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19 December 2001

Osama bin Hidin'

Greetings, friends,
You're the lucky recipient of an honest-to-goodness news scoop, which you won't hear on any conventional news source...yet. It comes from a listserv run by Iranian students at Tehran University, and apparently is a rumor widely circulating in that country, being supressed by the official Iranian press for obvious reasons.

Where's Osama run off to? Did he miraculously escape from the cave complex near the Pakistani border into that country? Hmm...he's got some friends there, but the area is rife with Pakistani army helicopter patrols, anti-Taliban Eastern Alliance forces, and of course American troops picking over every rock for the leader of the former Al-Qu'eda. Likely? Not really. According to these Iranian sources, Osama bin Laden was last seen leaving Jalalabad, heading west (away from Pakistan) in the general direction of Kandahar, on the day Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance. The Mullah Omar, in charge of the Taliban, held a large meeting describing his plan to give up Kandahar and scatter into the hills, and it was assumed that bin Laden was in or near Kandahar at the time. (Omar is indeed in the mountains north of Kandahar still.)

The Iranians report that bin Laden received an invitation to take shelter with the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a leftist Islamic insurgent group camped across the Afghan border in Iran. Without going into a boring history lesson, the original 1979 revolution in Iran was composed of two groups, the conservative Muslims led by Khomenei, and the radical leftists. After the Shah left, the religious groups gradually pushed the leftists out of power; the Hezbollah-e (Party of God) against the Fedayeen, who had fought for years against the Shah as the enforcement arm of the Communist Tudeh Party. The Fedayeen made their last stand by occupying the American Embassy in November 1979, but in June 1981 went into exile in France after President Bani-Sadr was dismissed by Khomenei, who stamped out all political opposition when Iraq invaded the revolution-weakened Iran in 1980. The MEK became the umbrella group of disaffected Iranian leftists, taking up numerous camps in southern Iraq during that terrible war.

For more information on MEK, take a look at these web sites:

MEK has carried out significant attacks on the Iranian government, including coordinated attacks on their foreign embassies, blown up pipelines, and recent bombings and assassinations within Tehran itself. Among their scattered camps are some in Baluchistan, the extreme southwestern part of Iran, which borders Pakistan and...Afghanistan. The MEK has fomented revolution here among the minority Sunni Muslims. It may also have been MEK who encouraged the Taliban to execute 10 Iranian diplomats and journalists when they first occupied Mazer-e Sharif in 1998.

Bin Laden in Iran? If this sounds unreasonable, consider that Iran, while very unfriendly to bin Laden, is also no friend of the United States, so he wouldn't have to worry about any bounty hunting Americans, Pakistanis, local Afghan militias etc...just the Iranian Army, which apparently has little control in the MEK areas of Baluchistan; the area is a vast wasteland, which nearly destroyed the remnants of Alexander the Great's force retreating from India, a perfect place to hide. It also has a significant coastline, open to the Gulf of Oman...only a few hundred kilometres by dhow to Al-Qu'eda supporters in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, or Saudi Arabia. It also would seem a more natural direction for bin Laden to go in, away from American and Northern Alliance forces, not directly towards them (i.e. Jalalabad). If true it also gives us another reason to normalize relations with Iran, a country of 65 million people who are struggling to maintain sovereignty without the support of the U.S., Russia, China, etc.

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