In briefing journalists on al-Suri last February, Fisch had again invoked the alleged Iran-Al Qaeda "secret agreement" last February.
Sullivan defended the Treasury Department's position on the issue, however, against criticism based on the publication of the bin Laden documents. "We based our action on Yasin al-Suri on a broad array of information that far exceeds what was recently made public," Sullivan said in an e-mail to IPS.
Asked about the hint by the Treasury spokesman that department officials used still-classified material as the basis for the claim of a "secret agreement," former national intelligence officer Pillar called it "disingenuous."
The origins of the Treasury Department's "secret deal" claim indicate that it was intended to generate press stories that would increase political and government support for pressure on Iran through economic sanctions and military threats.
The designation of Yasin al-Suri as a terrorist subject to financial sanctions July 28, 2011, did not have any impact on Al-Qaeda funding. The objective was to allow Treasury to generate press coverage of its charge of a secret Iran-Al Qaeda agreement. The timing of the move coincided with a shift in Obama administration strategy from diplomatic engagement to maximizing pressure on Iran.
During the period when neoconservatives were pushing for an explicit policy of support for regime change in Iran during the first George W. Bush administration, U.S. officials frequently talked as though any Al-Qaeda presence in Iran was evidence of Iran's cooperation with the terrorist organization.
But as ABC News reported on May 29, 2008, Bush administration officials were acknowledging privately that they were not complaining about Iranian policy toward Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran, because Iran had "kept these al Qaeda operatives under control since 2003, limiting their ability to travel and communicate." One official said Al-Qaeda officials under Iranian control, "some of whom are quite important," were "essentially on ice."
Israel has continued, however, to use its relations with friendly news media, especially in the UK, to generate disinformation about alleged joint Iranian-Al Qaeda planning for terrorist actions.
Rupert Murdoch's Sky News carried a story Feb. 15, 2012, citing "intelligence sources" from an unnamed state as suggesting that Iran had been supplying Al-Qaeda with "training in the use of advanced explosives" as well as some funding and a safe haven "as part of a deal first worked out in 2009."
The report quoted the intelligence sources as saying that Iran wanted to use the threat of Al-Qaeda retaliation against Western targets as "revenge for any military strike against Iran's nuclear capabilities."
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