Despite the alarmist headlines, no one should have been shocked by last week’s U.S. Treasury Department designation of a Syrian based in Iran as a conduit for sending money and personnel to al Qaeda.
Iran has had links to members of what became known as al Qaeda since the early 1990s, when both had a presence in Sudan. What many may not know is that the United States missed several opportunities to divide the two and gain custody of senior al Qaeda figures and relatives of Osama bin Laden.
Al Qaeda, with its militant Sunni ideology that despises Shiites as worse than apostates, is hardly a natural ally for the world’s only Shiite theocracy. Iranian officials indignantly denied the Treasury Department’s allegations; one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that Iran opposes al Qaeda adherents in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Iran’s leaders, however, share al Qaeda’s hatred of the United States and Israel, and both have a long history of grievances against the West.