Iran and Syria seem to be covertly supporting a new terrorist offensive against U.S. allies in the Middle East and the Caucasus. While they have sponsored terrorists in these regions before, recent disruptions of terrorist cells indicate that they are increasing the tempo and may be preparing for a confrontation in the near future.
Mohammad al-Oufi, the commander of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been in Saudi custody since turning himself in. Al-Oufi revealed that Iran was working with Al-Qaeda in the region and that foreign intelligence services were working with the group to disrupt the flow of Saudi oil, clearly insinuating Iranian involvement in the plot. According to the testimony, the Al-Qaeda attackers would flee to Yemen to avoid the Saudi authorities.
Iran’s sponsorship of Al-Qaeda elements targeting Saudi Arabia is nothing new. It is well-known that Seif al-Adel, a high-level Al-Qaeda operative, ordered the terrorist attacks in Riyadh in May 2003 from his Iranian safehouse. While this does not necessarily mean Iran was involved in the operation, the regime’s harboring clearly contributed to the plot and it is hard to believe that they did not know what al-Adel did not know what they were up to. If Iran can monitor and contain the activities of the widespread democratic movement in its country, then it must be assumed that the mullahs are aware of Al-Qaeda’s activities on its soil.
Yemen is another front in Iran’s terrorist offensive in the region. As outlined here, there is growing evidence that Iran is collaborating with Al-Qaeda elements in Yemen to destabilize the government. The testimony of al-Oufi provides further substantiation for this belief. Iran is also supporting the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, continuing their strategy of supporting both Shiite and Sunni extremists even if the two sides are at war with one another.
Azerbaijan has been targeted by Iran as well. The newspaper Al-Siyassa of Kuwait reports that “highly sensitive security sources” have disclosed that two Lebanese terrorists arrested in Azerbaijan, Najim al-Din and Ali Karki, were part of a cell run by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The two were arrested with forged Iranian passports and were planning attacks in Baku to retaliate for the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, a senior Hezbollah operative believed to have been the group’s top terrorism mastermind. Mughniyah was killed in February 2008 in Lebanon.
In April, Egypt foiled a massive Hezbollah terrorist plot on its soil against Israeli tourist sites. Forty-nine terrorists were arrested by the Egyptian authorities, and one key member of the network, Sami Shihab, was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Those arrested also said that Hezbollah had planned the attacks they were to carry out.
A “senior Egyptian security official” told Aaron Klein of WorldNetDaily.com that the Hezbollah members were working with the Iranian Revoltuionary Guards and “are coordinating terrorist activities inside Egypt with al-Qaida elements known to be present in the Sinai.” Klein also reported that an Egyptian intelligence official Ayman Juda Brigades said that at least six members of the Ayman Juda Brigades faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades were involved in the plot, and that the group did not deny that the Egyptians had arrested some of their members.
Syria, Iran’s closest ally, has played a key role in targeting Bahrain. The Bahraini Interior Minister has publicly stated that terrorists planning bombings on the country’s independence day on December 17, 2008, were trained in Syria. He also said that his government had informed the Assad regime in July that citizens of Bahrain were being trained on Syrian soil. Bahrain has repeatedly accused Iran of fomenting unrest among its Shiite population.
In June 2006, Syria attempted to destabilize Qatar. According to al-Seyassah, 100 Syrian workers and five Syrian intelligence officers were arrested in the plot, which came after Qatar voted for U.N. Resolution 1680 which called for a final agreement regarding the Syrian-Lebanese border and called for the restoration of full diplomatic ties between the two countries. The plot was organized by Assef al-Shawkat, the head of Syrian military-intelligence, and had Hezbollah involvement.
There is no recent information available to the public about Iranian and Syrian attempts to destabilize Qatar. Perhaps it is because while Qatar hosts U.S. military forces, the country has grown closer diplomatically to Iran and its allies. In March, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani met with President Ahmadinejad in Tehran where he said that the Islamic world needed a superpower like Iran.
Iran and Syria’s meddling has gone beyond Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are engaging in a region-wide offensive aimed at destabilizing pro-American governments, strengthening the hand of radical Islam, and building networks that can later be called upon to carry out spectacular attacks. If these are the types of actions Iran is currently engaging in, then it is truly worrisome to think what actions they’ll take should they get the capacity to produce nuclear weapons and deter the West.