Al-Qaeda to U.S. Muslims: ‘No Escape from Coming Confrontation’ to Avoid ‘Concentration Camps’

(Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb photo)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, Aug. 17, 2017:

An al-Qaeda leader warned American Muslims that they’re headed for “concentration camps” unless they pick up arms and fight, quoting late American al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki stating that “surely your situation is becoming similar to that of the embattled Muslim community of Spain after the fall of Grenada.”

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leader Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, aka Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, made the comments in this week’s new issue of the English-language Inspire magazine from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which included a lengthy how-to on attacking the train system with a homemade derailment tool placed on the tracks.

“How many lone jihad operations have had the impact of changing policies, bringing about the fall of political parties or even governments in some of the strongest and most influential countries of the world! This is why the martyrdomseeker

and Inghimasi (storm trooper) instills more fear in the hearts of the enemy than other fighters,” Wadoud said in a Q&A. “It is due to the positive results of lone jihad operations that we invite the sons of our Ummah [Muslim community] to adopt this new method of jihad and hold on to it firmly.”

He said that though the United States “is impossible to invade for a power outside the American Continent since it is surrounded by 6000 kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean,” lone jihad operations are “uncostly in terms of lives and expenses for Muslims, its impact on the enemy is significant and almost disproportional.”

“There is little doubt that this type of jihad enrages the disbelievers even more when a revert from their own race or nationality carries out such an operation… someone who had once been part of their community before Allah guided him to Islam and jihad,” Wadoud continued. “This is enraging for the enemies of Islam because it proves that Islam transcends their narrow nationalism and a Muslim’s loyalty is to his religion and not to his homeland. This aspect is harder for them to digest than the operation itself, so let us reflect on it. This is one of the weak spots in which there is enragement of the disbelievers.”

“Due to the edge that a Muslim living in the West enjoys, many scholars and leaders of jihad have encouraged carrying out martyrdom operations in the West. The reward and station of such an individual is no less than the reward of those who migrate to the theaters of jihad.”

Wadoud discussed how “crime rates in America are much higher than other nations, and it comes as no surprise that most crimes are of a racist nature.”

“And this is something that Obama on the eve of his departure from the White House himself admitted frankly,” he added. “The inescapable result of Trump’s victory and the coming to power of his likes in Western countries means that the room for co-existence in the West is being eroded with every passing day. And this does not affect Muslims alone, but all races other than the ‘white race’ (as they love to portray themselves). With the permission of Allah, this trend will prove to be in the interest of Muslims, since it will awaken the conscience of the Ummah and make it cognizant of the reality of Western Crusader savagery.”

He argued “there is no escape from the coming confrontation,” and Muslims have to lead the battle.

The AQIM leader added that if President Trump “sticks to his antagonistic policies towards Islam and crosses the limits in his attacks on Muslims, his fate will be no different from that of Bush, if not worse.”

Wadoud said U.S. Muslims put “false hope” in Hillary Clinton as “in terms of their enmity for Islam, they are all equal.”

“So both Democrats and Republicans are serpents carrying lethal venom, but the former prefers a gentle delicate façade, while the latter reveals its true colors,” he explained. “…Trump’s blunt statements and his hostile stance towards Islam and Muslims may be beneficial in ways that only Allah knows. His rash candidness is a powerful reminder to the Islamic Ummah of the reality of these disbelievers.”

Trump, Wadoud continued, “given his repulsive racist nature, read the popular scene correctly.”

“His election campaign was based on appealing to the natural racist tendencies of the American voter. In doing so, Trump’s campaign exploited the absolute political ignorance of the masses in America, where a single emotional speech is sometimes sufficient to change the outlook of many. This is why we saw that his outspokenness often touched the limits of audacity in several statements he made. He understood that the ordinary American had become tired of the grey zone visible in the policies of the Democrats. So he knew how to play with their feelings and rally their emotions,” the terror leader added.

“He succeeded in raising issues which trouble them, foremost being the loss of security experienced by the American public on American soil as well as abroad. Trump succeeded twice: first when he instilled fear of Islam amongst the masses, second when he convinced them that he is their sole hope against this danger.”

UTT SPECIAL REPORT: Terrorist from Terrorist Mosque Speaks in Delray Beach FL Tonight

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Aug. 17, 2017:

Tonight (8/17/2017) at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach, Florida, Muslim Brother (Jihadi) Bassem Alhalabi will speak on “Human Rights” in Islam.

The contrast would be comical if it were not so dangerous and the public were better informed.

[Author’s note:  the leadership of the Islamic world at the Head of State level approved the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) defining “Human Rights” as the imposition of Islamic Law/Sharia.  See Cairo Declaration HERE; note Articles 24 &25]

Bassem Alhalabi is the President of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, which is a highly sharia-adherent mosque, and has leaders/attendees involved in the terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Hamas.

Alhalabi is also currently a professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Before arriving at FAU, Alhalabi was in Tampa at the University of South Florida (USF)  working closely with convicted terrorist Sami al-Arian.  Alhalabi co-authored publications with al-Arian and, when applying to FAU, he used al-Arian as a reference.

Sami Al-Arian in jail

The September 21, 2004 superseding indictment charged in the Middle District of Florida (Tampa) stated: “SAMI AMlN ALARlAN was a member of the PIJ, a member of the ‘Shura Council’ of the PIJ, and Secretary of the ‘Shura Council.’”

