Terrorism: Al Qaeda's Men in Iran

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Hosenball and Babak Dehghanpisheh

As U.S. troops try to fend off "guerrilla" attacks in Iraq, American spies and diplomats are increasingly preoccupied with a scary group of Qaeda operatives in neighboring Iran. Last week Ali Younesi, Tehran's intelligence minister, confirmed that a "large number" of Qaeda personnel are presently in his country. Younesi claimed the terror suspects were "in custody." U.S. officials believe that the suspects include some of America's Most Wanted: Saad bin Laden, Osama's son and possible successor; Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti who surfaced as one of Al Qaeda's top media "spokesmen" after 9/11; Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian alleged by Colin Powell to be a key link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and possibly Saif Al-Adel, once Al Qaeda's military and security chief. Also believed to be in Iran are deputy leaders of two key Egyptian Qaeda affiliates, Islamic Jihad (headed by bin Laden side-kick Ayman Al-Zawahiri, still thought to be in hiding with bin Laden on the Afghan-Pakistani border) and Jemaah Islamiah, headed by Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "blind sheik" held by the United States for plotting attacks in New York. Some U.S. officials believe that some of these suspects, including bin Laden Jr. and the Egyptians, really are in Iranian custody, but administration hard-liners believe Iranian authorities leave some of them free enough to hatch new terror plots.

The United States would love to get its hands on the suspects, but relations with Iran have been fractured since the 1979 hostage crisis. …