By Con Coughlin
Last Updated: 6:49AM GMT 24 Nov 2008
Delivery of the letter exposed the rising role of Saad bin Laden, son of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama as an intermediary between the organisation and Iran. Saad bin Laden has been living in Iran since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, apparently under house arrest.
The letter, which was signed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, was written after the American embassy in Yemen was attacked by simultaneous suicide car bombs in September.
Western security officials said the missive thanked the leadership of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for providing assistance to al-Qaeda to set up its terrorist network in Yemen, which has suffered ten al-Qaeda-related terror attacks in the past year, including two bomb attacks against the American embassy.
In the letter al-Qaeda's leadership pays tribute to Iran's generosity, stating that without its "monetary and infrastructure assistance" it would have not been possible for the group to carry out the terror attacks. It also thanked Iran for having the "vision" to help the terror organisation establish new bases in Yemen after al-Qaeda was forced to abandon much of its terrorist infrastructure in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
There has been intense speculation about the level of Iranian support for al-Qaeda since the 9/11 Commission report into al-Qaeda's terror attacks against the U.S. in 2001 concluded that Iran had provided safe passage for many of the 9/11 hijackers travelling between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia prior to the attacks.
Scores of senior al Qaeda activists - including Saad bin Laden - sought sanctuary in Iran following the overthrow of the Taliban, and have remained in Tehran ever since. The activities of Saad bin Laden, 29, have been a source of Western concern despite Tehran's assurances that he is under official confinement.
But Iran was a key transit route for al Qaeda loyalists moving between battlefields in the Middle East and Asia. Western security officials have also concluded Iran's Revolutionary Guards have supported al-Qaeda terror cells, despite religious divisions between Iran's Shia Muslim revolutionaries and the Sunni Muslim terrorists.
Iran is active in Yemen, Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland. The country has been a focal point for al-Qaeda, which has found relatively easy targets in its lawless environment. "Yemen is now a key strategic base for al-Qaeda's operations, as well as being fertile recruitment territory," said a senior Western security official. "Iran's Revolutionary Guards have provided important support in helping al-Qaeda to turn Yemen into a major centre of operations."
Apart from the terror attacks against the US embassy al-Qaeda has also threatened to attack the British and Saudi Arabian embassies in Yemen.
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