Complex double game: Iran supporting Assad and al-Qaeda?

Assad, al qaeda chiefThe United States Treasury Department in a report released last Thursday has charged Iran for assisting al-Qaeda operatives based in the Islamic Republic. The charges have also been brought up because Tehran has allowed senior al-Qaeda members to conduct their operations from Iranian soil, according to the findings.

In addition, thes Thursday’s allegations and accusations by the Treasury Department strongly indicated that some political figures in the Iranian government and its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been covertly and tacitly backing al-Qaeda and other opposition groups in Syria’s civil war.

According to the Treasury Department, which is introducing new sanctions targeting Iranian terror links, “today the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the designation of a key Iran-based al-Qaeda facilitator who supports al-Qaeda’s vital facilitation network in Iran, that operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”

Transit point

The report also adds, “the network also uses Iran as a transit point for moving funding and foreign fighters through Turkey to support al-Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria, including the al-Nusra Front.”

Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov— also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki and Jafar Muidinov—is characterized by the Treasury Department as an Iran-based Islamic Jihad Union facilitator. This facilitator “operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities,” and provides funding to al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network, along with logistical support as well.

The report has caused some confusion, primarily in the West, on how it would be possible for Iran to be supporting al-Qaeda with its other commitments in Syria? Western media, some policy analysts, politicians, scholars, and even the Treasury Department have found it difficult to offer an explanation on the possible reasons that would make Iranian leaders support al-Qaeda in Syria and in Afghanistan.

Iran’s complex game

The issue with deciphering the unclear link between Iran and al-Qaeda (or other extremist al-Qaeda linked groups such as al-Nusra and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)), is that rational, logical analysis is mainly anchored in a binary system, whereas this situation resides in a more complex gray area.

This type of thinking has prevented many from properly analyzing Middle Eastern politics, particularly Iran’s domestic and foreign policy, with all its nuances and complicated details.

Those who are perplexed with this news, make the argument that if Iran is supporting the Assad regime, and if al-Qaeda is attempting to overthrow that regime, then Tehran cannot logically back al-Qaeda because they are on opposing sides of the conflict. Another argument comes down to religious alliances, citing that the Shiite ruling clerics in Iran are not naturally politically allied to Sunni groups.

The shortcomings of such analyses and perspectives are overlook the complicated and nuanced issues regarding Iran’s politics, rather categorizing conflicts into Sunni versus Shiite, Assad against oppositions, and so forth.

Not a bewilderment

If we take a close look at Iran’s realpolitik, its struggle for tipping the balance of power in its favor, as well as the geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic interests of the Islamic Republic, the notion that al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network has been operating for a while in Iranian soil with the assistance of IRGC forces, can be viewed as totally realistic.

Iran would allow and support al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network for several reasons. First of all, for the last three years— since the uprising erupted in Syria— both Tehran and Damascus have been playing a masterful political game with the United States and other Western powers by arguing that Assad’s regime is being targeted by terrorist enemies like al-Qaeda and its affiliations.

Playing the al-Qaeda card has been one of the most effective strategies utilized by the Iranian and Syrian regimes. According to several credible reports including Telegraph and Business Insider, in order to substantiate and bolster their arguments, Assad released the extremists and Iran provided them with the required platforms to continue this complex double game.

Reportedly, the al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, have been selling oil to the Assad regime in exchange for money and recruits with the assistance of Tehran.

Powerful groups

Secondly, and more fundamentally, it is crucial to have a powerful extremist group on Iran’s side regardless of the religious affiliation of that group. From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network can functions as powerful political leverage for the Islamic Republic over other countries in the region. al-Qaeda’s Iran-based network can be tacitly utilized in order to tip the balance of power in favor of Tehran.