Al-Arian pled guilty to “Conspiracy to make or receive contributions or funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist, in violation of 18 USC Section 371.”

PIJ is also a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Al-Arian was sentenced on May 1, 2006, to 57 months in prison.

In addition to being a terrorist, Sami al-Arian was a tenured professor at the University of South Florida and taught computer science, like Alhalabi.

On June 30, 2003, Alhalabi was charged in a U.S. Department of Commerce administrative hearing as follows:  “Alhalabi caused to be exported a thermal imaging camera, an item subject to the Regulations, from the United States to Syria.”

Who sends thermal imaging equipment to a state sponsor of terrorism?  A terrorist does.  It is not clear why this was not a “Material Support for Terrorism” charge.

The Alhalabi charging document from the U.S. Department of Commerce can be read here.

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton has a history of sharia adherence and, therefore, supporting jihad – what U.S. law calls “terrorism.”

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton

Prior to 9/11/2001, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton received grants from and donated money to the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), which the U.S. Treasury designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and shut down in 2002 because “its officers and directors have connections to, and have provided support for and assistance to, Usama bin Laden (UBL), al Qaida (sic).”

The mosque publicly pleads ignorance.

In 2007, Dr. Rafiq Sabir, an active member of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, was convicted of Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization – Al Qaeda.

On May 23, 2016, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) at FAU hosted a panel discussion which included Bassem Alhalabi.  Alhalabi told the audience “Sharia is being practiced in the U.S.  We at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, we practice sharia.”  He then explained to the crowd that amputating hands for theft is a good thing.

See the video here.  (hat tip to the United West!)

UTT readers are aware sharia mandates jihad until an Islamic State (Caliphate) is established and sharia is the law over the entire earth.  Jihad is legally defined as “warfare against non-muslims” in sharia.

The website for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton states:  “Terrorism is not a religious identity, rather it is a horrific behavior often justified by misapplied religious dogma.  ICBR [Islamic Center of Boca Raton], in accordance to its sole purpose and understanding of Islam, stands firm on the condemnation of all forms and acts of terrorism. The ill acts of a few misguided individuals shall not be viewed as the mainstream of Islam and Muslims.”

Since we know – because Bassem Alhalabi publicly said it – the ICBR is fully sharia adherent, we must define “Terrorism” as Islam/Sharia defines the word.  In Islam, “Terrorism” is to kill a muslim for a non-sharia prescribed reason, ie to kill a muslim without right under sharia.  Sharia prescribes when and how muslims may be killed:  those who commit capital crimes in Islam (apostasy and adultery for instance), and a muslim who kills another muslim without right (for a non-sharia prescribed reason) may be killed. Any other killing of a muslim is “Terrorism” in Islam.

So, of course they denounce terrorism.  However, they are not referring to “terrorism” as defined by U.S. law.

And they will never denounce JIHAD.

In March 2011, Bassem Alhalabi was arrested in Boca Raton, Florida for assaulting Joe Kaufman, Chairman of Americans Against Hate, after Kaufman spoke in Tallahassee, Florida about the terrorism ties of Hamas leader Ahmed Bedier, a colleague of Alhalabi, and leader of the group United Voices of America.

In May 2017 it was revealed the Islamic Center of Boca Raton recently paid $4.9 million for a 19 acre plot in Delray Beach, Florida.  Wonder what the Muslim Brotherhood will use that for?

Nothing good to be sure.

At what point will citizens in Florida hold their local and state officials accountable for passing the buck while allowing terrorists like Bassem Alhalabi to walk the streets?

Analysis: Taliban propagandists release ‘open letter’ to President Trump

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN & BILL ROGGIO | August 15, 2017

The Taliban has published an “open letter” to President Donald Trump, urging him to “adopt the strategy of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan instead of a troops increase.” The letter was clearly penned with the Trump administration’s ongoing debate over the war in Afghanistan in mind.

Senior administration officials have reportedly prepared several plans, ranging from a complete withdrawal to a small increase of several thousand American troops. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, favors the latter while alternative scenarios have also been presented to the president.

President Trump has been reticent to commit additional forces, as he would then take ownership of the longest war in America’s history. The Taliban obviously knows this and is trying to influence the debate inside the US.

But readers should keep in mind that the new letter is propaganda and should be read as such. The letter is laced with erroneous and self-serving statements. And some of its key points, crafted for Western readers, are contradicted by the facts.

Allied with al Qaeda, which exports terrorism around the globe

The Taliban describes itself as a “mercy for Afghanistan, [the] region and the world because the Islamic Emirate does not have any intention or policy of causing harm to anyone and neither will it allow others to use the Afghan soil against anyone.”

Although the Taliban does not explicitly mention al Qaeda, the group likely wants readers to assume that this sentence means there is a clear distinction between the Taliban’s operations inside Afghanistan and jihadist threats outside of the country. In reality, there is no such clear line of demarcation.

Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, remains openly loyal to the Taliban’s overall leader. Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour in Aug. 2015. Mansour, the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Omar, described al Qaeda’s leaders as the “heroes of the current jihadist era” and Osama bin laden as the “leader of mujahideen.” Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Dr. Zawahiri’s fealty shortly after it was offered.

After Mansour was struck down by an American drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016, Zawahiri quickly rehearsed the same oath to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who still presides over the Taliban. Akhundzada’s son carried out a suicide bombing in Helmand province in July. The attack was just the latest piece of evidence confirming that the Taliban emir is a committed ideologue, not a prospective peace partner.

