Iran, al-Qaeda relationship appears to crack, say U.S. officials
Washington, Mar. 13 : Iran's eviction of a senior al-Qaeda official appears to signal a crackdown on the terrorist group that has long been granted safe haven within its borders, U.S. officials have said.
Iran's ouster of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, marked at least the third time in the past year that a prominent figure from the terrorist group has left the country after living for years in a limbo between houseguest and home detainee.
According to the Washington Post, U.S. officials and terrorism experts said the tougher stance appears to reflect growing tensions between Iran's Shiite clerics and the Sunni Muslim terrorist group, particularly over the civil war in Syria, where they are backing opposing sides.
At the same time, Western intelligence agencies see steps by Iran to preserve ties with al-Qaeda by allowing the group to use Iranian territory as a transit route to and from Afghanistan, U.S. officials and analysts have said.
Documents obtained from the Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, have shed further light on the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran — a relationship both sides have preserved despite deep mistrust and sharp differences over ideology and tactics, the report said.
According to the report, the relationship for years included an unacknowledged policy of granting refuge to al-Qaeda members who fled to Iran after the defeat of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in late 2001.
Iran allowed several top al-Qaeda officials and associates, including one of Laden's wives and several of his children, to live in eastern Iran, freely at first, then under a loose form of house arrest.
U.S. officials said the restrictions were a response to Western pressure and a useful hedge against al-Qaeda misbehavior on Iranian soil.
Analysts said that but a decade later, Iran appears to have grown weary of its "houseguests."