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Iran Grooming Bin Laden Successor

A bizarre story in London’s Telegraph is entitled “Iran plotting to groom bin Laden’s successor.” The details are scarce:

Iran is trying to form an unholy alliance with al-Qa’eda by grooming a new generation of leaders to take over from Osama bin Laden, The Daily Telegraph can reveal. Western intelligence officials say the Iranians are determined to take advantage of bin Laden’s declining health to promote senior officials who are known to be friendly to Teheran.

On the one hand, it would certainly be cause for concern if Iran were grooming a set of bin Laden-type terrorist leaders. On the other, it would be shocking, indeed, if Sunni Arab al Qaeda were to allow itself to be taken over by Persian Shiites.

Interestingly, they have a somewhat plausible candidate:

The Iranians want Saif al-Adel, a 46-year-old former colonel in Egypt’s special forces, to be the organisation’s number three. Al-Adel was formerly bin Laden’s head of security, and was named on the FBI’s 22 most wanted list after September 11 for his alleged involvement in terror attacks against US targets in Somalia and Africa in the 1990s. He has been living in a Revolutionary Guard guest house in Teheran since fleeing from Afghanistan in late 2001.

Still, if he is “pro-Iranian,” he would be unlikely to garner much support among al Qaeda’s base.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Sounds more like disintel meant to sow discord in Qaeda’s ranks.

    At least, I *hope* we’re smart enough to pull that kind of thing.

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  2. Adam Herman says:

    Or it could be that Iran is actually trying to coopt Al Qaeda. I’m sure bin Laden wouldn’t like it, but then bin Laden is hiding in a cave somewhere and can’t influence events much.

    If Iran does succeed, the upside is that the group will be a little less crazy. It will also tie the group to a nation state, which means we can consider an attack by Al Qaeda to be an attack by Iran.

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  3. Anderson says:

    It will also tie the group to a nation state, which means we can consider an attack by Al Qaeda to be an attack by Iran.

    Adam brings up *another* reason why the story probably isn’t true.

    Iran has no interest in Qaeda, other than defending themselves against it. Iran already has Hezbollah for its terrorism needs. (Or at least, so the conservative blogosphere tells me.)

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  4. Cernig says:

    If this story were true then it would have been a closely-held secret operation and the Torygraph’s Con Coughlin would have just burned an important Western intelligence source.

    But if you read Coughlin’s report carefully, then you get the key phrase: “According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies”. When Coughlin writes something like that, he is always trying to cover with a veil his favoritism for “intelligence reports” from the noxious Mujahedeen e-Kalq. He often covers stuff from uncredible sources by a clever word-trick or two that make it look as if it is direct from people who actually know anything worthwhile.

    In other words, it’s rubbish. Coughlin is one of those determined to stampede the U.S. and the U.K. into the next neocon misadventure in Iran. It isn’t the first or last time, by a long chalk, that he’s printed such garbage as if it were real news.

    The internet is a wonderful thing but if you’re going to read UK reporters then you need to get as familiar with the biases and comparative integrity of each as you already are with the work of those at the NY Times, WaPo or Fox News. Otherwise you can easily miss the clues to a set-up job.

    Regards, Cernig

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  5. Anderson says:

    But if you read Coughlin’s report carefully, then you get the key phrase: “According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies”.

    That was my cue for my disintel theory, but of course, the agencies could just as well be running disintel against the voting public. Which they seem to be a lot better at, actually.

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