Syria, Iran, and terrorist connections

The IDF have confirmed that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons on his opponents. In a horrifying report in the JPost we read some gruesome details:

Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons – likely nerves gas – on armed rebels in the civil war raging in his country, the head of the research division at military intelligence Brig.-Gen. Itay Brun told a defense conference at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday.

Brun told said the iNSS conference that there is increasing use of chemical weapons in Syria, and that the Syrian army is firing hundreds of rockets and missiles at civilians.


Photos of victims showing foam coming out of their mouths and contracted pupils were signs deadly gas had been used, Brun said. “To the best of our understanding, there was use of lethal chemical weapons. Which chemical weapons? Probably Sarin.”

Brun also warned that the use of weapons of mass destruction could be interpreted by the Assad regime as a legitimate act as a result of the lack of any response from the world to it.

“How this develops is a good question. We need to be very concerned with the fact chemical weapons might reach less responsible hands that don’t consider the consequences of their actions,” he cautioned.

Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Israel is prepared to defend itself should Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons and anti-aircraft weapons fall into the wrong hands.

“The main arms of concern to us are the arms that are already in Syria – these are anti-aircraft weapons, these are chemical weapons and other very, very dangerous weapons that could be game changers,” he said.

Netanyahu warned these weapons could change the balance of power in the Middle East, and stressed that it is not just in Israel’s interest to stop these weapons from getting into the wrong hands, but it’s in other countries’ interest as well.


There have been three alleged chemical weapons attacks – the one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and one in Homs in December. The rebels and Assad’s government blame each other for all of them.

Sunni vs. Shi’ites

The Times of Israel’s report on Assad’s use of Sarin adds an interesting insight into the rise of Sunni Al-Qaeda versus Shi’ite Iran:

Brun described US hegemony as “dominant but eroding” and said that the world powers “prefer to focus elsewhere but are sucked into the Middle East.”

Pointing to a slide featuring three images — of ineffectual UN observers in Syria, of a dead Muammar Gadaffi splayed on the hood of a jeep and of the P+5 talks with Iran — he said all three depicted situations in which world involvement “did not attain achievements.”

The region, he said, is undergoing “architectural changes” that will likely not stabilize in the coming years. Dominant among them has been the rise of Sunni Islamist parties, the shifting nature of global jihad and the weakening of the Iran-Syria alliance. Worsening economic conditions, unprecedented sanctions and upcoming national elections in June have weakened Iran’s position and created “an interesting gap” between Iran’s capabilities and its progress in advancing its nuclear program.

“This is not a good time for Iran,” he said, adding that the regime would likely neither forgo its nuclear program nor break out for the bomb in the coming year.

It is clear, though, that the Sunni Isamist movements are ascendant and that the Salafist global jihad has changed its outlook. Perched on either side of Israel, he said, “their agenda has become more local, regional.”

These views are echoed in a report about a thwarted terror attack on the Canadian railways, where the investigation raises the spectre of Al-Qaeda being linked to Iran:

Two men face a bail hearing Tuesday after their arrest on charges of plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaeda elements in Iran, authorities said. The case has raised questions about Shiite-led Iran’s murky relationship with the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist network.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, had “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda members in Iran, though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said Monday. Police said the men did not get financial support from al-Qaeda, but declined to provide more details.


U.S. intelligence officials have long tracked limited al-Qaida activity inside Iran. Remnants of al-Qaeda’s so-called management council are still there, though they are usually kept under virtual house arrest by an Iranian regime suspicious of the Sunni-/Salafi-based militant movement. There are also a small number of financiers and facilitators who help move money, and sometimes weapons and people throughout the region from their base in Iran.

A most interesting and very gratifying detail emerges too:

Authorities were tipped off by members of the community of one of the suspects, Best said. Hamdani said they were told by police that the tip came from the Muslim community and the police said they were very thankful to Muslim community leaders for that.

“It was sort of a thank you moment,” Hamdani said. “This tip, this lead, came from the Muslim community. But for the Muslim community we would not be talking about an arrest today. This is evidence and proof that the Canadian Muslim community, rather than a community that should be seen as suspect, is in fact partners for peace and here is the proof of it.”

Iran denies any involvement with the Canadian terror plot and as a Shi’ite country it denies any links to the Sunni Al-Qaeda.

As a Shi’ite Muslim theocracy, Iran has little in common with the Sunni-based al-Qaida.

However, a US government source said Iran was home to a little-known network of al-Qaida fixers and “facilitators” based in the Iranian city of Zahedan, very close to Iran’s borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The source said they serve as go-betweens, travel agents and financial intermediaries for al-Qaida operatives and cells operating in Pakistan and moving through the area.

According to the source, they do not operate under the protection of the Iranian government, which periodically launches crackdowns on al-Qaida elements, though at other times it appears to turn a blind eye to them.

It is also an area where Iranian authorities have battled a insurgency of their own in recent years from Sunni Muslims complaining of discrimination.

The Jundollah group, believed to be based across the border in Pakistan, has claimed several attacks including a bombing that killed 42 people in 2009, and attacks on mosques in Zahedan and elsewhere in the region.

Iran says Jundollah has links to al-Qaida and has accused Pakistan, Britain and the United States of supporting it to stir instability in the region, allegations that they deny.

It may very well be true that the Iranian regime itself is not involved in this attack, but that doesn’t negate the possibility of an Al-Qaeda branch operating covertly within Iran.

