The Washington Post finds it newsworthy that senior al-Qaeda figures are leaving (or being shown the door in) Iran. Obviously, it is an interesting development … but one is constrained to ask why the Post did not seem to think it much of a story that Iran was harboring al-Qaeda leaders in the first place.
Iran, as our friend Michael Ledeen has repeatedly observed (most recently, here), is the chief sponsor of jihadism in the world. That it is a Shiite jihadist regime has not made much difference where the West is concerned: the mullahs have trained, supplied, financed and harbored Sunni jihadists – al-Qaeda and Hamas prominently among them – for over 20 years. This is the most outrageous aspect of the U.S. government’s negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, negotiations conducted by both the Bush and Obama administrations. The regime’s nuclear ambitions have been compartmentalized from its terror facilitation, notwithstanding that it is the regime’s propagation of revolutionary jihad that makes its potential acquisition of nukes so intolerable. We do not sit up at night worrying about, say, India’s nuclear weapons. We have anxiety over Iran because for its regime, “Death to America” is not a slogan, it is a ruthlessly pursued goal.
This is why Michael and I, among not nearly enough others, have urged for a decade that the problem in Iran is the regime, not the nukes, and that any sensible American foreign policy should make regime change in Iran an imperative. This has never necessarily meant a military invasion of Iran (although that option should always be on the table – not as saber-rattling but as something the mullahs become convinced is a realistic possibility). It has simply meant that we should have organized every aspect of American foreign policy – military, intelligence, economic, and diplomatic – on strangling the regime until it is deposed, hopefully by the Iranian people themselves but by external forces if that’s what it takes.
The mullahs gave their al-Qaeda allies a soft place to land after the post-9/11 U.S. invasion. Naturally, some see the apparent al-Qaeda exodus from Iran as a hopeful sign that Obama’s amateur-hour rapprochement gambit is working. But of course, it has nothing to do with that. What the president is doing, as observed by none other than Iran’s “moderate” president Hassan Rouhani, is a slow-motion surrender – and note that, only a day ago, Tehran’s jihadist-in-chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “economic jihad” against the West. Iran has no incentive to help what Khamenei continues to call “the enemy,” the United States, against its erstwhile ally, al-Qaeda – and if it did, as Michael Rubin points out, it would be handing the al-Qaeda leaders over to us, not allowing them to return to places whether they can direct jihadist violence against us.
No, the explanation for al-Qaeda’s vacating of (or expulsion from) Iran is straightforward. First, al-Qaeda is ascendant in the Middle East and North Africa thanks to the Obama policy of empowering Islamists; it no longer has need of safe harbor in Iran. Second, the Syrian civil war has caused a major rift between the mullahs and al-Qaeda – as it has between the mullahs and Hamas. Indeed, an al-Qaeda franchise, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has just claimed responsibility for bombing the Iranian embassy in Lebanon last November 19, as well as for bombings yesterday in Beirut, stronghold of Iran’s forward terrorist militia, Hezbollah. Reuters reports the Brigades’ statement:
We will continue – through the grace of God and his strength – to target Iran and its party in Lebanon (Hezbollah) in all of their security, political and military centers to achieve our two demands: One, the exit of all fighters from the Party of Iran in Syria; two, the release of all our prisoners from oppressive Lebanese prisons.
Recall that many of us have vigorously opposed the policy preference of the Beltway GOP establishment (led by Senator John McCain) for U.S. intervention in Syria. Besides its obviously being against our security interests to empower America’s enemies (the al Qaeda- and Muslim Brotherhood-rife “rebels”), I’ve maintained that, deprived of our lightning-rod effect, Islamic supremacists would turn viciously on one another, degrading themselves in a way we have failed to degrade them.