In a series of designations released today, the US Treasury Department targets “a diverse set of entities and individuals located around the world for evading US sanctions against Iran, aiding Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation, and supporting terrorism.”
One of the newly designated individuals is a part of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.
Treasury identifies Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov (also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki and Jafar Muidinov) as an “Iran-based Islamic Jihad Union facilitator.” The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and both groups are closely allied with al Qaeda.
Sadikov “provides logistical support and funding to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network,” according to Treasury. He “serves as a key extremist smuggler based in Mashhad, Iran, near the country’s border with Afghanistan, and has provided visas and passports to numerous foreign fighters, including al Qaeda recruits, to facilitate their travel.” Sadikov has also “assisted extremists and operatives transiting Iran on their way into and out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
IJU and IMU operatives have long operated inside Iran. In September 2010, for example, Coalition and Afghan forces captured an IMU facilitator who was supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force.
The Treasury Department identifies Sadikov as “an associate of designated al Qaeda facilitator Yasin al Suri.” He has “provided funding to al Suri.”
The Treasury and State Departments first exposed al Suri’s role as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network in 2011. Afterwards, the Iranian regime reportedly detained al Suri. He was then replaced by Muhsin al Fadhli, another longtime al Qaeda operative. At some point, however, the Iranians allowed al Suri, whose real name is Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, to return to work.
Al Suri has “resumed leadership of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network after being temporarily detained there in late 2011,” Treasury reports. This confirms recent reporting on al Suri’s return to al Qaeda’s operations.
“As head al Qaeda facilitator in Iran,” Treasury explains further, “Yasin al Suri is responsible for overseeing al Qaeda efforts to transfer experienced operatives and leaders from Pakistan to Syria, organizing and maintaining routes by which new recruits can travel to Syria via Turkey, and assisting in the movement of al Qaeda external operatives to the West.”
Although none of these “external operatives” have been named by the US government, at least two international terrorist plots have been connected to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network. Both al Qaeda’s planned 2010 Mumbai-style attacks in Europe and a foiled plot to derail a train running from New York City to Toronto in 2013 were directly tied to al Qaeda operatives in Iran. [See LWJ article, Report: Senior al Qaeda facilitator ‘back on the street’ in Iran.]
“Al Qaeda’s network in Iran has facilitated the transfer of funds from Gulf-based donors to al Qaeda core and other affiliated elements, including the al Nusrah Front in Syria,” Treasury’s designation reads. “The Iran based al Qaeda network has also leveraged an extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”
The most curious aspect of this relationship is that the Iranians allow al Qaeda operatives to support the Al Nusrah Front from Iranian soil. Iran and Al Nusrah are currently on opposite sides of the war in Syria, as Iran wants to preserve Bashar al Assad’s regime while Al Nusrah wants to destroy it.
Still, for unknown reasons, the Iranians are allowing al Suri and his operatives to support Al Nusrah. Treasury notes that al Suri’s Iran-based network “operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”
Treasury’s designation today is the latest to take aim at the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda. In July 2011, Treasury designated al Suri and other members of his network, saying that Iran had a “secret deal” with al Qaeda. In February 2012, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was designated for, among other things, supporting al Qaeda. And in October 2012, an additional member of al Qaeda’s network in Iran was designated. The State Department has also exposed the relationship on multiple occasions.