Yesterday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested two men for plotting to attack the VIA rail line between Canada and the U.S. That two men would be plotting an al Qaeda type attack isn’t surprising. Nor is it surprising that the RCMP would arrest them only a week after the Boston Marathon bombing. I imagine any agency investigating terrorism right now that has any credible threat does not want to be sitting on their hands waiting to see if their subjects will speed up their terrorist planning in copycat style. No one wants to be part of the counterterrorism investigative element that has an attack occur immediately following the Boston Bombing. I’d guess we’ll see lots of rapid disruptions after Boston. To the public, don’t freak out. When you see these arrests and disruptions, its more CYA (Cover Your Ass) than increased threat – the threat is relatively constant over time.
The curious part of the Canadian arrests was the al Qaeda connections were not with any familiar al Qaeda affiliate.
Assistant RCMP Commissioner James Malizia, the officer in charge of federal policing operations, said the plot was supported by “Al Qaeda elements in Iran.” He also said that Al Qaeda provided “direction and guidance” to the alleged plot….”Current and former US officials said that the group, known to US investigators as the Al Qaeda “Management Council,” was kept more or less under control by the Iranian government, which viewed it with suspicion.”
Iran? Yes! Occasionally, I’ve discussed here at this blog the uncertain nature of al Qaeda’s position and role in Iran. Last summer, I wondered about an al Qaeda wild card in Iran.
“The Iran wild card: For many years, rumors of Iranian involvement and maybe conflict with al-Qaeda have persisted. Some senior al-Qaeda leaders, most notably Saif al-Adel, have allegedly been in a strange state of house arrest or operational support in Iran. Iran has always been a sly state sponsor of terrorist groups, both Sunni and Shia. If tensions were to arise between Iran and Israel or the U.S., would Iran seek to sustain al-Qaeda as a proxy? Analysts deliberating this issue may provide invaluable insights in the near future. “
But then just last month I had posted about the apprehension of Suleiman abu Ghaith, an old al Qaeda member seemingly expelled from Iran this year. After this apprehension, I was thinking:
Well it seems my Iran wild card fears of summer 2012 may not be worthy of much attention. If Suleiman was in fact the last al Qaeda member held by the IRGC, then, atleast on the surface, it would appear that Iran is not intending to use al Qaeda, a Sunni extremist group, as a strategic proxy against the West and Israel in the way that it backs other Sunni groups like Hamas.
Today, I’m not sure what to think. But I do have lots of questions:
- What was the Iranian State’s involvement in the AQ direction from Iran? - Iran denies any involvement and I kind of think they probably had no involvement. But, maybe this is an underhanded proxy that Iran has decided to start leveraging. I have no idea but will be interested to hear what surfaces.
- What al Qaeda members are still in Iran? – The open source belief has generally been that Ghaith was one of the last al Qaeda guys hiding out in Iran. There are rumors of Saif al-Adel but as I referenced before, Vahid Brown had noted there may have been a prisoner swap some years back.
- Why did al Qaeda choose to go through Iran to coordinate the attack planning? - My guess is that al Qaeda’s senior leaders in other locations may be too bogged down and monitored to effectively reach out to potential operatives in the West. So, maybe Iran is one of those places where al Qaeda thought they could slip by Western CT and coordinate a plot? If that was their thinking, I guess they are wrong.
- What’s with Canada? - In recent months, Canadians have been popping up all over in terrorism related issues. Two Canadian attackers at the In Amenas attack in Algeria, recruits to al Shabaab in Somalia, now this. What is the deal Canada? We here in the U.S. enjoy taking your best performing actors and singers, but not your terrorists.