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   Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis

Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

26 July 2004

NEW YORK - Did Iran help al-Qaida to stage the Sept 11 attacks on the United States? Perhaps, suggested the US 9/11 commission which claimed Iran allowed 8 al-Qaida future airplane hijackers to pass through Iran from Afghanistan between 7 and 11 months before the attacks on America.

Unnamed senior Bush Administration officials also claim Iran proposed collaborating with al-Qaida in 2000, but was rejected by Osama bin Laden. `Maybe we attacked the wrong country,' one of the dimmer lights in Congress ruefully observed.

There has been no evidence produced that Iran knew of the 9/11 attacks or assisted them. But never mind Iran. The Bush Administration still has not published the White Paper promised by Colin Powell in late 2001 proving Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida were behind 9/11. What we have seen is a faked tape of bin Laden, a lot of faked documents produced by the Afghan communists who run the so-called Northern Alliance, and more fakery from the Chalabi group in Iraq.

Why would Iran, knowing it was in Bush's gunsights, join in a monstrous terrorist attack that, if linked to Tehran, could have brought US nuclear retaliation? Iranians are a very clever, sophisticated people, and certainly not suicidal.

This column has long predicted the Bush Administration would orchestrate a pre-election crisis over Iran designed to whip up patriotic fervor in the US and distract public and media attention from the Iraq fiasco. Bush's strategic mentor, Israel's PM Ariel Sharon, called on the US `to march on Tehran the day after it takes Baghdad.'

The growing clamor over Iran's nuclear intentions, with rumblings about Fall US-Israeli air strikes against Iran's reactors, are part of this manufactured crisis.

Remember, these latest fevered claims about Iran come from the same `reliable intelligence sources' and neo-conservative hawks that insisted Iraq had a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the US, and intimate links to al-Qaida.

The Iran-Afghan border is 1,000 km border of wild, broken terrain that is extremely difficult to police. Large numbers of smugglers cross this border on countless hidden trails, bringing hashish and gems into Iran.

The US, with fleets of planes, helicopters and sensors, cannot stop a flood of undocumented Mexicans crossing its own southwestern borders. Why should the poorly equipped Iranians do any better?

Didn't these same 9/11 hijackers also enter the US unchallenged? Of course. They simply slipped unnoticed into Iran and the US. No one knew their intentions. This is the most likely explanation. The hijackers studied flying in the US, not Iran.

Iran does not have a unified government. This nation of 72.5 million is afflicted by feuding factions that have produced a state of political chaos. Iran has certainly been involved in acts of terrorism, possibly against Jews in Argentina. Militants from the intelligence service or Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards), might have let al-Qaida mujahidin to slip across the border without Tehran's knowledge.

Far more important, there are two key facts media and government are not telling you. First, Iran and al-Qaida were bitter enemies.

In Afghanistan, al-Qaida ardently backed the Pushtun-dominated, Sunni Taliban movement, which hated Shia's as heretics and killed large numbers of them. Shia Iran (and Russia) armed and supported Taliban's greatest foe, Ahmad Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, composed of Dari (a Persian dialect)-speaking Tajiks, Afghan Communists, and Shia. Massoud was a long-time collaborator with Soviet/Russian intelligence.

After Taliban killed a group of Iranian intelligence agents, Iran almost invaded Afghanistan to overthrow Taliban. Just before 9/11, Al-Qaida assassinated Massoud. Iran quietly aided the US invasion of Afghanistan that overthrew Taliban, and jailed scores of al-Qaida members, including one of bin Laden's sons.

Active Iranian cooperation with al-Qaida seems illogical. Of course my enemy's enemy is my friend, and collaboration was theoretically possible, but Iran derived no benefit whatever from the 9/11 attacks. - quite the contrary.

Second, the Bush Administration and former Clinton officials are trading accusations that the other was responsible for failing to take action against al-Qaida and ally Taliban prior to 9/11. But what no one admits is that both administrations sent millions in aid to Taliban until four months before 9/11.

Why? Because CIA was considering using Taliban and al-Qaida as weapons against Iran and, possibly, China, where a Muslim insurgency was underway in the remote Sinkiang region. This nasty, embarrassing intrigue remains buried. That's the major reason no action was taken against Taliban and al-Qaida before 9/11. No one in Washington dares admit to playing footsie with the devil.

Iran is now Washington's latest whipping boy. Those who deceived the US into invading Iraq are at it again with Iran. So when you read or see alarmist reports about the looming danger from Iran, remember Iraq. Caution is advised.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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