Why Is Iran Letting A Top Al Qaeda Operative Pump Fighters And Cash Into Syria?

Qassem SuleimaniFars NewsA former CIA operative described Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, as the ‘most powerful operative in the Middle East today.’

Senior al Qaeda operative
Yasin al Suri — who is suspected of moving money and operatives into Syria since 2011 — is now running operations from Iran with the tacit blessing of the government, according to the U.S. government and reported by Rosiland Jordan of Al Jazeera.

“As head al Qaeda facilitator in Iran, al Suri is responsible for overseeing al Qaeda efforts to transfer experienced operatives and leaders from Pakistan to Syria, organising and maintaining routes by which new recruits can travel to Syria via Turkey and assisting in the movement of al Qaeda external operatives to the West,” an unnamed State Department official told Al Jazeera.

In 2011 the U.S. Treasury Department noted that al Suri, a native Syrian from Aleppo, had been operating within Iran’s borders with the government’s consent since 2005.

Th reported arrangement is puzzling, given Iran’s staunch backing of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

As Thomas Joscelyn of the Long War Journal put it:

It is not clear why the Iranian government would allow al Suri to act as a facilitator for al Qaeda’s operations inside Syria. Al Qaeda and Iran are on opposite sides of the Syrian war.

If anyone would know, it would be Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani, who is the head of Revolutionary Guards Quds Force.

A former C.I.A. officer told Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker that Suleimani is the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.”

The 56-year-old is personally handling Iran’s extensive contributions to the Assad regime and has allowed al Qaeda operatives a degree of freedom in Iran since several arrived after 9/11.

Also of note is the potential role of Turkey, which has harbored al Qaeda financiers and allowed many extremists to pass from its territory into Syria.

Al Monitor reports that about a month ago, a high-ranking delegation from Iran visited met high-ranking Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara and “there was agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria.”

The al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), have also been selling oil to the Assad regime while reportedly receiving money and recruits from al-Suri.

ISIS, the most extreme rebel faction in Syria, is dominated by foreigners. Activists claim that one ISIS leader who was captured in Aleppo held an Iranian passport.

Here’s al Jazeera’s report:

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