The Telegraph carries a couple of stories today about reports that Iran is trying to co-opt al Qaeda by grooming the next generation of leaders for the terror group. They say that Western intelligence agencies are very, very nervous about these developments.
Western intelligence officials now believe that Iran is trying to cultivate a new generation of al-Qa'eda leaders who will be prepared to work closely with Teheran when they eventually take control.
Recent intelligence reports from Iran suggest the Iranians are particularly keen to promote Saif-al-Adel, a notorious al-Qa'eda operative who is wanted in the United States for his alleged role in training several of the September 11 hijackers.
Al-Adel, 46, a former colonel in Egypt's special forces who joined al-Qa'eda after fighting with the Mujahideen against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, was named in the FBI's list of 22 most wanted terrorists that was issued after the September 11 attacks.
He is also alleged to have been involved in the deaths of 18 US soldiers in Somalia in 1993 and the truck bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Al-Adel has, technically, been living under house arrest in Teheran since fleeing to Iran in late 2001 with hundreds of other al-Qa'eda fighters following the US-led coalition's invasion of Afghanistan.
For the past five years he has been living in a Revolutionary Guards guest house in Teheran together with Saad and Mohammed bin Laden, two of the al-Qa'eda leader's sons.
Until 2003, al-Adel acted as bin Laden's security chief and since his arrival in Iran he is understood to have struck up a close personal relationship with several prominent Revolutionary Guards commanders.
The Iranians are now exerting pressure on al-Qa'eda's leadership to make al-Adel the organisation's number three which, given bin Laden's poor state of health, would effectively make him number two. This would put him in a strong position to take control of the entire al-Qa'eda network in the event of Zawahiri being killed or being unable to continue running the group.
"This is an important power play by the Iranians and the prospect of al-Qa'eda and Iran forging a close alliance is truly terrifying," said a senior Western intelligence official. "They have had their differences in the past, but with the survival of both Iran and al-Qa'eda now at stake they realise it is in both their interests to have closer ties."
The trial balloons that have been popping up literally everywhere in the past few weeks indicate that the Baker Commission is planning on recommending that the US negotiate with Iran and Syria. Last night, I linked a report by Michael Totten that indicates there is a very strong possibility that Syria and Iran have designs on toppling the Lebanese government. Now comes these reports. Why are we considering negotiating with these nations?
One can only hope that there is a deep game being played here to try to force the other nations in the Middle East into a more active role in helping to solve the regional troubles. Unfortunately, I don't really believe that the same old group of inside operatives would come up with anything new and novel.