Iran and Al-Qaeda in Iraq: What’s the Connection?


It is widely speculated in the media that the relationship between the Shi’a government of Iran and the Sunni insurgent group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, is a hostile one, primarily because of the sectarian differences between the two. However, there is clear evidence of Iranian support for another Sunni group, the Taliban in Afghanistan.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[i]<!--[endif]-->  Therefore, it is worth investigating the potential links between al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Iranian regime, particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Quds Force (IRGC-QF). The dossier below contains articles, press releases, and Defense Department briefings from the last year that consider the nature of this relationship. While it may not present a definitive explanation of the connection between these groups, it does suggest possible links exist between the groups and the sectarian grounds for dismissing the relationship are likely too simplistic. The most relevant passages have been highlighted in yellow.

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<!--[endif]-->[i]<!--[endif]--> Several large weapons shipments from elements of the Iranian regime to the Taliban have been intercepted by NATO forces. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, have both stated that there was “clear” and “irrefutable” evidence of Iranian support for the Taliban. See, Jamey Keaten, “U.S. diplomat says NATO has intercepted Iranian weapons shipments to Taliban,” Associated Press Worldstream, June 13, 2007; Robin Wright, “Iranian Arms Destined for Taliban Seized in Afghanistan, Officials Say; 'Large' Shipment Said to Include Armor-Piercing Bombs,” The Washington Post, September 16, 2007, A19.