Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina. Mr. Speaker, with the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York this week and with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran giving his usual anti-American rant yesterday, I would like to make a few points about my concerns over Iran's strategic aims in the Middle East and here in the Western Hemisphere.
My friends at Kronos Advisory, including Medal of Honor winner Major General James Livingston of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, released their Al Qaeda-Qods Force Nexus report in April, the text of which I ask to be inserted into the Record. Their report goes to the heart of the matter detailing that ``Iran has quietly forged a strong working relationship with core al Qaeda leaders.''
I am greatly concerned about Iran's growing influence in Latin America. The Treasury Department has stated that Hezbollah's operating center is in the tri-border region of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Hezbollah's state sponsor, Iran, has opened six embassies in South America over the last 5 years.
When the lives of Americans could face threats from Iran's growing reach through Hezbollah, why would this administration even consider giving President Ahmadinejad a visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting?
The Al-Qa'ida-Qods Force Nexus
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF A ``KNOWN UNKNOWN''
Kronos is a strategic advisory firm founded by Congressional Medal of Honor recipient MajGen James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret), Mallory Factor, and Michael S. Smith II to provide global stakeholders the situational awareness solutions they need to address strategic and tactical threats to their interests. We help our clients achieve their organizational goals by providing them the resources they need to better understand and define their operational environments--rather than allowing their organizational capabilities and goals to be defined by them.
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Through independent missions, our teams collect and analyze unique and often otherwise inaccessible information that reveals key threat features like emerging partnerships, operational capabilities and the objectives of transnational terrorist networks. Our teams also gather information that exposes implications of important emerging theater-specific and regional trends. We then use this data to produce tailor made strategic threat assessments that provide holistic explanations of imminent threats, and can be used by officials to identify new opportunities to reduce them.
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The Al-Qa'ida-Qods Force Nexus
ISSUE SUMMARY, KRONOSADVISORY.COM
Despite a nearly decade-long effort to dismantle al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, these terrorists still pose the most immediate threats to America's security. Al-Qa'ida and affiliated movements also threaten many other major and emerging powers alike. Yet one ascendant power, Iran, has quietly forged a strong working relationship with Core al-Qa'ida's leaders. This relationship has been established to counter American influence in the Middle East and South Asia. Through it, Iran will likely also help al-Qa'ida mobilize terrorists to carry out attacks against the U.S. and our allies, providing the support required to extend al-Qa'ida's operational reach.
Attention to the longstanding ties between top Iranian officials and al-Qa'ida leaders, including Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been eschewed by a pervasive fundamental attribution error: ``Shiite Iran will not work with Sunni militants comprising the ranks of al-Qa'ida.'' This assessment fully ignores readily available evidence to the contrary. Indeed, such relationships span back to the early 1990s, when top officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' clandestine Qods Force, working in concert with Iran's chief global terrorist proxy, Lebanese Hizballah, began training and equipping bin Laden's warriors. Then, following the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans, more evidence surfaced of operational linkages between al-Qa'ida and the Qods Force, an official Iranian paramilitary organization which possesses a mandate from Iran's Supreme Leader to fund, train, and equip Islamist terrorists. These very operational linkages are referenced within the 9/11 Commission Report, whose authors acknowledged the relationship between al-Qa'ida and Iran demonstrates that Sunni-Shiite divisions ``did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.''
Since 9/11, these partnerships have become all the more pronounced. Hundreds of al-Qa'ida members, along with family members of Core al-Qa'ida leaders like Osama bin Laden, have found refuge inside Iran. Officials now know Iran's minister of defense, formerly a commander of the Qods Force, furnished safe houses for many of these terrorists. Officials also know that while under ``house arrest'' inside Iran al-Qa'ida's top military commanders like Saif al-Adl were able to coordinate attacks against Western targets. Examples of these attacks include the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that killed eight Americans.
Since 2005, Iran has rapidly evolved from a theocracy into a garrison state. With help from the Islamic Republic's unelected officials, notably Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps), the IRGC has seized control of most critical sectors inside Iran. Having secured their future grips on power by elevating the domestic roles of the IRGC, Iran's leaders are now pursuing their lust for regional hegemonic status. Their strategy entails both a persistent quest for nuclear weapons--the acquisition of which Iran's leaders view as the means to ensure their recent regional gains will be irreversible--and support of terrorist organizations which are able to help Iran destabilize unfriendly states, and perhaps even Iran's entire neighborhood.
Today, the Middle East is more volatile than at any time since the Islamic Revolution's leaders seized control of Iran, and hardliners in Tehran are better positioned than ever before to influence the future of this critical region. Concurrently, with support from a state sponsor like Iran, al-Qa'ida will be better positioned than ever before to strike the West and our allies, and to foment chaos in both the Arab world and South Asia that would ultimately benefit Iran. As the implications of working partnerships between Iran and al-Qa'ida carry weighty implications for not just the security of the Middle East and South Asia, but also America's national security interests, it is incumbent upon policy makers in Washington to address this issue. For if left unchecked, Iran's relationship with al-Qa'ida could cost America and our allies dearly.
This report focuses on the history of Iran's relationship with al-Qa'ida, and briefly addresses potential implications of these ties. Additionally, its author provides a list of recommended action items for Members of the United States Congress, as well as a list of questions that may help Members develop a better understanding of this issue through interactions with defense and intelligence officials.