Global Security Newswire
May 14, 2010

Al-Qaeda members long held within Iran began crossing the country’s borders in late 2008, prompting fears among current and former U.S. intelligence insiders that Tehran might be allowing the terrorist network to regain its strength, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, March 18).

The situation developed alongside heightened U.S. pressure over Tehran’s nuclear work and continues as the United States seeks to hurt the al-Qaeda command through means including drone strikes in Pakistan. Increased personnel could bolster the group’s confidence and undermine security in the area, according to AP.

A significant number of al-Qaeda’s top members entered Iran following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. They were taken into custody by authorities in the Shiite nation, who traditionally have been suspicious of the Sunni entity.

The U.S. intelligence community has used satellites and telephone monitoring instruments to monitor the operatives. The CIA established a secret program to follow the movements of known al-Qaeda operatives in Iran and determine whether they would be vulnerable to targeted killings. The secret surveillance effort, however, has had limited success in the Middle Eastern state.

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