Eli Lake writes in the NY Sun:
One of two known Al Qaeda leadership councils meets regularly in eastern Iran, where the American intelligence community believes dozens of senior Al Qaeda leaders have reconstituted a good part of the terror conglomerate's senior leadership structure.
That is a consensus judgment from a final working draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate, titled "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," on the organization that attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The estimate, which represents the opinion of America's intelligence agencies, is now finished, and unclassified conclusions will be shared today with the public. …
The judgment that Iran has hosted Al Qaeda's senior leadership council is likely to draw some criticism from those outside the government who doubt Iran plays a significant role in bolstering Sunni jihadist terrorism. Iran's Shiite Muslims are considered infidels by the Salafi sect of Sunnis that comprise Al Qaeda.
While there is little disagreement that a branch of Al Qaeda's leadership operates in Iran, the intelligence community diverges on the extent to which the hosting of the senior leaders represents a policy of the regime in Tehran or the rogue actions of Iran's Quds Force, the terrorist support units that report directly to Iran's supreme leader. …
An intelligence official sympathetic to the view that it is a matter of Iranian policy to cooperate with Al Qaeda disputed the CIA and State Department view that the Quds Force is operating as a rogue force. "It is just impossible to believe that what the Quds Force does with Al Qaeda does not represent a decision of the government," the official, who asked not to be identified, said. "It's a bit like saying the directorate of operations for the CIA is not really carrying out U.S. policy."
Some intelligence reporting suggests, the source said, that the current chief of the Quds Force, General Qassem Sulamani, has met with Saad bin Laden, Mr. Adel, and Mr. Abu Ghaith.
The link between Iran and Al Qaeda is not new, in some cases. The bipartisan September 11 commission report, for example, concluded: "There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of Al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers."
According to the commission, a senior Al Qaeda coordinator, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, said eight of the September 11 hijackers went through Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan.
In 2005, both Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and the then ambassador at large for counterterrorism, Cofer Black, disclosed that America believes that senior Al Qaeda leaders reside in Iran.