In a response to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri’s latest attempt at reconciliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani made a startling admission: Al Qaeda has ordered its fighters and branches to refrain from attacking the Iranian state in order to preserve the terror group’s network in the country. This is what Adnani had to say [the translation of Adnani’s statement was obtained by The Long War Journal]:
The ISIS has kept abiding by the advices and directives of the sheikhs and figures of jihad. This is why the ISIS has not attacked the Rawafid [rejectionists, a term used to describe Shia Muslims] in Iran since its establishment. It has left the Rawafid safe in Iran, held back the outrage of its soldiers, despite its ability, then, to turn Iran into bloodbaths. It has kept its anger all these years and endured accusations of collaboration with its worst enemy, Iran, for refraining from targeting it, leaving the Rawafid there to live in safety, acting upon the orders of al Qaeda to safeguard its interests and supply lines in Iran.
Yes, it [the ISIS] has held back the outrage of its soldiers and its own anger for years to maintain the unity of the mujahideen in opinion and action.
Let history record that Iran owes al Qaeda invaluably.
Toward the end of the lengthy statement, Adnani reiterates that the ISIS “complied” and didn’t attack Iran:
We [the ISIS] complied with your request not to target them outside Iraq, in Iran and elsewhere.
While analysts often cite the tired cliche that Sunni al Qaeda couldn’t possibly cooperate with Shia Iran, we’ve documented al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran for years. And although Adnani didn’t explicitly state that al Qaeda had a deal with Iran “to safeguard its interests and supply lines,” the US government has said it has evidence of such an agreement. The US Treasury Department noted in the July 2011 designation of six al Qaeda operatives who were based in Iran that the Iranian government had a “secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory.”
That same designation declared that Iran is “a critical transit point for funding to support al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Other links between Iran and al Qaeda have been also disclosed by the US government. In June 2012, Treasury designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security “for its support to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, al Qaeda in Iraq, Hezbollah and HAMAS, again exposing the extent of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism as a matter of Iranian state policy.”
The US government has designated al Qaeda operatives who operate inside Iran such as Mustafa Hamid, the father-in-law of top al Qaeda operative Saif al Adel; Saad bin Laden, one of Osama’s sons; and Yasin al Suri, the head of al Qaeda’s operations in Iran.
And that is just scratching the surface.
So, if you’ve paid attention to al Qaeda’s network in Iran, and Iran’s support of Sunni jihadist groups in the region, Adnani’s statement should come as no surprise. It is merely confirmation of what you already knew.