Widely Diverse Iranian Views on bin Laden’s Death

Semira N. Nikou

        In widely diverse responses, Iran discounted Osama bin Laden’s death while at the same time calling for a faster U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan since the pretext for going to war was eliminated. But officials and media generally did not mourn bin Laden’s passing. Iran’s defense minister charged that the bin Laden operation was not worth the enormous costs financially and in human life during the 10-year war in Afghanistan—and thus was ultimately a failure.
        In May 2010, Ahmadinejad dismissed claims that Bin Laden was hiding in Iran by telling ABC news that the al Qaeda leader was in Washington D.C. because bin Laden “was a previous partner of Mr. [George W.] Bush.”
        Iran has long had serious differences with both al Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran is a Shiite Muslim State and bin Laden was a member of al Qaeda, an extremist Sunni organization that did not accept Shiism as a valid form of Islam. Al Qaeda has also been responsible for the deaths of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Iraq.
        But bin Laden’s son and other al Qaeda members also reportedly spent years in Iran—under house arrest, according to some accounts--after fleeing the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Iranian officials reportedly wanted to use al Qaeda operatives to pressure the United States to act against the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, the leading Iranian opposition group headquartered in Iraq. After she escaped in 2010, Iman bin Laden, the al Qaeda chief’s daughter, said family members were allowed to live in comfortable conditions but they were not allowed to leave the country.
         Below are statements by Iranian officials and individuals on bin laden’s death:
Ahmad Vahidi, Defense Minister
         “By announcing the news of bin Laden's death, the United States tried to claim that they have been successful, but with a closer look at news reports and other relevant issues, we notice that this has been a major failure for the Americans.”
         "Americans stepped in Afghanistan under the excuse of killing or arresting bin Laden, they came to Iraq with the same excuse. Statistics say one million people have been killed in the region, some 1,000 billion dollars were spent and they imposed 10-year war to the region under the excuse of killing one person."
         "They (Americans) inflicted much damage to the region to kill only one individual."
"Why did not they allow to an impartial observer to confirm that the body belongs to Osama Bin Laden." May 4, 2011
Kazem Jalali, member of parliament
         "Americans used the life of bin Laden as an instrument and we believe that the issue of terrorism and its spread across the region is rooted in the United States presence in the area. Americas used the terrorists who were trained by them as instrument to fight terrorism."
         "Americans should confront state terrorism, best signified by Zionist regime, if they really intend to battle terrorism.” May 3, 2011
Ramin Mehmanparast, Foreign Ministry spokesman
         "We hope that this development will end war, conflict, unrest, and the death of innocent people, and help to establish peace and tranquility in the region...This development clearly shows that there is no need for a major military deployment to counter one individual...Iran, as one of the main victims of terrorism, strongly condemns any act of terror in the world including organized terrorism in the Zionist regime [of Israel]." May 2, 2011
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the parliament’s National Security Commission
         “The U.S. only used bin Laden, Mollah Omar and the Taliban as an excuse to invade Afghanistan.”
         “Despite the passage of 10 years since the invasion, they have accomplished nothing substantial, and even this latest news is not yet fully corroborated…What is certain is that they used this as a pretext to justify their presence in Afghanistan.”
Javad Jahangirzadeh, member of parliament
         “The West has been very pleased with bin Laden's operations in recent years…Now the West was forced to kill him in order to prevent a possible leak of information he had, information more precious than gold." May 2, 2011 
Ismail Kosari, member of parliament
         "[Osama bin Laden] was just a puppet controlled by the Zionist regime in order to present a violent image of Islam after the September 11 attacks."
         "Bin Laden's death reflects the passing of a temporary U.S. pawn, and symbolizes the end of one era and the beginning of another in American policy in the region." May 2, 2011
Alef, website affiliated with conservative parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakoli
         "If one looks at Bin Laden's photo carefully, one concludes that he is not dead. Only the mouth and nose of the person shown in the photo agrees with his previous photos. The rest appears to have been modified by Photoshop." May 2, 2011 (The U.S. opted not to release pictures, although photo-shopped pictures of bin Laden did circulate on the Internet.)  
Sa’adollah Zare-i, editorial in Farda News, website close to conservative Tehran mayor Mohammad-Bagher Qalibaf
        “Obama’s party needed to rectify the reputations of the Democratic Party and the U.S. military’s foreign policy with an apparent successful military operation, in order to avoid [the democrats’] defeat [in the upcoming presidential elections] as much as possible.” May 2, 2011
Read Semira Nikou's chapter on Iran's subsidies conundrum in “The Iran Primer”

Semira N. Nikou works for the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention at the U.S. Institute of Peace
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