Al Qaeda, Iran ... and Canada plot?
A VIA Rail train leaves Union Station, the heart of VIA Rail travel, bound for Windsor on April 22, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report they have arrested two people connected to an alleged Al Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb on a VIA Rail train in Canada.
April 23rd, 2013
01:05 PM ET

Al Qaeda, Iran ... and Canada plot?

By CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad" and a director at the New America Foundation.

The news that Canadian law enforcement on Monday arrested two men accused of planning to derail a passenger train in the Toronto area has attracted much attention, in part, because the plotters are also charged with "receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran."

If these allegations are true, it would appear to be the first time that al Qaeda elements based in Iran have directed some kind of plot in the West.

And it also underlines the perplexing relationship between the Shia theocratic state of Iran, which the Sunni ultra-fundamentalists who make up al Qaeda regard as heretical but with which they have had some kind of a marriage of convenience for many years.

While there isn't evidence that al Qaeda and the Iranian government have ever cooperated on a terrorist attack, al Qaeda's ties to Iran, surprising perhaps to some, stretch back more than a decade.

As recently as October, the U.S. Treasury named as terrorists six al Qaeda members living in Iran who it alleged were sending fighters and money to Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad's regime and were also funding terrorism in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda's Iranian presence began after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan during the winter of 2001 when some of Osama bin Laden's family and his top lieutenants fled to neighboring Iran, where they lived under some form of house arrest.

They included Saif al-Adel, the Egyptian military commander of al Qaeda; Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law and spokesman; and Saad bin Laden, one of the al Qaeda leader's older sons who has played a leadership role in his father's organization.

Saad helped bin Laden's oldest wife, Khairiah bin Laden, and a number of his father's children to move to Iran in 2002. Bin Laden's sons Ladin, Uthman and Muhammad and his daughter Fatima, who is married to Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, settled in Tehran, the Iranian capital.

According to Saudi officials, it was from al Qaeda's leaders in Iran that al Qaeda's Saudi affiliate received the go-ahead in 2003 for a number of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia that killed scores of Saudis and Westerners and targeted Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure.

In 2008, al Qaeda kidnapped Heshmatollah Attarzadeh-Niyaki, an Iranian diplomat living in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

According to a Pakistani intelligence official familiar with the deal, al Qaeda released the diplomat back to Iran in 2010 as part of a negotiation that allowed some of bin Laden's family and al Qaeda members then living in Iran to leave.

By now, relations between al Qaeda and Iran were tense.

In a letter recovered from the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where bin Laden was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team two years ago, bin Laden urged caution when his family members traveled out of Iran "since the Iranians are not to be trusted."

Bin Laden wrote that his family "should be warned about the importance of getting rid of everything they received from Iran like baggage or anything even as small as a needle, as there are eavesdropping chips that have been developed to be so small they can be put inside a medical syringe."

Last month Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law and one-time al Qaeda spokesman, was brought to a Manhattan courtroom to face charges of conspiracy to kill Americans.

Abu Ghaith left the comparative safety of his longtime refuge in Iran for Turkey earlier this year. Turkey then deported him to his native Kuwait via Jordan, where he was detained by FBI agents who escorted him to New York.

Abu Ghaith and the two suspects just arrested in Canada, 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal and 35-year-old Raed Jaser of Toronto, will obviously be the subject of much interest from U.S. and Canadian intelligence officials.

Those officials will surely be seeking answers to the precise nature of the Iranian government's relationship with al Qaeda over the past decade.

Has it been passive acquiescence or more active complicity?


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Canada • Iran
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 27, 2013 at 4:27 am | Reply
  2. Iran

    I havent a more B.S story lately then this.

    April 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      I agree, Iran. This reeks of another propaganda plot by the C.I.A. Today, Canada is little more than a subservient state to the U.S. Their leaders will do anything the right-wing thugs in Washington tell them to do, right or wrong!!!

      April 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  3. massoud

    Warning Propaganda Alert

    April 24, 2013 at 1:38 am | Reply
    • massoud

      Sunnis are in AL Qaeda not Iranians who are Shiites, what a joke this article total BS

      April 24, 2013 at 1:41 am | Reply
  4. Kdfghuk Ffgjhk

    SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE MIGHT BENIFIT FROM SOME MEDICAL mar-ih-jew-wanna–OR BETTER YET GET RID OF THE DHS AND PUT THE MONEY INTO MAKING MONEY INSTEAD OF SPENDING IT–OR DO AS I DO GO STAND IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIELD ON THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR HOLD YOUR BREATH AND STARE AT THE SUN–OR SELL YOUR SOUL–OR PRY FOR THE DISTRUCTION OF ALL EVIL–OR GO TO CHURCH–BUT REMEMBER IF YOU DONT DRINK YOU WILL NEVER BE TRUSTED.

