Through a comprehensive review of documents recovered from Usama bin Ladin’s Abbottabad compound, this study provides a new periodization of al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iran. The analysis reveals that al-Qaeda often had to reconcile conflicting operational and ideational pressures in its interactions with the Islamic Republic over time. Beyond offering insight into the trajectory of this important relationship and direction for future scholarship, the analysis suggests some ways through which the United States might expand the strategic wedge that exists between these unlikely allies and highlights the need for a more flexible understanding of state sponsored terrorism.
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Dr. Bryce Loidolt is a Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University.