Counter-Terrorism: Iran Under Pressure to Fight al Qaeda

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September 21, 2005: Al Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, appears to be headed for a falling-out with his nominal boss, Osama bin Ladin. Although bin Laden is anti-Shia, he has been careful not to antagonize  Iran, the largest Shia nation in the world,  too much. There were practical reasons for this, as Iran is the only "Islamic Republic" on the planet, and has plenty of oil. Iran and al Qaeda both want to see the United States, Israel, and the West in general, destroyed. Bin Laden has long had a hard time keeping Iran friendly towards al Qaeda. That's because the Islamic conservatives, who are the core of al Qaeda support, believe that Shia Moslems are heretics, and should be forced, under threat of death, to practice the mainline Sunni form of Islam. But at least bin Laden tried. Zarqawi is another matter. 

Zarqawi's refocusing of operations in Iraq against Shia civilians, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan (October), may antagonize Iran so much that it decides to support, at least covertly, American efforts against al Qaeda in Iraq. This would, in turn, give the U.S. (and the Shia) a major victory over the Sunni-led al Qaeda Jihad. At the moment, Iran is caught between a rock and a hard place. While Iran backs Islamic radicals, it also portrays itself as the defender of Shia Moslems. When the Taliban and al Qaeda were running Afghanistan, Iran was quite hostile to the atrocious treatment given to Afghan Shia. But once the Taliban were out of power, some Iranian Islamic hardliners were willing to help al Qaeda members get away from Afghans and Americans pursuing them.

Iraqi Shia leaders are already quietly pressuring Iran for some help against Zarqawi's murderous al Qaeda terrorists. If Iran doesn't do something, these complaints could turn public, which would be very embarrassing for Iranian Islamic conservatives.

 


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