Under Akhundzada’s leadership, the Taliban is hardly bashful about its continuing alliance with al Qaeda. The Taliban celebrated the relationship in a Dec. 2016 video, which contained images of Osama bin Laden alongside Mullah Omar. One such image from the production can be seen below:

Other al Qaeda figures are also proudly featured in the Taliban video, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Khalid al Batarfi, a veteran jihadist who plays an important ideological role. Batarfi praised the Taliban for harboring and supporting al Qaeda. And he directly connected the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan to the jihad against the US.

“Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi said in the Taliban’s video. The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was sacrificed and even vanished in support of our sacred religion, but they (the Taliban) did not trade off their religion.” Batarfi crowed that the jihadists can finally “see [the] light of victory,” as governance according to the “rule of Sharia” law is “even stronger in Afghanistan than before.”

While the Taliban is often portrayed as a nationalist group (this is the intended implication of the group’s letter to President Trump), the Dec. 2016 video portrayed the Taliban’s struggle as part of the global jihad and the effort to reclaim all Muslim lands.

Akhundzada’s top deputy is the aforementioned Sirajuddin Haqqani, a longtime al Qaeda ally. The Haqqanis have been in bed with al Qaeda since the 1980s. Sirajuddin’s father, Jalaluddin, was one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest and most influential backers. Files recovered during the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound reveal that al Qaeda’s men have fought alongside Sirajuddin’s forces for years. This is especially significant because Haqqani oversees the Taliban’s military operations.

There are numerous other ties. In Sept. 2014, for instance, Zawahiri publicly announced the creation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which brought together existing al Qaeda-allied groups. AQIS has repeatedly made it clear that its men fight under the Taliban’s banner and that its primary goal is to restore the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate to power in Afghanistan. In Oct. 2015, US and Afghan forces raided two massive al Qaeda training camps in southern Afghanistan. One of the camps, approximately 30 square-miles in size, may be the largest al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan’s history. Both of the camps were supported by the Taliban. AQIS conducts operations in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.

Just over two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the US hunted down a top al Qaeda commander known as Farouq al-Qahtani in eastern Afghanistan. Qahtani not only commanded jihadists fighting alongside the Taliban, he was planning attacks inside the United States at the time of his demise.

All of these details, and more, belie the Taliban’s claim that it won’t “allow others to use the Afghan soil against anyone.”

State sponsors and enablers of the Taliban-led insurgency

The Taliban claims that the US government has concluded that the “mujahideen” are entirely self-sufficient and do not receive any foreign support. “Your intelligence agencies admit that our Mujahideen are not being supported by any country and neither can they produce any proof in the contrary,” the letter reads.

This is obviously false — Pakistan’s support for the Taliban is longstanding and well-known. Other countries, such as Iran and Russia, provide some level of assistance. Wealthy benefactors in the Gulf have contributed rich sums to the Taliban cause as well.

In July, the US State Department once again confirmed that Pakistan harbors the Taliban, including the so-called Haqqani Network (HQN), which plays an integral role within the organization. “Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process,” State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 reads. A “number” of attacks inside Afghanistan throughout 2016 “were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

In a report submitted to Congress in June, the Defense Department also explained the enduring importance of the jihadists’ Pakistani safe havens. “Attacks in Afghanistan attributed to Pakistan-based militant networks continue to erode the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship,” the Pentagon noted. “Militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, continued to utilize sanctuaries inside Pakistan.”

The Afghan Taliban is not operating under the radar in Pakistan, but instead receives assistance from parts of the government. “Afghan-oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani Government,” the report reads (emphasis added).

This is consistent with Pakistan’s “Good Taliban” vs. “Bad Taliban” policy, which favors jihadists who are focused on attacking the Afghan government and allied forces, including the US. Only the “Bad Taliban” — that is, those jihadists operating against the Pakistani state — are regularly targeted by Pakistani security. The effects of this policy are plain to see. The Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) earned its name because the group’s most senior leaders have been able to operate openly in the city. It is well-known, too, that the Haqqanis have cozy relations with the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. Sirajuddin Haqqani has been the Taliban’s top deputy leader since 2015.

Pakistan isn’t the only regional player supporting the Taliban-led insurgency. The Iranian government is as well.

“Iran provides some support to the Taliban and Haqqani Network and has publicly justified its relationships as a means to combat the spread of the ISIS-K threat in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon reported in June. Although the Iranians attempt to justify their policy as a form of realpolitik, a necessary consequence of fighting the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (Khorasan “province,” or ISIS-K), the reality is that they first forged a working relationship with their former foes in the Taliban immediately after the 9/11 hijackings. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Iran has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since late 2001.]

A striking example of Iranian complicity in the Afghan insurgency was revealed in May 2016, when the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in an American airstrike. The US followed Mansour from Iran, where he was holding meetings, across the Pakistani border into Baluchistan, where he was struck down. Mansour’s ability to travel freely inside Iran speaks volumes about the ongoing relationship.

At a minimum, Russia has rhetorically backed the Taliban. “Russian-Afghan relations suffered due to Russia’s public acknowledgment of communications with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call for coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the Pentagon has said. Press reports continue to point to evidence that Russian-supplied weapons are helping to fuel the Taliban-led insurgency. Asked about these reports in April, Gen. John Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support and US Forces Afghanistan, refused to refute them.

