Iranian Vp Condemns Al Qaeda As Force

Iranian VP Condemns al-Qaeda as force behind Ashura Bombings

America Political Enemy, Shiism Ideological Enemy, of al-Qaeda

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Iranian Vice President for Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, at his Persian Weblog, Webnevesht, blames al-Qaeda for the bombings in Karbala and Kazimiyah, as Tarek al-Issawi and Hamza Hindawi note.

Abtahi writes: “Around noon today during the mourning rites, I heard my fax machine working. I looked, and saw that one of the ISNA reporters had sent a message: “Explosions in Karbala and Kazimain.” Involuntarily, I exclaimed, “Ya Husain!” The news that I tracked down was even more horrifying than I could have believed.

A little while ago, I heard that the backward and petrified group, al-Qaeda . . . had reached the conclusion that “Islam” as they recognize it has two basic enemies. One is the political enemy, America, and the other is the ideological enemy, which is Shiism–and that the ideological enemy is the more dangerous.

The explosions today in Karbala and Kazimain, which led to the deaths of dozens of poor Iranians and non-Iranians in revenge against those mourning Husain–and which, in its bloodshed against pilgrims will remain the most painful historical event–is a direct result of this petrified religious way of thinking.”

Abtahi is a partisan of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was rebuffed by clerical hardliners in the recent elections, who excluded most of his followers from running for office. Abtahi’s remarks appear to me to suggest that he would like to see a rapprochement with the US on the grounds of a joint Shiite-US confrontation with al-Qaeda.

Given the Bush administration’s deep hatred of the Iranian regime, Abtahi’s implicit overture seems highly unlikely to be reciprocated, more especially given that the reformists are now in the political wilderness anyway. The Bush administration has accused Iran of “harboring” al-Qaeda and allowing its operatives to hit Saudi Arabia from Iranian soil. This unsourced accusation, which probably originates in the expatriate Iranian community, strikes me as completely implausible. Iran certainly has al-Qaeda captives, but it is not going to let them operate from Iranian soil; that would be dangerous to Iran.

The clerical regime in Iran is an odious theocratic dictatorship, which has worsened in the past two months. But the US is unwise to intervene heavy-handedly in Iran’s lively and evolving political process. People are better off when they find their own way forward.

Meanwhile, the US may have to think hard about whether an alliance with the Shiites against al-Qaeda and its affiliates makes sense, not only for Iraq and Iran, but also for Afghanistan and Pakistan (dozens of Shiites were also killed Tuesday in the Pakistani city of Quetta, probably by Taliban or by Sipah-i Sahabah, both al-Qaeda allies).