Canadian connection: Iran, al Qaeda and terror

(By Deutsche Welle) Canadian authorities have alleged that two terrorism suspects were receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran. But Tehran and al Qaeda have historically had a hostile relationship.

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier have denied charges that they sought to derail a passenger train in Toronto, in what Canadian authorities described as the “first known” al Qaeda plot on the North American nation’s soil.

“The conclusions were made based on facts and words which are only appearances,” said 30-year-old Esseghaier in a Montreal court on Tuesday.

And in Toronto, lawyer John Norris said that 35-year-old Jaser rejected the allegations and would vigorously defend himself against them.

Canadian authorities had alleged that the two men were receiving support from an al Qaeda cell in Iran. Although Ottawa made clear there was no evidence that the aborted plot was state sponsored, Tehran was quick to deny any connection to the story at all.

“Iran’s position against this group [al Qaeda] is very clear and well known,” Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation to the United Nations, told the Associated Press in an email late Monday. “[Al Qaeda] has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran’s territory.”

“We categorically reject any connection to this story,” he wrote.

Although Shiite Iran and Sunni al Qaeda do have a history of interaction, their relationship has never been an alliance, but has instead been plagued by sectarian and ideological differences.

The foiled plot in Canada allegedly would have targeted passenger trains

“Objectively the two despise each other,” Barbara Slavin – author of “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies” and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council – told DW. “Al Qaeda doesn’t even consider Iran a Muslim country in some ways. They reject Shiism as not even Islam. Certainly the most zealous members of al Qaeda and al Qaeda-type groups reject Shiites in that way.” Continue reading