Denials of involvement in the Canadian plot aside, a Canadian-Iranian woman has been arrested for involvement with anti-Jewish terrorist activity in Bulgaria as described in the National Post (h/t Honest Reporting):

She came to Canada in the mid-1990s from Iran and claimed refugee protection, a claim that was accepted and she was granted asylum in Canada. Later, she became a Canadian citizen, the source said, allowing her to travel on the widely respected Canadian passport.
The unidentified woman, in her 50s, arrived in Sofia from Istanbul a few weeks after a high-profile 2012 Hezbollah bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a local driver, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Bulgarian officials were on high alert after that attack — which also had a Canadian connection, allegedly organized by a man who also possessed a genuine Canadian passport — likely attracting attention to the Canadian woman.

According to the Jerusalem Post, she was arrested on her first day in Sofia when she was seen conducting apparent surveillance of the Chabad centre, which houses a synagogue.

Despite the fact that the Sunnis and Shi’ites are at war with each other, they have a common enemy in Israel and the US, and with the West in general. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded into thinking that the terrorists are too busy killing each other to have time for killing us. As we can see from the above incidents, they never let up.

An interesting article about the Sunni-Shi’ite divide is published at Crethi Plethi. Despite the article being over a year old, it is as relevant as ever.

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8 Responses to Syria, Iran, and terrorist connections

  1. lialands says:

    Hi Anne,

    I am an intern for an interpersonal communications firm in Ramat Gan. Together with the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, my company, Debate Co, is working on an Israel advocacy app called Israelight. The website enables users to register for free access to Hasbara tips and techniques.

    Using the Israelight app, anyone can access to the interactive tool assisting them in public diplomacy for Israel! We provide powerful, short videos on various case studies as well as the key principles of Israel advocacy. We hope to empower people to become more effective ambassadors for the State of Israel.

    Would you consider registering for Israelight at and perhaps mentioning the site in your blog posts? The faster we spread the word, the more advocates we can create for Israel, the more truth will be told!

    Feel free to contact me with any questions at

    • cba says:

      Lia, I’m sure Anne will forgive me for jumping in.

      This kind of marketing information is rather inappropriate for a blog like this. I assume the person(s) to whom you are attached during your internship told you to contact Israel advocacy blogs.

      It would have been far more appropriate for you to use the email address given under Contact Me (see the sidebar) and to allow Anne to link or not link as she sees fit.

      I am responding because it seems like a good idea and I assume you’re contacting lots of other blogs too–I would hate to see you messing this up because of going about this in an inappropriate way.

      In summary:
      * Find the Contact information on the blog
      * Contact the blog owner privately (NOT via a comment)

      Good luck.

    • anneinpt says:

      Lia, thank you for your comment although it would have been more appropriate to email me off-blog. The site looks very good and I’m sure it will be of great use to my readers, as well as to myself.

      I will certainly find a way to link to your site on my blog and will let you know when and where.

      EDIT – Lia – please see my next comment below.

      EDIT: CAVEAT: To my readers: See my comment below about the problems of registration. Please be VERY careful about giving out your mobile phone numbers to unknown people.

  2. anneinpt says:

    Lia, I’ve been looking more closely at the Israelight site and I’m extremely concerned that one is required to register with one’s mobile phone number in order to see anything at all.

    If you and/or your company (for which you give no link, which raises red flags to me) wish to promote pro-Israeli hasbara, which is a dire necessity in this day and age, you must allow at least SOME of your information to be freely available. From experience I can tell you that people do not like registering with websites even with their emails. How much more so are they reluctant to register with their mobile phone number. Unless one can make up a number (and I’ve no intention of trying) I doubt anyone is going to register at all. I am certainly not going to give you or anyone else my mobile number so I’m afraid I will not be able to access your website or app.

    There is plenty of hasbara already freely available online, so your app is going to have to provide some added value plus sort out the registration problem. How do I know that I haven’t seen your information elsewhere already if I can’t see the slightest item without registration? That is NOT good marketing!

    Please tell your bosses or the app developers that they need to change their registration method at the very least.

    Furthermore the app does not seem to be optimized for mobile phones. If registration requires giving out one’s mobile number, at the very least the site must be optimized for mobile phones!

    You say you are an intern. I get the impression that you are a very new intern indeed.

  3. Rob Harris says:

    Anne, I also received the same message on my blog. I wondered if it was not a ploy for a pro-Palestinian group to gain information and perhaps hack pro-Israel sites and blogs. I did a Google search of the web address provided, and found they have been active since May 2012 so wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. Thats not to say it isn’t a legitimate and perhaps even a noble endeavour that Lia and her colleagues are engaged in but with the likes of Anonymous targeting Israel pro-Israel advocates should approach such an unknown organisation with caution.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Rob. Very interesting. A friend of mine wondered whether it was a phishing expedition but I’m still giving the benefit of the doubt, although as I said above, it’s very clumsy at the very least.

      I googled Israelight just now and found their facebook page. From what I can see it looks legitimate. The company is called Debate Company and one of the members (managers?) has studied at Herzliya IDC, a very prestigious Israeli college.

      However the “marketing” strategy of bombarding blogs with comments like Lia’s above is wrong-headed, clumsy, and puts them in a bad light because it shows they have no idea about marketing themselves.

      Anyway, until they change their registration policy I won’t be using their app.

    • anneinpt says:

      OK, I’ve done some more googling and I found Israelight’s facebook page. After looking around there, and getting into a conversation with their rep on the facebook page, I registered – NOT with my mobile number but with an email. Their wording on the site is really not very good. (“register with your mobile phone”. They mean to use your phone, not your phone number.)

      Now that I’m registered I had a look around the mobile site and the PC site.

      I’m pretty sure they are both legit and basically a good idea. However, as the Israelight rep said, the site is still under construction, which I suppose explains why the site is a bit of a mess, rather clumsy, and at the moment is not adding much that we haven’t seen from Honest Reporting.

      Still, we need all the advocates we can get, and every little helps. (But I still feel they’re reinventing the wheel…)

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