As we write this, the White House is closeted in a top-level crisis consultation on Iran, at the end of which President George W. Bush may sign a presidential directive ordering his government to take steps against Iran, in view of its insistence on developing nuclear weapons, harboring al Qaeda terrorists and supporting radical Shiite subversion in Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals exclusively from its counter-terror sources that some worrying last-minute additions were made to the list of Tehran’s misdemeanors laid before the US president.
Saif al-Adil, one of the planners of the May 12 bombings at Riyadh’s elite housing compounds, is not the only senior al Qaeda operative sheltered by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. With him too are Abu Musaab al Zarqawi, the Jordanian bio-chemical warfare expert who plotted large-scale terror campaigns for Europe and the Middle East from a base in northern Iraq, and Mahfuz Ould Waleed, known as Abu Hafs, a dangerous operations expert from Mauritania.
In its protest to Tehran straight after the attacks in Riyadh, Washington handed over all three names, together with those of their followers and taped recordings of telephone conversations proving the fugitives were in Iran.
It now transpires that immediately after receiving the American protest, Iranian Revolutionary Guards intelligence agents flew the al Qaeda rank and file – but not their commanders – out of the country to Armenia and thence to the Pankisi Gorge, the lawless Georgian-Chechen frontier region. This is the first substantial intelligence data reaching the Americans that prove the Revolutionary Guards and Saudi al Qaeda fighting strength in both Saudi Arabia and Chechnya maintain active intelligence and operational interchanges.
Also put before the White House conference was a report about a Turkish radical Islamic terror group called Bayaatal Al-Imam (“Those Who Obey the Imam”), whose members are employed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as couriers. They ply the routes between al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and northern Iraq, as well as the Hizballah in Lebanon, carrying messages, funds, arms and explosives. Like the al Qaeda commanders, these Turkish radicals are to be found in Iran under the Revolutionary Guards’ wing. This is the first time the United States has specific intelligence evidence of the operational partnership between al Qaeda and the Lebanese Hizballah.