Despite being buried at sea shortly after being shot dead by members of SEAL Team 6 in May 2011, the spirit of al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden seems very much alive. Indeed, even in death he continues to provide a justification for censure of particular governments, and more often than not those that are declared enemies of the US.
The nearly half-million documents seized from bin Laden’s compound on the Afghan-Pakistan border include, among other things, Hollywood films, information on the group’s plans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden’s handwritten journal and plans to rehabilitate the al-Qaeda’s “tarnished image” in the Muslim community.
The real shocker discovered among the assorted paraphernalia, however, was alleged proof of “secret dealings” between Tehran and al-Qaeda from a “never-before-seen 19-page document.” This was allegedly written by a senior member of al-Qaeda and is said to provide information on plans between Iran and the terrorist group to attack US interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
The document is said to provide “new insight into the often-adversarial relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran — the Sunni Muslim terror group and the Shiite republic,” AP reported. It then went on to provide a quote by the Long War Journal, which described the document as “a senior jihadist’s assessment of the group’s relationship with Iran.” The “well-connected” al-Qaeda official believed to have authored the document wrote that in return for carrying out attacks on US and Saudi targets, Shiite Iran offered Sunni militants “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon.”
Skeptics, however, were quick to point out the uncanny timing of the document’s release, coming just weeks after Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement forged during the Obama administration between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — to regulate Iran’s nuclear program. The US leader’s controversial decision to turn up the pressure on Tehran, seemingly without good cause, sparked global outcry and threatened to isolate the Trump administration even further on the global stage.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Washington does not have the right to unilaterally revoke a deal that was the product of tough negotiations between multiple states. “It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country. And it is not up to any single country to terminate it,” Mogherini said. “It is a multilateral agreement, which was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.”
Meanwhile, a former CIA analyst who resigned from the agency over misgivings with the Trump administration, Edward Price, has expressed public skepticism of the CIA claims. In a lengthy thread posted to Twitter, Price suggested we are witnessing an intelligence agency “ploy” similar to the one that preceded the 2003 attack on Iraq, although this time it is Iran that may be the new candidate for regime change.
“The CIA released what it claims are the final public files from Bin Laden’s lair. I’m all for transparency, but this isn’t about that,” Price wrote. He went to note that in January, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], which led the declassification work, released what it said was the last tranche of Bin Laden files. The DNI concluded that, with the January release, all those of public interest were released.
“But a funny thing happened when CIA Director Pompeo came into office,” Price wrote. “I’m told he re-launched a review of the files. In doing so, he took officers away from important missions to pore – and re-pore – over the millions of documents. How can we be sure this was a CIA effort? Unlike previous releases, today’s files are hosted on CIA.gov, not the DNI site. Why would he do that? It seems he’s convinced the unreleased files would tie al-Qaeda to Iran.”
After all, it was due to the CIA’s “bad intelligence” on Iraq and its alleged cooperation with al-Qaeda militants, which led to the invasion and overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein by the Bush administration.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, reporting just days before the US incursion into Iraq, “there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding al-Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein’s regime,” it wrote, quoting sources knowledgeable about US intelligence.
“The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein],” Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, told CSM.
Although there is no way to prove any sinister intentions on the part of the CIA and the Trump administration with regards to the sudden discovery of this document, it will be very difficult to convince Iran otherwise.
This is the fourth CIA release of bin Laden documents since the first trove of documents was published in May 2015.