There are other obvious problems with the Taliban’s letter. The group accuses President Trump’s generals of lying about the American casualties incurred. The “[g]enerals are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled however the Afghans can easily count the coffins being sent your way on a daily basis,” the letter reads. This is nonsensical, as American casualties are readily verified. Moreover, the Taliban frequently lies about the number of Americans killed or wounded in combat.

The Taliban says that it could “conquer many provincial capitals currently under siege,” if it “were not for fear of civilian casualties.” There is no question that the Taliban currently threatens multiple provincial capitals, but its concern about civilian casualties is mostly cosmetic. The United Nations has repeatedly documented the Taliban’s culpability in killing and wounding innocents. The group is responsible for more civilian casualties in Afghanistan than any other actor.

The US approach to the war in Afghanistan should be based on a rational assessment of the situation, not the Taliban’s misleading claims.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

New Threats from Al Qaeda: Inspire 17 Magazine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton. Aug. 13, 2017:

Al Qaeda has issued its latest edition of Inspire magazine, Inspire 17.

The magazine is published by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it covers Al Qaeda operations worldwide. In particular, Inspire 17 features the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud.

However, this latest issue of Inspire is noteworthy in that the most prominent personality in the magazine is Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden is emerging as a global leader of Al Qaeda and has specifically vowed to take revenge on the U.S. for killing his father.

Here is a brief summary of the highlights of Inspire 17:

Al Qaeda claims that they will be concentrating on targeting Western nations’ transportation infrastructure, seeking to disrupt the movement of people and cargo.

While Al Qaeda says that they will be targeting all aspects of transportation, air, sea and land, as well as local and international, Inspire 17 focuses on rail transport.

As implied by the name “inspire” Al Qaeda seeks to inspire individual Jihadis to take action. They suggest attacking transport vehicles such as trains and aircraft, lines of transport, such as railways, and stations, terminals and transit points, such as train stations, subway terminals and airports.

Bin Laden specifically states: “I urge my Mujahideen brothers everywhere, especially Lone Jihad heroes; I say to them: Target America.”

But America is not the only target mentioned in the magazine. It sets a priority order for targets in the following order: “everyone who transgresses against our religion,” Jewish interests, US, NATO, Russia.

Al Qaeda specifically instructs its followers to target civilians, as opposed to military targets: “In targeting civilians, there is much advantage and benefit for attaining goals of Jihad that cannot be attained when targeting the military.”

The emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud is quoted as singling out France for attack: “France! Do you know time for settling debts has approached? Do not think you will escape punishment! Start preparing to pay what you owe to Muslims, in cash and in kind.”

France has conducted a robust military campaign against AQIM for several years now.

The impact on Western and American lifestyles from increased security measures is not lost on Al Qaeda: “O Mujahideen, it is time we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with air.”

Concentrating on rail, the magazine describes a austere technique for attacking trains by derailing them from railroad tracks by positioning an item on them that will alter the course of the train’s wheels.

Unlike previous terror attacks on rail infrastructure, such a technique would not require explosives.

The magazine points out the merit of derailing high speed trains and lists Acela in the US, Class 395 Javelin in the UK and TGV in France as high speed trains to attack.

The magazine also suggests prioritizing derailing trains with HAZMAT cargo in cities and towns in the USA.

The following passenger trains are listed as specific targets: Lake Shore Limited, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Acela Express, Amtrak Cascades, Cardinal, Carolinian, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Pacific Surfliner, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle. It also depicts a map of US rail lines by Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF and Amtrak.

AQAP publishes guide for derailing trains in the US, Europe

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Aug. 13, 2017:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released the 17th edition of its Inspire magazine, in which the group calls on supporters to strike trains in the US and Europe.

The editors of Inspire say that followers can choose from one of three modes of attack. They can directly target the train from “either inside or from outside,” or target “the rail itself so as to derail the train,” or assault train stations, which “are always crowded and cause major interruption towards the transportation system.”

The latest issue of Inspire focuses mainly on the second means of attack, providing readers with step-by-step instructions for building a train derailment device. An 18-page guide to building a derail tool is included in the 97-page electronic magazine and signed by the “AQ Chef,” a name that has been attached to previous AQAP ideas, such as a how-to guide for building bombs that was published in Inspire years ago. The “AQ Chef” claims that the magazine’s “train derail” design is similar to the “industrial” tool “used by the track management staff” when they need to derail a train with faulty breaks.

The instructions begin with the building of a mold and end with the construction of a metal derail device. “We will keep away from using any electronic tools or tools that are specially used in construction…so as to remove any traces for suspicion,” the do-it-yourself guide reads.

This “weapon” has several advantages, according to AQAP. It is “[e]asy to design” and easy to “hide your tracks from forensics after the operation.” It will supposedly befuddle security agencies and leave the enemy “confused and disoriented.”

Interestingly, AQAP touts the fact that this type of “operation” does not require “martyrdom” and therefore “can be repeated.”

Hours after the new Inspire magazine was released online, the New York Police Department (NYPD) Counterterrorism Bureau responded with a series of messages on its official Twitter feed.

“We’ve known about the content & threats presented in the current issue of AQAP’s Inspire 17 prior to its release,” one NYPD tweet, seen on the right, reads. “Our robust multi-layered counterterrorism apparatus is designed to protect our air, land, waterways and railways in #NYC,” another tweet reads.

AQAP touts potential economic damage

Al Qaeda has long argued that its attacks and guerrilla warfare are intended to wear down the West, in part by driving up the costs of security and waging war. The adjustments made to airline security since the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings have been costly. Al Qaeda’s failed attempts to bring down airliners in the years that followed have also driven costs up.