    April 23, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  5. Doanld Potter

    A VIA Rail train leaves Union Station, the heart of VIA Rail travel, bound for Windsor on April 22, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) report they have arrested two people connected to an alleged Al Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb on a VIA Rail train in Canada.
    April 23rd, 2013
    01:05 PM ET
    Al Qaeda, Iran ... and Canada plot?

    My comment on CNN

    Is it not time that the world stops outright the threat of North Korea and Iran and realize China is NOT going to lay down the law because of the Korea Peninsula is too important to have it controlled by a unified Korea. This will NOT happen and and on the other hand they can not and do not want millions of refugees from the North t cross their borders. Caught in between they bounce back and forth with no intention of taking an approach to become closer to the Americas.

    I do not understand how naive passive and ignorant we can be with our heads in the sands waiting their for the ENEMY to kick our ass and then we look up and say – 'we have to find out who did this – my my who could it be' . Downright stupid as Iran – North Korea – and the two subtle partners China and Russia act as if nothing is happening while feeding them weapons, fuel and then North Korea subsidizes their loss of revenue by illegal drugs, Printing American Currency, selling weapons and everything else you can imagine.

    We are our worse enemies – Yup Yup Yup – Pearl Harbor was not bad enough – 911 was not bad enough, nor Boston Marathon, and NOW the Via train plot. When the hell are our governments going to WAKE UP and stand up and say NO NO NO to North Korea – STOP the BS with Iran and Alquida before the double headed snakes come out look us in the face and snap our throats from the back.

    Planing their game ruins us financially – and weakens our ability to defend during more and more cuts in the budgets and an ever increase in spending NOT for wars – Just the threats and deployment of troops. Wake up for GOD SAKE. Furthermore sending out the message of sanctions then talks and knowing they just buy time and they boast of continuing their Nuclear actions how STUPID can one be. Unfortunate as it might be and the casualties of war now will be much less than with the nuclear advancement of North Korea and Iran.

    OK let us be logical – sit back apply more sanctions and watch them come to America and beat the American and Canadian hell out of us through their smaller cells of terrorism and while using this to distract us they create their diversion to beat the crap us of us from the back – to the front and within.

    The fall of the Roman Empire is about to look like a comic strip when it come to the FALL of the Americas and this is where we are heading if we do not stop playing patsies to those who are serious about their hatred for the WEST!!!

    Now a question – Am I a lame duck – or does anybody feel the same way as I do.. What would the cry of Canada be if all the people on the Via train would have been killed. Take 10 months to find out how as we do not have the resources the USA has? WE WILL FALL VICTIM SOONER OR LATER – THANK GOD FOR THE GREAT JOB OF THE R.C.M.P. and others who contributed to catch these terrorists before the plot was realized.

    IN CONCLUSION: I feel like Daffy Duck – in a Bugs Bunny type series of the enemy comes to Walt Disney World and we the Americas put on our cartoon attire and threaten the big guns – while they laugh in our face and yell back – HEY!! This is no cartoon – Boom BYE

    April 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
    • massoud

      go join up

      April 24, 2013 at 1:35 am | Reply
  6. Sftuih Nutfx

    I THINK THE TEXAS MILITARY BASE SHOT-EM-UP Dr. NEEDS TO HAVE HIS BEARD SHAVED SINCE HE IS A PROVERBIAL CERIEAL KILLER WHO TRAINED THE MARATHON SUSPECT #1 HOW TO BECOME A CERIEAL KILLER– IF NOT WHY NOT–COULD IT BE THAT REALY HE IS MORE A gee-hah-d-ist WORKING TO ESTABLISH A SEPERATE SYSTEM OF LAWS IN AMERICA JUST LIKE SO MANY OTHER VERY VERY BAD MUSLIMS DO EACH AND EVERY DAY WHERE EVER THEY CAN & GET LAID & MAKE ANCHOR BABIES–I MEAN TROOPS– IN THE WAR TO ESTABLISH ISLAMIC LAW EVEN ON THE MOON & OUTER SPACE STATIONS.

    April 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  7. Sftuih Nutfx

    HAS ANYONE ANYPLACE AT ANY TIME EVER CALLED FOR gee-hah-d against gee-hah-d

    April 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  8. Towel Heads

    Towel Heads is what Towel Heads do.

    April 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      That is not politically correct. In the first place, a towel would be way too large and way to thick and fluffy. What they use to wrap their head is more like the material of a sheet, but not as large. I would wager the more politically correct name would be Little Sheet Heads.

      April 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  9. Hukm Ryut

    I REMEMBER HEARING ABOUT THIS THREAT YEARS AGO–OBVIOUSLY IT PROVED TO BE TRUE. THIS MEANS IT IS A ACT OF WAR–RIGHT...RIGHT.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Reply
  10. Jake Lucas

    Prelude to war. The U.S. desperately needs someone somewhere to go to war with; its how they make money. BIG BUSINESS.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • BigShiz

      No ones going to war with Iran

      April 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Reply
    • George Patton-2

      You nailed it, Jake! Thank you.

      April 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply

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