Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and al-Qaeda’s one-time media voice Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was seized by CIA agents and taken to the US after Turkey deported him to Jordan this month, it was revelaed March 7. AFP reports that Abu Ghaith was seized by Turkish authorities last month at a luxury hotel in Ankara after a tip-off from CIA, and was held there despite a US request for his extradition. Turkey apparently deported Abu Ghaith to Jordan on March 1 to be sent back to his native Kuwait, but he was seized by CIA agents in Jordan and taken to the United States. In a revelation that could be convenient for the slowly mounting war drive, it appears that before arriving in Turkey, Abu Ghaith had been in Iran…
The New York Times tells us that Abu Ghaith was among a group of Qaeda operatives who entered Iran as the US attacked Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11, under some kind of arranegment with the Iranian government. “The exact nature of their detention was the subject of debate among American counterterrorism officials, with some officials describing their captivity as a kind of house arrest, and others believing that Iran might be using the group to keep open communication channels with senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.”
NPR is even more vague, stating: “It has been an open secret that those al-Qaida operatives—and often their families—are living in Iran just over the border from Pakistan. Their ability to move around and leave Iran appears to depend on the whims of the government there.”
From NBC’s Open Channel blog: “Bin Laden apparently hoped that the Iranians would see the group not as Sunni terrorists but as ‘an enemy of my enemy,’ as one senior US official put it.” Also named as among the group in Iran is Saif al-Adel (who has been named before in quesitonable reports as being a favorite of Tehran). But one unnamed US official is quoted as saying the group was held in a top-security Iranian prison: “It was the blackest of black boxes.”
None of these reports make clear how or why Abu Ghraith left Iran for Turkey. And none of them raise the possibility that he was living in Iran not under official protection but in clandestinity—perhaps sheltered by the Sunni insurgency in Baluchistan, the restive region bisected by the border with Pakistan.
All this comes just as Vice President Biden told an AIPAC conference that President Obama—about to leave for his first presidential trip to Israel—is not “bluffing” about his willingness to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And Bibi Netanyahu at the same conference again invoked his “red line” imagery to make the case for imminent action against Iran. (Fox News, March 4) A not very subtle message, as he had previously used it to bait Obama as an appeaser during last year’s election. And AIPAC is meanwhile pushing bills in the US Congress that would endorse Israeli military action against Iran—another blatant diss of Obama’s foreign policy as appeasist. (TruthOut, March 7) This despite the fact that Obama has repeatedly made made oblique threats to use nuclear weapons against Iran. Way out of wack.
Abu Ghaith is meanwhile in Manhattan, and awaits arraignment in federal court there, Attorney General Eric Holder told Reuters. He is charged with “conspiracy to kill Americans,” which is presumably a reference to 9-11.
Global Post informs us that Republican lawmakers immediately denounced the administration for not sending Abu Ghaith to Guantánamo Bay for trial before a military tribunal. “When we find somebody like this, this close to bin Laden and the senior al-Qaeda leadership, the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion, is put them in a civilian court,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “This man should be in Guantánamo Bay.”
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, agreed. “Al-Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial. We should treat enemy combatants like the enemy—the US court system is not the appropriate venue.”
We hope Obama is not going to capitulate under this pressure, as he did in the case of the 9-11 defendants now facing Gitmo tribunals after an abortive effort to try them in federal court in Manhattan.