Thinking Hard About Iran and Al Qaeda

Andrew Lebovich posted yesterday on the topic of Iran and Al Qaeda over at Al Wasat. He focuses on a recent Foreign Affairs article by Seth Jones, the RAND specialist. Lebovich details the article’s shortcomings, all of which should be taken seriously. The Obama administration has now explicitly connected Tehran with bin Laden’s brand of global jihad and advocates of intervention will no doubt point to that connection as good reason to act. Lebovich is careful not to trash Jones’ article. Instead, he points out some key deficiencies while hammering home that point that, while there is a ceiling to what open-source information can offer analysts, plenty of information is available to the public and begging for the dots to be connected. He wraps up with the following:

Despite the time I’ve spent directly critiquing Jones here, my point here is not to attack him, but rather to show the importance of dealing with al-Qaeda’s history, especially since 9/11, in analyzing what the group may do next and how they will continue to operate in a post-bin Laden world. While much of this is classified, there is still a tremendous wealth of information in the open-source, and there is still no substitute for careful unclassified research. And perhaps, from time to time, you should check the Mauritanian papers.

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