Third, since the uprising erupted in Syria, the Islamic Republic has been considering other alternatives in case Assad’s apparatuses collapse. It is accurate to argue that Assad has been the staunchest geopolitical and geostrategic ally of Iran for decades, and it is also correct to point out that Tehran has been assisting Assad economically (with billions of dollars in credit), politically, through intelligence, advisory, and militarily.

But what matters for Tehran are power, geopolitics, its interests, regional hegemonic ambitions and the balance of power. Tehran will support Assad as long as it thinks that Assad can retain his power.

The moment that the regime collapses, Iran is likely to shift its political position and support any group that seems to come to power. From Iranian perspectives, the most powerful group among the oppositions in Syria are currently the al-Qaeda linked groups. As a result, having close ties with al-Qaeda is paramount for Iran in case Assad is overthrown. For now, keeping a relationship and supporting both al-Qaeda and Assad is political opportunism for Tehran.

By:Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

An Iranian-American political scientist and scholar at Harvard University, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. He is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC. He is originally from the Islamic Republic of Iran and has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at the University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship.

Al Arabiya

  • Leborigine

    Puts “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” into a whole new prospective!

  • nagy_michael2

    Great analysis of the Tehran regime and its great ambitions with power and controlling many countries and groups. Its unfortunate that Hezbollah is dying for a lost cause and Nassrallah will answer to the shiite community for his crimes against his own sect. Iran and Assad are nothing but devious and demonic bastards whose lust for power will not stop even hurting their own friends.. what a shame the Shiites in Lebanon and Iraq do not recognize or acknowledge what damages Iran and Syria done to them and backing them and Al Qaada at the same time.

    • IraniAngel

      i think what u mean is what a shame the LEBANESE do not recognize it as up to 70 % of the lebs r in favor of this regime while in iran the regime enjoys far below 0 % support…. that tells a lot about ur fellow citizens. ive got an idea, i can send them all to leb if u like them this much. the mollahs r lebanese after all, woooow no wonder iran is this fucked.

      • nagy_michael2

        My friend its only hezbollah and Aoun.. everybody else despise the iranian regime and do not trust it. so no its only 30% not 70.. you can have the 30% along with the Jihadists since your regime like them that much and use them as they please..

        • IraniAngel

          no honey, a recent survey has proven that 70% of the lebanese r in favor of this regime, i can provide loads of references if necessary n even if it was 30% dont u think thats a huge number anyway? i think so..
          i dont want them here for only one reason: lebanese belong to lebanon not to iran.

  • doron

    lol..
    iranians are playing the west and obama for fools
    we all know they are the real big terroristss of ME.
    it’s just that they are too sofisticated to get caught.
    the only nation that knows what they are is israel…

    • Maborlz Ez-Hari

      Definitely takes one to know one.

      • doron

        i never said they were stupid!
        iranians are sofisticated people, but they never really fooled us.
        after all..you don’t think we oppos them for no good reason do you? :))

        • Geo

          Too furry?

          • doron

            that could be it :))
            hey Geo

          • cook2half

            Report: Israeli weapons dealers tried to send jet parts to Iran in violation of embargo

            http://www.jpost.COM/Defense/Report-Israeli-weapons-dealers-tried-to-send-jet-
            parts-to-Iran-in-violation-of-embargo-341675

            LOLOLOL

          • 5thDrawer

            “The Greek report did not reveal the identity of the Israeli firm or individuals who shipped the goods.” …. Hmmm .. wonder why? 😉
            Gun-runners are everywhere …

          • Hind Abyad

            Meanwhile ISIS show Maliki soldier flying..

          • wargame1

            Why are you showing this? Do you work for Al-Qaeda too? The Black Flag do not belong to the ISIS rather ISIS used that flag to fool the Muslims. Imagine ISIS is using an Iranian flag ,will it be viable for Iran to covertly support this group with an Iranian flag?

          • Hind Abyad

            It’s ISIS flag: Ar Raya at 3U qab.

          • Hind Abyad

            No reply big wargame? Just a game?

          • Hind Abyad

            It’s ISIS flag: Ar Raya at 3U qab.

