A "little-noticed" November 28 ruling by a DC district court details Iranian training of al-Qaida [AQ] operatives, the Long War Journal observes. The ruling shows how Iran used al-Qaida as "a useful tool to destabilize U.S. interests," by providing heavy explosives training and equipment via Iran-controlled terrorist group Hizballah.
"Prior to their meetings with Iranian officials and agents, Bin Laden and al Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam," said in Judge John D. Bates in his opinion [Owens, et al. v. Republic of Sudan, et al.].
"The Iranian defendants, through Hezbollah, provided explosives training to Bin Laden and al Qaeda and rendered direct assistance to al Qaeda operatives," the judge found. The hearings were not attended by Sudanese or Iranian government representatives, resulting in a default judgment for the defendants.
The trial court decision details that Hizballah and al-Qaida operatives met in Sudan in early to mid 1990s, where they worked out an agreement to train AQ members in South Lebanon. During the training sessions, which were attended by the Nairobi Embassy bombers, al-Qaida members were shown how to carry out large-scale bombings. They then returned to Sudan with "videotapes and manuals 'specifically about how to blow up large buildings," and began to plot how to attack American interests abroad.
Data about Iranian-al-Qaida cooperation isn't new. Al-Qaida operative Ali Mohamed testified that he had arranged a meeting between Hizballah foreign operations chief Imad Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden, in his 2000 plea hearing in American court. He also claimed that Iran used Hizballah to supply the Egyptian Islamic Jihad [EIJ], which later united with al-Qaida.
However, the new opinion sheds more light on AQ-Iran cooperation and how the relationship developed. Saif al-Adel, who became al-Qaida's interim leader after bin Laden was killed, received training from Hizballah and later fled to Iran. After a brief period of loose house arrest in Iran, he was freed in 2010 and disappeared shortly thereafter.