To curry favor with Egypt, Iran has offered to hand over 13 long wanted Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorists in return for Cairo's support for installing Shiite Nuri al-Maliki as Iraqi prime minister and helping to find a way out of the impasse over the Hizballah's indictment for the Hariri assassination. This is revealed exclusively by debkafile's counter-terror sources.
Ayman al Zuwahiri, al Qaeda's second in command after Osama bin Laden, is the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
His authority is beginning to surpass that of Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda's branches in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. He is also the patron of the rising al Qaeda star, Sheikh Anwar Al-Awakli, who is on the run in Yemen after inspiring US Major Hassan Malik Nidal to carry out a massacre at the US Ford Hood base last November.
debkafile adds that until Tehran made this advance to Cairo, no Western intelligence organization knew about the 13 or more Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorists given sanctuary in and allowed to stay in touch with their leader. For Zuwahiri, their surrender to Egypt would be a serious blow.
But some of those circles suspect that Bin Laden's latest audiotape threatening France, which was aired by al Jazeera Wednesday, Oct. 27, may be connected with the mounting rivalry between him and his lieutenant and a bid use this setback to steal Zuwahiri's thunder.
The Iranian offer to Egypt is a package that also includes an proposal to rename the Tehran street honoring Sadat's assassin Mohammed Shawky al-Istambouli, which has been a bone of contention between them for 29 years.
In return, President Hosni Mubarak is asked for two favors: One is to persuade Saudi King Abdullah to accept Al-Maliki as Iraqi prime minister; Tehran will arrange for the Saudi candidate for the post Iyad Allawi, who won the Iraqi election by a slender majority, to be awarded a place of honor in the new coalition in Baghdad.
The other is to persuade the Saudi king to go along with a compromise deal to rescue Hizballah from indictment by the UN tribunal for the 2005 Hariri assassination.
Tehran and Riyadh are already discussing a way out of the impasse because both understand that the issue is a ticking bomb that could gravely destabilize Lebanon and lead Hizballah to go for trouble on the Israeli border.
Tuesday, a high-ranking Egyptian diplomat, asked about the Iranian proposition, said he had no idea what Tehran was after. debkafile can confirm Cairo knows exactly what Tehran wants.