          • 5thDrawer

            I just see a guy waving … no flag … hmmmm ….

          • 5thDrawer

            I just see a guy waving … no flag … hmmmm ….

        • …some guy

          Too furry?

        • Maborlz Ez-Hari

          I know they are not stupid, and the Israelis are just as if not more clever than the Iranians. My boggle is with the masses of incredibly stupid Arabs. The Jews have always been great manipulators and the Persians are no slouches themselves but the gap between them and the Arabs is too huge to reasonably explain. A handful of Jews so easily dominate who they want and the other minority Shiites kick some serious Sunni Arab arses like they are practising. Intelligence definitely goes a long way.

          • doron

            i would say that arabs are not stupid but seriously behind on the time table, let me explain :
            what iranians and jews, turks and even eygpt to a degree, have in common, a long and rich colective history, we’re used to think as one nation through centories.arabs in general don’t.
            arab nations need to move from sect first to state first and then the gaps will be smaller.

          • 5thDrawer

            There’s another Millennia …

          • doron

            i would say that arabs are not stupid but seriously behind on the time table, let me explain :
            what iranians and jews, turks and even eygpt to a degree, have in common, a long and rich colective history, we’re used to think as one nation through centories.arabs in general don’t.
            arab nations need to move from sect first to state first and then the gaps will be smaller.

          • 5thDrawer

            There’s another Millennia …

    • IraniAngel

      plz dont put iranians and this regime in the same box… these mollahs r lebanese who spread their shia islamic sickness to our once gr8 country.

      • doron

        next time i’ll put a distinction between the iranian people and the crazy mullahs ,done.
        🙂

    • IraniAngel

      plz dont put iranians and this regime in the same box… these mollahs r lebanese who spread their shia islamic sickness to our once gr8 country.

  • Tchaddd

    They learned from their masters the CIA …. they send money and weapons to all opposite sides, then they incite them to kill each other….and controll….Divide to conquer and thats what Iran and Israel are doing in the ME hand by hand….Don’t follow what they do on media its only propaganda, but in the back of the curtain they shake hands, agree on deals(like the one with the states lately on Iran bullshit weapons…) Remember when Israel has sold weapons to Iran, for billions so what do u expect from them, to whipp Israel from the globe like pretend….ha ha ha…Are they enemies or playing a dirty game and burning the ME…and don’t forget the Saudis they work on the same side too… So wake arabs,Hassan Nasrallah, march 8, 14 mars, people of the world dont get tricked by these criminals….Protect your contry and own people, this is the real path…..

    • Tchaddd

      And El Quaeda is a fabricated invisible enemy by the CIA to fight under the name of war on terror..and guess what, Saudis regime, Iranian regime, syrian regime, Israel, hizbollah…..and more adopted the same formula and use this invisible enemy to kill and justify the use of terror, weapons angaisnt their own people or against other countries to hijack natural ressources…..

      • Hind Abyad

        People refuse tho see the tree barring the route..(no vision).

      • wargame1

        Yes the CIA had Al-Qaeda but it was operated by IRAN to help the CIA

    • 5thDrawer

      And how many are ‘real Lebanese’ after Syria finished with it?
      I thought most moved out … 😉

    • 5thDrawer

      And how many are ‘real Lebanese’ after Syria finished with it?
      I thought most moved out … 😉

  • wargame1

    Finally the cat is out of the bag. IRAN was behind the Al-Qaeda all along as they are the one benefited the most from the 911 attack on America. Now deal with this daily revelation and I hope the US intelligence has much damaging information against Iran. They are holding it because Iran is their partner in the War on Terra. BUT the situation is reversing quickly and America and Europe suddenly in a dilemma whether to drop IRAN like a hot potato among the Sunni rebel or still carry on with the Majoos.

