the six al-Qa’ida operatives sanctioned by the Treasury Department last week, only one is alleged to be physically present in Iran—and, by Treasury’s own account, he is there primarily to get al-Qa’ida prisoners out of Iranian jails. Moreover, the United States apparently has no hard evidence that the Iranian government is supportive of or even knowledgeable about the alleged al-Qa’ida network in the Islamic Republic. In her story, Helene Cooper writes that a “senior Administration official” said “in a conference call for reporters” (which means that the White House wanted everyone to hear this, and Helene did not have to leave her office to hear it), that “our sense is this network is operating through Iranian territory with the knowledge and at least the acquiescence of Iranian authorities”. A “sense” that al-Qa’ida is operating in Iran with “at least the acquiescence of Iranian authorities” now apparently amounts to proof of a “secret deal” that can be authoritatively referenced in the announcement of a legally and politically significant action by the Treasury Department.

Without actually knowing what the White House knows, it's really impossible to speculate. While skepticism is always warranted in claims such as these, it's worth asking what the Obama administration would have to gain by fabricating or hyping thin evidence here. I think the Iraq analogy is a bit off base - it's clear that the Obama administration is not itching for a war with Iran. Instead, they used the charges as the basis for sanctions on several Iranian officials. Nor is this the kind of charge that could move the needle in the debate over a residual U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

I suppose it's possible that the Obama administration had no other way to sanction these Iranians without recourse to allegations about al-Qaeda ties, but is that plausible?

(AP Photo)

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