In this vein, AQAP has repeatedly promoted the detrimental economic effects of its operations. In 2010, for instance, Inspire’s editors claimed that the $4,200 spent on an attempt to blow up cargo planes forced the West to spend billions of dollars in additional security. This made the operation effective even though no one was killed and the plot was thwarted, according to AQAP. [See FDD’s Long War Journalreport, AQAP releases a ‘special issue’ of Inspire magazine.]

Similarly, Inspire’s authors tout the intended economic impact of their plan, pointing to the large numbers of passengers carried on commuter trains and the valuable freight that is often transported by rail. One page summarizes the main “passenger train routes in America,” while another displays a map of “US railroad lines by ownership.”

“O Mujahideen,” AQAP’s men write, “it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation.” Train derailments will “[c]ontinue to bleed the American economy [with] more losses, increase the psychological warfare and make it worry, fear and weaken much more.”

“We have to expose more of their vulnerabilities in their security,” Inspire’s editors explain. “And when they spend millions of dollars to tackle a vulnerability we should be ready to open a new [one] – by the strength of Allah.” In this manner, the jihadists claim, “we can make their economy bleed and wage a psychological warfare by breaching vulnerabilities in their security.”

AQAP’s editors recognize that most derailments don’t cause significant damage, but they argue that some accidents caused by train derails have been especially costly. Moreover, it is very difficult for authorities to protect the extensive railroad system, making it a prime target for disrupting the American economy.

To make their case, Inspire’s authors point to a 2004 report authored by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO). “There are over 100,000 miles of rail in the United States,” the report’s authors noted. “The extensiveness of the infrastructure creates an infinite number of targets for terrorists.”

Even so, Inspire’s authors warn followers that “railroad management staff still have some security measures” in place, including the regular deployment of “a rail inspection car on the railroad so as to inspect the rails.” AQAP says the “Lone Mujahid” can “overcome this security measure” by placing “the derail tool on the rails approximately 10 minutes before the train passes by.” The jihadist should also be “well aware of the timing and schedule of the train,” including the “route the targeted train will take.” This “information is widely and publicly available for all.”

Al Qaeda has targeted trains in the past

Targeting trains is hardly a new idea, of course. On Mar. 11, 2004, al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists placed ten bombs in backpacks and bags on board commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and wounding nearly two thousand more.

In 2009, US officials thwarted an al Qaeda plot against commuter trains in the New York City area.

In 2013, Canadian authorities arrested two men who were plotting to derail trains traveling between Toronto and New York City. Canadian officials determined that the two jihadists, who were subsequently convicted on terrorism charges, received “support from al Qaeda elements located in Iran” in the form of “direction and guidance.”

In addition to trains and planes, al Qaeda has also attacked other transportation nodes in the past. The July 7, 2005 London bombings, which are referenced in the new edition of Inspire, targeted commuters during rush hour.

Other al Qaeda figures promote “Lone Jihad” attacks in Inspire

Inspire features commentary from several prominent jihadist figures, including Hamza bin Laden, the son of the al Qaeda’s founder. The terrorist publication includes the text of Hamza’s “advice for martyrdom seekers in the West,” which was released in May.

An essay by former Guantanamo detainee and current AQAP leader Ibrahim al-Qosi is titled, “imminent threat…” Al-Qosi, who worked for Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11, praises the “fear, terror and death” caused “by new creative and destructive Lone Jihad operations,” which are “executed by men from your own homeland.” Al-Qosi explains the logic behind such attacks, saying that they are carried out by “[m]en whose boots have not touched the lands of Jihad in Afghanistan or Sham and whose names have never been in the FBI or CIA black lists.” In other words, “Lone Jihad” operations do not rely on jihadists who may have been detected by authorities because of their suspicious travels.

In another piece, Ibrahim Ibn Hassan al-Asiri, a senior AQAP leader and bomb maker, explains “the importance of focusing on specific kinds of targets” in the transportation sector. Al-Asiri is a notorious explosives specialist and is suspected of crafting some of AQAP’s clever devices, including the underwear bomb used in a failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009. Al-Asiri calls on his “Mujahideen brothers everywhere, especially the Lone Jihad heroes” to follow in the footsteps of various terrorists. “Target America,” he advises.

Inspire also includes a lengthy interview with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emir, Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel). Like the others, Wadoud stresses the efficacy and necessity of “lone” jihadist attacks. “This method of jihad is one of the modes of conflict between us and the West – something both new and old – a way of hemming in the enemy and breaking its strength, and this mode of asymmetrical warfare was pioneered by our predecessors centuries ago,” Wadoud says. “The Lone Jihad has proven its effectiveness and ability to repel aggression.”

As FDD’s Long War Journal previously reported, the Islamic State has had more success than al Qaeda in inspiring or guiding “Lone Jihad” operations in recent years, despite the fact that AQAP was a key innovator in this regard. This has forced AQAP to praise a string of attacks carried out in the Islamic State’s name, even though AQAP opposes Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate. In the latest edition of Inspire, AQAP continues to laud operations claimed by the Islamic State and its supporters, such as the June 2016 Orlando massacre, the July 2016 truck assault in Nice, France, the September 2016 attacks in the New York-New Jersey area and Minnesota, as well as the March 2017 terrorist incident near the British parliament in London. In a number of cases, “lone jihad” terrorists were first exposed to AQAP’s ideas but later claimed that they acted on behalf of the Islamic State.

