The Atlantic

Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt Itself—With Iran's Help

Interviews with al-Qaeda members and bin Laden’s family reveal a pact that allowed the group to prepare for its next phase.
Source: Author Archive

The last Islamic State redoubts have been falling in quick succession in recent weeks, with the U.S.-backed coalition taking the caliphate’s self-declared capital of Raqqa last month, and then Syrian forces reclaiming the strategic oil city of Deir al-Zour. But while the group’s experiment in a statehood built on rape, slavery, and execution nears its end, an older terror front has been quietly reconstituting itself. Against all odds, and despite the most costly counter-terrorism campaign ever waged by the West, al-Qaeda has flourished—its comeback assisted by a remarkable pact with Iran.

President Trump recently pointed to this relationship to justify de-certifying the Iran nuclear deal. Facing overwhelming European opposition to that move, CIA director Mike Pompeo suggested the al-Qaeda-Iran pact had been an “open secret” during the Obama administration, which had failed to act. Then last week, the CIA declassified a new trove of documents from the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This document dump, which will take years to sort through and analyze, appeared to confirm the relationship—detailing among other things how Hamza, Osama bin Laden’s son, sheltered in Iran and even got married there; and how, according to one 19-page document, negotiations between al-Qaeda and the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran touched on funding and arming the Sunni terror outfit so it could strike at American targets.

In the days since, several commentators, , have dismissed these purported connections as exaggerated, pushed by the White House

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