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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

On 9/11, Recalling the Ties between Iran and Al-Qaeda

Filed under: Al-Qaeda and Global Jihad, Iranian Terrorism, Terrorism

On 9/11, Recalling the Ties between Iran and Al-Qaeda
The World Trade Center in New York City before its collapse, September 11, 2001 (Michael Foran / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2004, the “9/11 Commission” released its public report after investigating and preparing a “full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”1

Was it a full and complete account?

Unfortunately, the ties between the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorists and the government of Iran were unintentionally obfuscated. Investigative journalist Ronen Bergman exposed these ties in his 2011 book, The Secret War with Iran: The 30-Year Clandestine Struggle against the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Power.2

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (the “9/11 Commission”) published their report on July 22, 2004. The commission found that “senior managers in al-Qaeda maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hizbullah… Al-Qaeda members received advice and training from Hizbullah.” A large percentage of the 14 Saudi “muscle” operatives “traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.”

But, Bergman reported,3 the commission was under time constraints, and they “crammed” critical information from the National Security Agency into three pages.

The Commission’s reported, “We have found no evidence that Iran or Hizbullah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack…”4 but, the Commission wrote, “After 9/11, Iran and Hizbullah wished to conceal any past evidence of cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al-Qaeda. A senior Hizbullah official disclaimed any Hizbullah involvement in 9/11.”

Tellingly the Commission concluded, “We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.”

No further federal investigation was forthcoming.

By providence, an extensive investigation was being conducted by family members of the flight crew on one of the hijacked planes and their lawyers who inspected 75 National Security Agency intelligence documents in preparation for a $100 billion lawsuit against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Iran.

Writes Bergman:

The huge amount of evidence included in the lawsuit comes together to form a fascinating charge: Starting in the 1990s, Iran and Hizbullah helped Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri create a new terror organization from scratch. [Editor’s note: arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh played a significant role in its creation.] Iran trained group members, equipped them with advanced technological means, enabled them to move freely and provided them with plenty of terror-related expertise and experience accumulated by Hizbullah in its operations against Israel and the United States. Later, according to the lawsuit, Iran assisted in the preparations ahead of September 11.5 [Emphasis added.]

Bergman continued to explain the Iranian connection to 9/11:

So how did the 19 terrorists manage to enter the U.S. after all? How could it be that U.S. immigration officials in Germany and Saudi Arabia suspected nothing? The answer to these questions remained unknown, until the treasure trove was discovered at the NSA basement. As it turned out, many of the terrorists headed from Afghanistan to Iran, with Iranian officials ordering border control officers not to stamp these passports. Following the attacks, many senior al-Qaeda men found shelter in Iran. Tehran denied their presence for some time and later admitted that hundreds of al-Qaeda members are in the country and are under “house arrest.”

In December 2011, Federal Judge George Daniels signed a default judgment finding Iran, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda liable for the 9/11 attacks. He found that the 2001 attacks were caused by the support provided to al-Qaeda by the defendants. The judge also signed findings that “Iran continues to provide material support and resources to al-Qaeda by providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda leadership and rank-and-file al-Qaeda members.”6

The U.S. Government was not part of the lawsuit.

When U.S. Special Forces killed Bin Laden in the 2011 raid, they seized copious amounts of documents. Only in 2017, did the CIA release a 19-page al-Qaeda report written in Arabic on the history of al-Qaeda relations with Iran. The report, written in 2007, revealed that Iran offered al-Qaeda fighters “money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hizbullah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia.”7

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