Al Qaeda is attempting to regain the initiative with respect to “lone jihad” operations. In May, AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi released a lengthy plea for more attacks in the West. Al Qaeda quickly followed Al-Raymi’s message with the aforementioned speech by Hamza bin Laden.

And the latest edition of Inspire is intended to further buttress these efforts, with multiple al Qaeda figures praising the “lone jihad.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Trump Got This One Right

An anti-Assad militia member loads an American-made TOW anti-tank missile southeast of the city of Tal Afar. Photo credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / Getty

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, THE MAGAZINE: From the August 7 Issue

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump was shown a disturbing video of Syrian rebels beheading a child near the city of Aleppo. It had caused a minor stir in the press as the fighters belonged to the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, a group that had been supported by the CIA as part of its rebel aid program.

The footage is haunting. Five bearded men smirk as they surround a boy in the back of a pickup truck. One of them holds the boy’s head with a tight grip on his hair while another mockingly slaps his face. Then, one of them uses a knife to saw the child’s head off and holds it up in the air like a trophy. It is a scene reminiscent of the Islamic State’s snuff videos, except this wasn’t the work of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s men. The murderers were supposed to be the good guys: our allies.

Trump wanted to know why the United States had backed Zenki if its members are extremists. The issue was discussed at length with senior intelligence officials, and no good answers were forthcoming, according to people familiar with the conversations. After learning more worrisome details about the CIA’s ghost war in Syria—including that U.S.-backed rebels had often fought alongside extremists, among them al Qaeda’s arm in the country—the president decided to end the program altogether.

On July 19, the Washington Post broke the news of Trump’s decision: “a move long sought by Russia,” the paper’s headline blared. Politicians from both sides of the aisle quickly howled in protest, claiming that Trump’s decision was a surrender to Vladimir Putin.

There is no doubt that Putin, who has the blood of many Syrian civilians on his hands, was pleased by the move. But that doesn’t mean the rebel aid program was effective or served American interests.

The defenders of the CIA program argue that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) remains our best hope for a moderate opposition to Assad. But the FSA is not the single, unified organization its name implies. It is, rather, a loose collection of groups that have adopted the FSA brand, often in addition to their own names and branding. Although “Free Syrian Army” sounds secular and moderate, its constituents are ideologically diverse and include numerous extremists. Zenki, for example, was referred to as an FSA group well after its hardline beliefs were evident, and few FSA groups could be considered truly secular. Several prominent FSA organizations advocate Islamist ideas, meaning they believe that some version of sharia law should rule Syrian society.

To make matters worse: FSA-affiliated rebels have often been allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. Some of the most prominent FSA groups, indeed, objected to the U.S. government’s decision to designate Nusra as a terrorist organization in December 2012. Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm was even then strong enough to command loyalty in the face of American sanctions. There have been episodic clashes between Nusra and America’s FSA allies, but more often than not FSA-branded rebels have been in the trenches alongside Nusra’s jihadists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, publicly an arm of al Qaeda until July 2016, has been the single strongest organization within the insurgency for some time. Well before President Trump was inaugurated, Nusra had grown into a menace. And America’s provision of arms to FSA-branded rebels worked to Nusra’s advantage—an inconvenient fact for those criticizing the president’s decision.

Russia intervened in Syria in September 2015, and the timing was not accidental. Just months earlier, in March, the “Army of Conquest” took over the northwestern province of Idlib. This rebel coalition was no band of moderates. It was led by Nusra and included its closest Islamist and jihadist partners. The Army of Conquest was on the march, threatening the Assad family’s stronghold of Latakia on the coast. Had the insurgents progressed much further south, Bashar al-Assad’s regime would have been in serious jeopardy, perhaps would even have fallen. With the backing of Russia and Iran, Assad’s forces rallied and stopped the Nusra-led coalition from taking even more ground. Russia saved Assad, but its efforts also stymied the jihadists’ offensive—a important fact that is often left out of Syria policy debates.

Since July 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra has changed its name twice and merged with other organizations to form a group known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria,” or HTS). The group is riven by internal rivalries, with some members even arguing that its leadership is no longer beholden to al Qaeda. But the jihadists are consolidating their control over Idlib as part of a totalitarian drive to dominate governance in the province.

HTS’s top-dog status within Idlib is no accident. Al Qaeda’s leadership and Jabhat al-Nusra have been laying the groundwork for an Islamic emirate, based on radical sharia law, in Syria since 2012. And their plan has called for exploiting Free Syrian Army groups and their CIA support.

Nusra has been happy to take advantage of the support FSA groups received from the United States and other nations supporting the multi-sided proxy war against Assad. There are dozens of videos online showing Syrian rebels firing the American-made, anti-tank BGM-71 TOW missile. The TOW is distinctive in appearance and relatively easy to identify, making it a rather public announcement of the groups involved in the CIA’s “clandestine” program. If one wants to know which FSA-branded groups have been approved by Langley, just look for TOW missiles.

Defenders of the program argue that only a small number of TOWs have been fired by al Qaeda’s men or other non-vetted rebels. Maybe. But at least some of the “vetted” groups shouldn’t have been deemed acceptable partners in the first place. Zenki received TOWs even though its extremism is obvious. Other Islamist groups within the loose-knit FSA coalition received TOWs as well.

