WASHINGTON — Cooperation among Iran, Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups is more extensive than previously known to the public, according to details buried in the tens of thousands of military intelligence documents released by an independent group Sunday.
U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said some of the most explosive information contained in the WikiLeaks documents detail Iran's alleged ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria.
The officials have for years received reports of Iran smuggling arms to the Taliban. The WikiLeaks documents, however, appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's senior leadership. It also outlines Iran's alleged role in brokering arms deals between North Korea and Pakistan-based militants, particularly militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Al Qaeda.
The apparent links are striking because Iran has historically been a foe of the Taliban, who generally view the followers of Shiite Islam — Iran's predominant faith — as heretics.
One of the more remarkable reports describes a November 2005 trip that departed from Iran in which Hekmatyar, the militant leader, and Usama bin Laden's financial adviser traveled to North Korea to close a deal with the North Korean government to obtain remote-controlled rockets to use against coalition aircraft in Afghanistan.
Several reports describe Iran as a hub of planning activity for attacks on the Afghan government. A May 2006 report describes an Al Qaeda–Hekmatyar plot to equip suicide bombers and car bombs to attack Afghan government and international targets—using cars and equipment obtained in Iran and Pakistan.
By April 2007, the reports show what appears to be even closer collaboration. A report that month describes an effort two months earlier in which Al Qaeda, "helped by Iran," bought 72 air-to-air missiles from Algeria and hid them in Zahedan, Iran, in order to later smuggle them into Afghanistan.