The U.S. Treasury has accused Iran of supporting Al-Qaeda and slapped financial sanctions on six people it says are operatives for the terrorist organization in Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait, and Qatar.
The agency said on July 28 that Iran is a "critical transit point for funding to support Al-Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and said it had uncovered a network that "serves as the core pipeline through which Al-Qaeda moves money, facilitators, and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia."
The United States named the head of the network as Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, "a prominent Iran-based Al-Qaeda facilitator, operating under an agreement between Al-Qaeda and the Iranian government" for some six years.
In a statement, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said, "By exposing Iran's secret deal with Al-Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran's unmatched support for terrorism."
The sanctions, Cohen said, are aimed at disrupting the network and denying Al-Qaeda's senior leadership "much-needed support."
The agency did not provide details of the secret deal.
The Tehran government is predominantly made up of Shi'ite Muslim clerics, while Al-Qaeda is a mainly Sunni group.
Among the sanctioned six is also Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was appointed by Osama bin Laden to be Al-Qaeda's envoy in Iran after serving as a commander in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The Treasury statement said that his status as an emissary gave al-Rahman the ability to travel freely to and from Iran.
The U.S. sanctions freeze any assets the six individuals might have held in the United States and bans Americans from doing any business with them.
Also sanctioned by the Treasury Department was Umid Muhammadi, described as a crucial planner for attacks by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and three Qatar-based financial supporters who are said to have facilitated extremists' travel throughout the region: Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, and Abdallah Ghanim Mafuz Muslim al-Khawar.
Ali Hassan Ali al-Ajmi, said to be a Kuwait-based fundraiser for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, was also blacklisted.
Despite the action on July 28 by the Obama administration, there is no firm agreement in Washington about the precise nature of Iran's relationship with Al-Qaeda.
The AP quoted a U.S. official who asked for anonymity as saying that different branches of the intelligence community disagree about whether Iran has joined forces with the terrorist group.
The U.S. move comes a day after Navy SEAL Admiral Eric T. Olson, the top U.S. commander for Special Operations Forces, said Al-Qaeda is "nearing its end."
But he also warned that the next generation of militants could continue the bloodshed for another decade.
compiled from agency reports