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Opinion
Eli Lake

Iran and al-Qaeda: Best of Frenemies

The Obama administration's selective releases portrayed Tehran as an enemy of the extremists. There's more to it.
Trump linked Tehran to al-Qaeda. Was that just a convenient way to smear Iran?

Trump linked Tehran to al-Qaeda. Was that just a convenient way to smear Iran?

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Last month President Donald Trump caused a minor stir in his speech on Iran policy by discussing that regime's connection to al-Qaeda. He said "Iranian proxies" provided training to al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He said Iran hosted high-level al-Qaeda operatives after the Sept. 11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden's son.

His critics pounced. Former Obama administration Middle East policy coordinator Philip Gordon wrote that the president "stretched the evidence" to portray Iran as a partner of al-Qaeda. Paul Pillar, the former senior intelligence analyst who signed off on the U.S. conclusions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction programs, dismissed Trump's claims as based on the fact that some al-Qaeda operatives resided in Iran under house arrest.