As Max wrote, the triumphalist statements emanating from the administration about the supposed imminent collapse of al-Qaeda are both premature and besides the point, because the Islamist terrorist threat is bigger than this one organization. But yesterday, the Washington Post gave us another reminder of al-Qaeda’s resourcefulness and an even more ominous threat to American security: Iran. The Post reported Iran is now helping al-Qaeda funnel cash and recruits into Pakistan. According to the Treasury Department, the terror group’s money transfers have been handled out of Iran. Tehran is also allowing the free flow of al-Qaeda operatives through its borders, principally into Pakistan’s tribal region.
Iran’s direct aid to Hamas and Hezbollah has long been considered a fact of life in the Middle East. But its ties to al-Qaeda illustrate that this Islamist terror network isn’t limited to groups on Israel’s borders. Americans understand the nature of the al-Qaeda threat to the West, but this revelation ought to re-focus our attention on Iran’s goals as it moves closer to nuclear capability.
The Iranian nuclear threat has been under the radar of American foreign policy in the last few months as President Obama obsessed about his plans to pressure Israel. The idea that either the Stuxnet virus or the weak international sanctions imposed on the country have put an end to the problem can’t be taken seriously. Iran’s role in fomenting trouble for the United States in Afghanistan and Iran is well-documented. But what the administration must understand is that although many in Washington labor under the illusion a nuclear Iran can be contained, such a development will have implications for every aspect of our security. This doesn’t mean Iran would give its weapon to al-Qaeda, but the extension of an Iranian nuclear umbrella will destabilize every Arab nation not already allied with Tehran and strengthen Islamist factions that may align with the group in countries we now believe are secure. And it will embolden the terrorists just at a time when many of us think they are already beaten.
The connection between al-Qaeda and Iran is more than just a problem for our troops in the Middle East. Unless the United States is prepared to start taking the Iranian threat more seriously, the consequences may be unimaginable.