A document seized the night Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden shows that al-Qaeda and Iran had a relationship more complicated and intimate than previously known — one that included threats and kidnappings, but also occasional cooperation, NBC News reports.
The document was among a massive trove of material released Wednesday by the CIA following a request by the Long War Journal, a website that has chronicled the U.S. war on terrorism. Nearly half a million files found on the computer seized on May 2, 2011, during the U.S. raid in the al-Qaeda founder’s hideout in Abbottabad were released by the CIA on Wednesday.
Most of the newly disclosed material is in Arabic, untranslated, and uncurated. It includes Bin Laden’s untranslated 228-page private journal and other documents that officials say support a U.S. intelligence estimate produced just after the raid that bin Laden continued to act as an operational commander of al-Qaeda even in the months just before his death.
A never-before-seen 19-page document purportedly written by a senior member of al-Qaeda details an arrangement between Iran and members of the group to strike American interests in “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”
The document traces the history of the relationship starting with the escape of a group of Al Qaeda officials and their families from Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in September 2001. Bin Laden dispatched the group of Al Qaeda leaders, known as the al-Qaeda Management Council, to Iran. In exchange, Shia Iran offered Sunni militants “money, arms” and “training in Hizbollah camps in Lebanon.” Iranian intelligence facilitated the travel of some operatives with visas while sheltering others.
The author of the file, described as “well-connected,” explains that al-Qaeda’s forces violated the terms of the agreement of the deal, however, resulting in several men being detained. The files confirm previous reports that Bin Laden wrote Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei demanding the release of family members held in Iranian custody.
Bin Laden himself considered plans to counter Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East, which he viewed as pernicious, according to the Long War Journal, an account confirmed by the U.S. officials.
U.S. intelligence officials characterized the document to NBC News as “evidence of Iran’s support of al-Qaeda’s war with the United States.” Iran has vigorously denied that it cooperated with al-Qaeda, stating that it kept the members of the Management Council in jails, not under house arrest. Iranian connections to Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are well-documented, but its ties to al-Qaeda have until now mostly been shrouded in secrecy.
Among the materials are approximately 79,000 audio and image files and more than 10,000 video files, which include al-Qaeda “home videos,” draft videos or statements by Bin Laden, and jihadist propaganda. The videos include footage of Bin Laden’s son Hamza’s wedding, which reportedly took place in Iran. Hamza, now in his 20’s, is increasingly seen as his father’s successor as head of al-Qaeda.
The timing of the release comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to decertify a bilateral deal agreed with Iran to end its nuclear proliferation programme. Trump has been keen to portray Tehran as America’s greatest threat and will no doubt seize upon the documents as proof of the Islamic republic’s support for terrorism in the region.