Cliff May

The Bush administration waged what it called a Global War on Terrorism. Yet against Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, no serious actions were ever taken. President Obama is waging what he calls a “war against al Qaeda and its affiliates.” Yet he and his advisors are reluctant to articulate what has become indisputable: Iran and al Qaeda are affiliated.

Senior Obama officials have come closer to calling a spade a spade: Last week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda as a “longstanding … marriage.” But you had to listen carefully to hear him say that.

“Iran has harbored al Qaeda leaders, facilitators,” Clapper told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They have been “under house arrest conditions. [Iran’s rulers] have had this sort of standoff arrangement with al Qaeda, allowing [al-Qaeda] to exist [inside Iran], but not to foment any operations directly from Iran, because they’re very sensitive about, ‘Hey, we might come after them there as well.’… So there has been this longstanding, as I say, kind of, shotgun marriage, or marriage of convenience. I think, probably, the Iranians may think that they might use, perhaps, al Qaeda in the future as a surrogate or proxy.”

Not quite a model of analytic clarity but, as I said, at least it approaches reality (and do note the cryptic warning about Iran deploying al Qaeda terrorists down the road – more about that in a moment). Also last week: The U.S. Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) -- which it described as “Iran's primary intelligence organization” -- for its sponsorship of terrorism. And among the terrorist groups Treasury said MOIS supports: al Qaeda. The forms this support has taken: facilitating the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran, providing al Qaeda members “with documents, identification cards, and passports;” also, providing both “money and weapons” to al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.