News / Middle East

US Targets Top al-Qaida Operatives in Iran

Iran-based senior al-Qaida facilitator and financier, Muhsin al-FadhliIran-based senior al-Qaida facilitator and financier, Muhsin al-Fadhli
Iran-based senior al-Qaida facilitator and financier, Muhsin al-Fadhli
Iran-based senior al-Qaida facilitator and financier, Muhsin al-Fadhli
Mana Rabiee
The U.S. State Department's decision to offer a reward of up to $12 million for information leading to the location of the top two al-Qaida operatives in Iran is seen as a sign of how serious Washington is about curtailing the group's activities in Iran.

The move came the same day the U.S. Treasury Department called the terror network headed by both men a “crucial source” of al-Qaida funding and support.

A reward of $7 million is being offered for information on the whereabouts of Muhsin al-Fadhi, a Kuwaiti national described by the State Department as “al-Qaida’s senior leader” in Iran.

He is wanted by the U.S. for providing “financial and material support” to the al-Zarqawi terror network and to al-Qaida in Iran.

Al-Fadhi is also reported to have been among the few trusted al-Qaida operatives who received advance notice of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

In its announcement Thursday, the State Department said al-Fadhi uses his “extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors” to send money and fighters via Turkey to support al-Qaida affiliated elements in Syria.

Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi, an Iran-based senior al-Qaida facilitator, serves as the deputy to Muhsin al-Fadhli. A $5 million reward was also announced for al-Fadhi's deputy, Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi.

The U.S. wants al-Harbi, a Saudi national, for facilitating the “travel of extremists” to Afghanistan or Iraq via Iran, the State Department says.

Jonathan Schanzen, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and a former U.S. Treasury analyst, says the rewards demonstrate “a seriousness of purpose."

“It also may be an attempt to draw in the Iranian people,” Schanzen said. “In other words, when you have a reward out there and you’ve got a suffering population inside Iran that been under the weight of sanctions, the idea that you would bring in $12 million by simply identifying somebody you probably don’t even want to be on your soil, that could be an appealing prospect.”

Al-Harbi also was hit with sanctions from the Treasury department. Last year, the agency placed similar sanctions against his boss, al-Fadhi.

Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said the sanctions against both men “further expose al-Qaida’s critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network.”

Thursday’s coordinated moves by the State and Treasury departments put pressure on U.S. partners in the region - specifically Kuwait and Qatar -  to help constrain al-Qaida in Iran, says Mathew Levitt, a former Treasury Department counterterrorism expert.

“There was a time when Saudi Arabia was our biggest terror finance concern in the region and there’s certainly more that the Saudis can do but they’ve done a lot,” Levitt told VOA Thursday. “I would say that today, and I know I’m not the only one that’s saying it, that Qatar and Kuwait are larger concerns in the Gulf.”

Levitt says the move also opens the way for similar sanctions by the international community.

"You can, and I would expect, that we will be going to the United Nations and seeking for United Nations designation," he says. "You can’t do that with all groups. The United Nations is only able to designate individuals or groups that are tied to al-Qaida or the Taliban, but this would be something that would clearly fit.”

Little intelligence has been publicly released connecting Iran to al-Qaida.

But the U.S. and intelligence analysts say Iran has agreed to allow al-Qaida operatives and their families to move through the country - essentially providing the group with a safe haven, according to a Brookings Institution report in July.

In exchange, said the Treasury statement Thursday, al-Qaida agrees not to conduct “any operations or within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
October 24, 2012 9:05 AM
It seems plain that the State Department has taken to a strategy, much like the Iraq WMD fiasco, except, instead of WMDs it is using al-quaida as the "red herring". BTW who supplied stinger missiles to al-quaida in Syria? Deja vu you State Department dummies?

by: oortcloud from: UK
October 22, 2012 8:41 AM
It wouldn't appear to make much sense if Iran is allowing Al Qaeda to support the Syrian rebels from within its territory. In response to Firstcia, the US is generally regarded as having given some support to Saddam in his war against Iran.

by: Anonymous
October 22, 2012 2:30 AM

you guys know nothing about the region

by: musawi melake
October 20, 2012 9:09 PM
The need for Iranians to have nuclear capability is being heightened with these kinds of US activities. Iran at the same point in history as The Red-China was during the Korean war, when the US threatened overtly with nuclear attack. What happened later and the status enjoyed by China now is history. So, the Iranians should speed-up their progress to become the most dominant power in the region, bypassing Israel.
In Response

by: Dr. Malek Towghi (Baluch) from: USA
October 21, 2012 3:30 AM
Yes, Iran has a good chance to become a great power and a prosperous country in the region BUT only after having normal non-antagonistic relations with the US and Israel, after allowing the Greens led by Mir Hussein Mousavi to come (through elections) to power and manage the country , and after shunning the idea (if any) of being armed with nuclear weapons.

Romney's election as President will definitely frustrate the chances of rapprochement with Iran. Iranians are well aware of the 'love-affair' between the NeoCons and Pakistan. A fanatic Sunni Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons and supported by the super rich Sunni world will force Iran to become a nuclear power. Hence, the civilized world including Russia should take the need for the denuclearization of Pakistan SERIOUSLY.

by: Liberate Iran from: UK
October 20, 2012 7:43 PM
now that Iran is hosting top Al Qaida operatives... we need to do more to bring about its repulsive theocratic regime to a decisive and uncompromising destruction.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 21, 2012 10:04 AM
Liberate Iran from UK? USA you mean.

by: Anonymous
October 20, 2012 5:04 PM
Nice! USA and Iran are allies.

by: Matilda Smith from: Oragon, USA.
October 20, 2012 3:59 PM
the article pointed at this terrorist as having used his “extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors”... I ask, didn't we liberate Kuwait from the brutality of Saddam??? why would Kuwait have an extensive list of Muslim donors that intend US harm??? I begin to think that "Islam" is a far more than just a "peaceful religion"...

by: Mark J. from: Orlando, FL
October 20, 2012 3:33 PM
So let me understand this. America thinks Iran is secretly building a nuclear bomb correct? and yet America now knows that al-Quada is working in Iran and puts a bounty on the top leader. This don't make any sense to me. why is there even sanctions on Iran is 1 they're not working
In Response

by: putzdinger from: Oregon,USA
October 22, 2012 1:04 PM
Mark, I don't follow you. What do apples have to do with oranges? Yes, we know Iran is trying to build a nuke but somehow you think that, at the same time, we shouldn't put a bounty on the head of al-Qaeda's top dog in Iran? Why not? Why does one negate the other?Why doesn't it make sense to you? And you ask why we should apply sanctions when they're not working? How do you know what negative effect sanctions are having on Ahmadinejad and his mullahs? I'll bet Iranians are mad as hell at those kooks whose evil ambitions are isolating their nation. I await your reply and thank you.
In Response

by: Firstcia
October 21, 2012 10:04 AM
makes perfect sense. USA and Iran were always hidden allies. They never fought a war. All USA enemies are enemies of Iran. Be it Saddam's Iraq, or Sunnis. The USA handed shia Iran shia Iraq on a silver plate. Remember Iran-contra affair? No? You are too young to know that. I am a Cold War vet. American policy was always not negotiating with terrorists yet so much US military equipment was supplied. Even nowadays the US supplies Iran with weapons and spare parts via 3d parties:

by: Nancy Smith
October 20, 2012 10:27 AM
$12M, much cheaper than the few $BILLION$ we squandered on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is the administration actually starting to count their pennies?

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