Eli Lake reports on the al Qaeda leadership council that, according to the National Intelligence Estimate, meets regularly in Iran. The question is how closely Tehran and al Qaeda cooperate:
“We know that there were two Al Qaeda centers of gravity. After the Taliban fell, one went to Pakistan, the other fled to Iran,” Roger Cressey, a former deputy to a counterterrorism tsar, Richard Clarke, said in an interview yesterday. “The question for several years has been: What type of operational capability did each of these centers have?”
Mr. Cressey said the Iranian regime’s relationship with Al Qaeda is one of tolerance as opposed to command and control.
“I think the Iranians are giving these guys enough latitude to operate to give them another chit in the game of U.S.-Iranian relations,” he said.
An intelligence official sympathetic to the view that it is a matter of Iranian policy to cooperate with Al Qaeda disputed the CIA and State Department view that the Quds Force is operating as a rogue force. “It is just impossible to believe that what the Quds Force does with Al Qaeda does not represent a decision of the government,” the official, who asked not to be identified, said. “It’s a bit like saying the directorate of operations for the CIA is not really carrying out U.S. policy.”
Actually, that might not be an entirely crazy thing to say…