And Nusra used such organizations to further its own designs. Abu Kumayt, who served as a fighter in the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), explained to the New York Times in December 2014 that Nusra “lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.” Another “commander” in a group that received TOWs told the Times that FSA “fighters were forced to operate them . . . on behalf of” Nusra during a battle with Assad’s forces. American-made weapons were fueling the jihadists’ gains and when Nusra finally grew tired of the SRF and Harakat Hazm, another American-supported group based in Idlib province, it quickly dispatched them, taking their weapons in the process.

American-made arms helped fuel the insurgents’ gains in Idlib province in 2015. Today, that same province is home to a nascent Taliban-style state.

Advocates for the Syrian opposition point to areas of the country outside of Idlib province where FSA-branded groups seem to hold more sway. But the story is almost always complicated by a jihadist presence. Take Aleppo, for instance, where in August 2016, insurgents temporarily broke the regime’s brutal siege. The Army of Conquest coalition—the same Nusra-led alliance that took over Idlib—played a key role in the fighting, as they would in a second attempt to break the siege later in 2016.

In October 2016, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters that Nusra accounted for only 900 to 1,000 of the 8,000 opposition fighters in Aleppo. After objections that this modest figure was too high, the U.N. revised its estimate downward, claiming Nusra had just 150 to 200 members within the Aleppo opposition. Advocates then seized on this low figure to argue that the insurgents inside the city deserved the full backing of the West. They ignored the fact that the other, non-Nusra rebels included many extremists—such as Zenki.

It is doubtful that the U.N.’s lowball estimate for Nusra’s presence in Aleppo was accurate; Nusra produced videos showing large convoys making their way to the city, which suggested a much bigger force. But even the U.N. conceded that Nusra’s “influence” was greater than its numbers implied, because of the jihadists’ “operational capacity coupled with the fear that they engendered from other groups.” Part of the reason Nusra is so operationally effective is its use of suicide bombers, and a series of these “martyrs” were deployed by Nusra and its allies during key points in the battle for Aleppo. Without Nusra’s Army of Conquest, the insurgents would have had little hope of breaking Assad’s grip on the city, and TOW-armed FSA groups, some of them Islamist, fought right alongside Nusra’s men.

The bottom line: Sunni jihadists and extremists are laced throughout the Syrian rebellion and have been for years. While pockets of acceptable allies remain, there is no evidence that any truly moderate force is effectively fighting Assad, and President Trump was right to end the program of CIA support for the Syrian opposition.

It is a dire situation, and one might easily conclude that a full alliance with Russia in Syria makes some sense. That is clearly the president’s thinking. His administration has already explored ways to cooperate with Putin against the Islamic State, including brokering a ceasefire in southern Syria. But a partnership with Russia has its own downsides.

Russian and Syrian jets have indiscriminately and repeatedly bombed civilian targets. The Assad regime has used chemical weapons, which Trump himself objected to, bombing a Syrian airfield in response. The United States cannot endorse these war crimes by allying itself with the perpetrators of mass murder in Syria. The president has loudly denounced Iran and its sponsorship of terrorism throughout the world. But Russia and the Syrian government have sponsored Iran’s growing footprint in the country. A recent State Department report said that as many 7,000 fighters from Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group that is opposed to both the United States and Israel, are now located in Syria. These same Hezbollah fighters, along with Shiite militiamen sponsored by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are Russia’s and Assad’s key on-the-ground allies.

All of which is to say that there are no easy answers in Syria. But that doesn’t mean the United States should keep playing a losing hand. And that’s exactly what the program to support Syria’s rebels was—a bad deal.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

State Department: Iran continues to host al Qaeda’s ‘core facilitation pipeline’

The US government has repeatedly identified al Qaeda’s leadership in Iran. From left to right: Yasin al Suri, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, Sanafi al Nasr, Muhsin al Fadhli and Adel Radi al Harbi. Only Yasin al Suri is believed to be alive, but still others continue to operate in Iran.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, July 23, 207:

Since July 2011, the US Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly stated that the Iranian regime allows al Qaeda to maintain a key facilitation network on its soil. This formerly clandestine network is the result of a specific “agreement” between the Iranian government and al Qaeda’s leadership.

On July 19, the State Department once again pointed to the relationship. “Since at least 2009,” State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 reads, “Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”

Iran also “remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” Foggy Bottom said, echoing language found in previous reports.

In its terrorism reports for 2015 and 2014, the State Department implied that al Qaeda’s Iran-based network was a thing of the past, saying the Iranian government “previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate.” But Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, released last week, subtly revised that language.

It is often assumed that the two sides can’t cooperate because of theological differences. However, the relationship has been repeatedly documented by official sources, such as the 9/11 Commission, US courts, intelligence agencies and various others. At times, al Qaeda itself has conceded that there is a level of collusion, despite the group’s blistering anti-Iranian rhetoric. A key al Qaeda defector offered his own explanation of the arrangement in a newsletter published by the Islamic State. After the Islamic State and al Qaeda became bitter rivals, the so-called caliphate even accused al Qaeda of prohibiting terrorist attacks inside Iran.

A document presumably authored by Osama bin Laden in 2007 refers to Iran as al Qaeda’s “main artery for funds, personnel, and communication.” That same letter referred to the “hostages” held by Iran, meaning those al Qaeda figures who were held in some form of detention and not allowed to freely operate. Bin Laden was not against attacking Iran in principle; he simply did not think the costs of such action were worth it.

Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda has survived for years, despite numerous disagreements and conflicts between the two. For instance, one file recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad lair shows that he was troubled by Iran’s attempt to expand across the Middle East and he conceived of a plan to combat the Shiite jihadists’ growing footprint. Al Qaeda has also kidnapped Iranian diplomats in order force hostage exchanges. Several high-level al Qaeda leaders were reportedly released as part of one such exchange in 2015, although their status beforehand inside Iran was murky.

Most importantly, the two sides are clearly at odds in Syria and Yemen, where they have fought each other and affiliated proxies for several years.

Yet, throughout all of this, Iran has allowed al Qaeda to maintain a key facilitation hub.

In July 2016, for instance, the US Treasury Department sanctioned three senior al Qaeda leaders “located in Iran.” One of them, Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi (a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Khalidi), has served as al Qaeda’s “Military Commission Chief” — meaning he was one of the most important figures in the group’s international network. Al Khalidi was identified in Osama bin Laden’s files as part of a “new generation” of leadership al Qaeda groomed to replace their fallen comrades. As Treasury’s July 2016 designations made clear, some of al Qaeda’s most important men continued to operate inside Iran. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury designates 3 senior al Qaeda members in Iran.]

Previous designations and other statements by Treasury and State Departments

The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 is the latest instance in which a branch of the US government has officially recognized al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” inside Iran, or other dealings between the two. In 2009, Treasury acknowledged that several al Qaeda operatives were living inside Iran. Then, beginning in July 2011, both the Treasury and State Departments repeatedly targeted the Iran-based network, saying it operated as part of a formerly “secret deal” between Iran and al Qaeda’s leadership.

Below is a brief timeline of designations and other official statements by the US government.

Jan. 2009: Treasury designated four al Qaeda members in Iran, including Osama bin Laden’s son Saad, who was later killed after relocating to Pakistan. “It is important that Iran give a public accounting of how it is meeting its international obligations to constrain al Qaeda,” Stuart Levey, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said at the time.

July 2011: Treasury targeted Iran’s formerly “secret deal” with al Qaeda, designating six jihadists who were involved in al Qaeda’s operations inside the country. One of them is known as Yasin al Suri, “a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator” who operates “under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.” The agreement was negotiated with Atiyah Abd al Rahman’s permission. Rahman was a top al Qaeda lieutenant who was killed in a US drone strike in mid-2011. “Rahman was previously appointed by Osama bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials,” Treasury noted.

“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today,” David S. Cohen, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a press release. “By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Cohen emphasized.

Dec. 2011: The State Department announced a $10 million reward for Yasin al Suri, making him one of the most wanted terrorists on the planet. “Under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran, Yasin al Suri has helped move money and recruits through Iran to al Qaeda leaders in neighboring countries in the region,” Robert Hartung, the State Department Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis, explained during a briefing.

Feb. 2012: The Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for a number of reasons, including the assistance it provided to al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Treasury, the “MOIS has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” In addition, the MOIS has “provided money and weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)…and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.”

July 2012: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, the State Department reported that “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior AQ members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.” Iran “also allowed AQ members to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iranian territory, enabling AQ to carry funds and move facilitators and operatives to South Asia and elsewhere.”

October 2012: Treasury explained that Yasin al Suri had been temporarily sidelined as the chief of al Qaeda’s network in Iran. His replacement was Muhsin al Fadhli, a veteran Kuwaiti operative, who later relocated to Syria as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike. Treasury named Adel Radi Saqr al Wahabi al Harbi as one of Fadhli’s men inside Iran. Harbi also eventually relocated to Syria, where he served as the military commander of Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, until meeting his own demise.

Treasury explained how the deal between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda works. “Under the terms of the agreement between al Qaeda and Iran,” Treasury reported, “al Qaeda must refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.” As long as al Qaeda didn’t violate these terms, “the Government of Iran gave the Iran-based al Qaeda network freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families.”

Treasury’s Cohen explained in a press release that the designation of Harbi “builds on our action from July 2011” and “further exposes al Qaeda’s critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network.” Cohen added: “We will continue targeting this crucial source of al Qaeda’s funding and support, as well as highlight Iran’s ongoing complicity in this network’s operation.”

May 2013: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department said that Iran “allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and to Syria.” Fadhli “began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009,” was “later arrested by Iranian authorities,” but then released in 2011 so he could assume “leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.”

Jan. 2014: Treasury and State Department officials told Al Jazeera that Yasin al Suri was once again in charge of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.

Feb. 2014: Treasury identified another Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov, who is an Uzbek and part of the Islamic Jihad Union. Sadikov “provides logistical support and funding to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network,” according to Treasury.

Apr. 2014: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, the State Department once again noted that the Iranian regime hosted al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” and “remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaeda (AQ) members it continued to detain,” while also refusing “to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.”

Aug. 2014: Treasury designated a senior al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr, who “served in early 2013 as chief of al Qaeda’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network.” Nasr relocated to Syria in 2013 as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike in 2015.

June 2016: The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 is released. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the report read. State added: “Iran previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” The implication of the language (“previously allowed”), which was included in the 2014 report as well, was that al Qaeda no longer operated its facilitation network inside Iran. However, al Qaeda did in fact continue to operate its pipeline inside Iran. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 removed the phrase “previously allowed” from its summary.

July 2016: The US Treasury Department designated three senior al Qaeda figures “located in Iran”: Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi (a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Khalid), Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, and Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn. Treasury explained that it took the action to “disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al Qaeda move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

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