Iran has sent thousands of troops into Iraq to fight the country’s rapidly gaining jihadist insurgency. There’s been talk across the American political spectrum that the U.S. should help them.
But it wasn’t that long ago that the U.S. Treasury Department was openly accusing Tehran of aiding the same terrorist network that’s now sweeping through Iraq.
Back in February, Jay Soloman of The Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury had caught Iran allowing senior al Qaeda members based on its territory to move Sunni fighters into Syria.
Earlier that month, U.S. officials also told Al Jazeera that 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.
The latest charge by Obama administration officials provides further evidence that parts of the Islamic Republic’s government or military have been at least indirectly enabling the rise of extremists in Syria while also serving as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest military and diplomatic ally.
The Treasury sanctioned a senior Uzbek member of al Qaeda, Jafar al-Uzbeki, for allegedly using Iran to move fighters into Syria. The U.S. said Mr. Jafar is part of an al Qaeda network operating from Iran that has also moved fighters into Pakistan and Afghanistan “and operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”
The Treasury added that the network “also uses Iran as a transit point for moving funding and foreign fighters through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements inside Syria,” including the main al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
Iran denies the allegations.
Turkey has harbored al Qaeda financiers and allowed many extremists to pass from its territory into Syria over the course of the war.
Al Monitor reports that in January, a high-ranking delegation from Iran visited Turkey and met high-ranking Turkish officials. That included Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the sides reached “an agreement on exchanging information and coordinating closely on the situation in Syria.”
The Nusra Front, and more recently Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), have both sold oil to the Assad regime. ISIS, the most extreme rebel faction and the group that Iran is now fighting in Iraq, is dominated by foreigners. But activists claim that one ISIS leader who was captured in Aleppo actually held an Iranian passport.
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