Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya under fire for claiming Iran 'confessed' to 9/11

Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya under fire for claiming Iran 'confessed' to 9/11
The majority of the hijackers were, in fact, Saudi.
5 min read
11 June, 2018
More than 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks [Public Domain]
A Saudi-owned newspaper has come under fire for misrepresenting an interview with an official from the Iranian judiciary, to claim he had "admitted Iran's involvement" in the 9/11 attacks.

claimed Mohammad-Javad Larijani, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader, "confessed in unprecedented remarks that Iran facilitated the passage of al-Qaeda members who carried out the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York".

But in the original 45-minute interview, Larijani begins by stating "in the commission report it says.." before going into detail about the four official US reports on 9/11, two of which mention Iran.

Larijani was in fact detailing the accusations against Iran presented in the Commission Report - and stressed the commission had concluded the Islamic Republic had no involvement in the attack.

"We found no evidence that Iran or Hizballah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through Iran, the al-Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation," said the 9/11 Commission Report published in 2004.

Fifteen of the 19 plane hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, two were from the UAE, one was Egyptian and one was Lebanese.

The Saudi news report, which was circulated online alongside a selectively edited video, has come under fire from Iranian officials, journalists and media analysts who said it falsely represented what had really happened.

"This video was spliced to fit a Saudi-owned news company's agenda. Conveniently left out is him saying, 'Al Qaeda is Iran's number one enemy,'" Iranian-American Middle East analyst Holly Dagres posted on Twitter.

The video, first published on Al-Arabiya's English website, was enough to fool the US State Department's official Arabic Twitter account operators - who noted the "unprecedented statement" made by the Iranian official during his alleged confession. 

The claim was then published on a number of US platforms, including the New York Post, Free Beacon, and World Israel News, as well as the Saudi Gazette.

"Al-Arabiya changes translations and claims Iran admitted to a role in 9/11. In video, ex-MP mocks the ridiculous claims in 9/11 report, [and] says al-Qaeda is a blood enemy of Iran," Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the press office at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York, said in response.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV channel was in January fined £120,000 ($170,000) by UK media watchdog Ofcom for screening "confessions" made by jailed Bahraini opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, extracted under torture, and passing the footage off as an interview a reporter.

Saudi Arabia and 9/11

Families of the victims killed in the 9/11 attacks have been attempting to sue the Saudi government in the US for its alleged involvement in the deadly attacks.

The complaint submitted by the families in 2003 claims Saudi government officials and diplomats had a direct hand in the attacks in Washington and New York, along with the hijacking of a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. They say Saudi Arabia provided support to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. 

The case alleged that two Saudis were paid by the embassy in Washington to carry out "a dry-run for the 9/11 attacks" two years before the actual hijackings took place.

The flight tickets used in the dry-run were allegedly paid for by the Saudi embassy, as families of the 1,400 killed in the 9/11 attacks try to find alleged links between Riyadh and the al-Qaeda militants.

The families' complaint claimed the men were living undercover in the US as students, when they were apparently asked by embassy staff to simulate a hijacking of an airliner to test cockpit security.

This was the same tactic used by the al-Qaeda hijackers when they flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers and another into the Pentagon.

The complaint alleges the two undercover militants - one of whom The New York Post said had attempted to enter the US just before the 9/11 attacks were carried out - attended the same al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan as some of the hijackers.

It also claims the men - described as "the kingdom's network of agents in the US" - were in contact with a hijacker pilot when they were based in Arizona, along with a senior Saudi al-Qaeda militant who is now being detained in Guantanamo Bay.

FBI case files allege that during the 2009 dry-run, the men asked cabin crew technical questions about the aircraft and tried twice to enter the cockpit.

Alarmed pilots decided to make an emergency landing due to the intrusion into the cockpit and the two men were detained but later released.

In late September 2016, US Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), allowing survivors and relatives of victims of "terrorism" to sue foreign governments.

Saudi Arabia has persistently denied governmental involvement in the attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead.

In March, a federal court judge rejected a Saudi motion to end the lawsuit, ruling that the court could assume jurisdiction under JASTA.

"This fight for justice is about more than just these families. It is to deter also state sponsors of terrorism," Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who pushed for the law, said, noting he will work alongside the plaintiffs as they push for more information to be disclosed.

Responding to the Al-Arabiya report, Iranian writer Arash Karami said "the attempt to sell the Iran war is like the Iraq war, but with B-movie actors".

Author and Senior Research Fellow George Szamuely said the report accusing Iran of 9/11 involvement citing a Saudi source as evidence was "laughable"

"Iran is guilty because the hijackers supposedly travelled through Iran. Then the guiltiest country must be Germany, where they lived before coming to US," Szamuely said sarcastically.

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