  • barabie

    Where are all those wargame bashers now? Hiding like the cowards and idiots they are. I’m so glad a report has been released that you fools and bullies finally listen to. But obviously none of you have been man enough to apologise to wargame.

    • 5thDrawer

      Don’t know why you women think we came in here to bash each other. We look for solutions.
      Just because I think some are idiots, doesn’t mean they might not have a ‘little’ something to contribute at times. :-))

    • man-o-war

      I’m one, this doesn’t change anything. He has some far out crazy ideas, maybe he was right on this and maybe he wasn’t.

      Have you read his comment about the Romans helping the anti-christ when he returns? Then Christ returns to defeat the anti-christ and Romans along with the Islamic world at his side. Not until this happens will Assad be defeated. Who are you calling idiots and fools again? Geeez, you must be living in a fantasy world along with wargame if you think that is a realistic scenario. He quotes prophecies from the Quran (?) i guess and the bottom of coffee cups. He also takes conspiracy theories to another level and plays word and number associations to show you how valid his rants are.

      I assure you I’m all man, but I don’t feel the need to apologize to him. However, I’m glad to see you’re back and active again.

      • man-o-war

        Also, can’t somebody make the argument that the US fought Al qaeda in Iraq and continues to fight them in Afghanistan, but supports them in Syria. The special arm of the US military has been funneling weapons to them for some time. They stopped doing it openly once it became public knowledge, but the backdoor deals have been ongoing.

        Here is an article from the Washington Times, interesting relationship of a common enemy. Al qaeda seems to be just a TOOL that the powers that be utilize, kind of like the whores of terrorist.

        http://www.washingtontimes.Com/news/2010/may/13/iran-eases-grip-al-qaeda/?page=all

        • 5thDrawer

          Always about money and power ….

      • Farq2

        Agreed with everything except for the last few words.

    • man-o-war

      I’m one, this doesn’t change anything. He has some far out crazy ideas, maybe he was right on this and maybe he wasn’t.

      Have you read his comment about the Romans helping the anti-christ when he returns? Then Christ returns to defeat the anti-christ and Romans along with the Islamic world at his side. Not until this happens will Assad be defeated. Who are you calling idiots and fools again? Geeez, you must be living in a fantasy world along with wargame if you think that is a realistic scenario. He quotes prophecies from the Quran (?) i guess and the bottom of coffee cups. He also takes conspiracy theories to another level and plays word and number associations to show you how valid his rants are.

      I assure you I’m all man, but I don’t feel the need to apologize to him. However, I’m glad to see you’re back and active again.

      • man-o-war

        Also, can’t somebody make the argument that the US fought Al qaeda in Iraq and continues to fight them in Afghanistan, but supports them in Syria. The special arm of the US military has been funneling weapons to them for some time. They stopped doing it openly once it became public knowledge, but the backdoor deals have been ongoing.

        Here is an article from the Washington Times, interesting relationship of a common enemy. Al qaeda seems to be just a TOOL that the powers that be utilize, kind of like the whores of terrorist.

        http://www.washingtontimes.Com/news/2010/may/13/iran-eases-grip-al-qaeda/?page=all

      • Farq2

        Agreed with everything except for the last few words.

    • Geo

      Barabie :):):) Dont want to change the subject but do you miss me? a little? micro? Zero 🙁

      • Farq2

        I love when you get like this. I am looking forward to her reply.

        • Geo

          But I am being sincere Farq! She mentioned forgiveness for wargame and I am still waiting for forgiveness for me, I am not the hurting business, Lover not a fighter 🙂

          • Farq2

            I said to you before brother, In my opinion you don’t need forgiveness from anybody. You have said nothing wrong. You are always a gentlemen when comes to your approach and who ever doesn’t like it can go to hell.

      • Farq2

        I love when you get like this. I am looking forward to her reply.

        • …some guy

          But I am being sincere Farq! She mentioned forgiveness for wargame and I am still waiting for forgiveness for me, I am not the hurting business, Lover not a fighter 🙂