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

US, EU seek consensus on securing cargo shipments from terrorists

(By Deutsche Welle) Washington views commercial cargo shipments as a potential source of terrorist attacks, if strict monitoring standards are not implemented. US Homeland Security chief Napolitano is in Europe to advocate the US position.

Washington does not currently plan to implement a congressional requirement that calls for every single container to be screened at its port of departure before shipping off for the United States, US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said as she toured Europe to discuss trans-Atlantic security cooperation.

“We believe the so-called 100 percent requirement is probably not the best way to go,” Napolitano said Wednesday in Rotterdam.

In the decade since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington has sought to implement its own stringent security standards at airports and commercial ports around the world in order to counter the perceived threat of another impending terrorist strike.

In reaction to this threat assessment, the US Congress passed a provision in 2007 that called for all containers to be screened at their ports of departure by 2012, sparking controversy in Europe.

Many European officials argued that the measure would have a direct impact on Europe’s internal market, unfairly diverting goods to ports that had implemented Washington’s security standards.

“Obviously the US feels much more threatened than the European Union,” Patryk Pawlak, an expert on homeland security issues in the US and EU, told Deutsche Welle.

Last October, British authorities intercepted a parcel bomb of Yemeni origin at the East Midlands airport. The explosive-filled computer printer ink cartridge was addressed to a Jewish synagogue in Chicago.

“The attempt with the ink cartridges for printers last year really shows that the European Union is a potential territory for the transit of such tools, so that’s why the US is trying to motivate the European side,” said Pawlak, a scholar at the Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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