The idea that Bin Laden is in Iran got a strong boost recently with the premiere of a documentary called “Feathered Cocaine.” In it, Alan Parrot, the film’s subject and one of the world’s foremost falconers, makes a case that Bin Laden, an avid falcon hunter, has been living comfortably in Iran since at least 2003 and continues to pursue the sport relatively freely. He is relaxed, healthy and, according to the film, very comfortable.
To make his case, Parrot, president of the Union for the Conservation of Raptors, took two Icelandic filmmakers, Om Marino Arnarson and Thorkell S. Hardarson, into the secretive world of falconers. It's a world in which some birds can sell for over $1 million, and in which the elite of the Middle East conduct business in luxurious desert camps where money, politics and terror intermingle.
Parrot, who was once the chief falconer for the Shah of Iran and who has worked for the royal families of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, still has extensive contacts in Iran and the falcon world. One of those contacts, described as a warlord from the north of Iran and disguised in a balaclava, reveals in the film that he has met Bin Laden six times on hunting trips inside Iran since March 2003. He says the Al Qaeda leader is relaxed and healthy and so comfortable that “he travels with only four bodyguards.”
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Parrot's disclosures add another piece to a jigsaw puzzle that for years has fed suspicion that Bin Laden is living in Iran. Among the other clues are:
-- Iran accepted 35 Al Qaeda leaders after the fall of the Taliban, despite the schism between Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots and the Shiite regime in Iran.
-- In February 2009 the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on several high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives working out of Iran and helping run the terror network.
-- In 2004 author Richard Miniter, in his book “Shadow War,” wrote that two former Iranian Intelligence agents told him they had seen Bin Laden in Iran in 2003.
-- In June 2003 the respected Italian newspaper Corre de la Sierra, http://www.corriere.it/,quoting intelligence reports, reported that Bin Laden was in Iran and preparing new terror attacks.
-- Some analysts believe the reason Bin Laden switched from video to audiocassettes for his announcements was that he couldn’t find a place in Iran that matched the terrain of northern Pakistan.
-- In December 2009 it was widely reported that one of Bin Laden's wives, six of his children and 11 grandchildren were living in a compound in Tehran. The living situation was made public after one of the daughters escaped the compound and sought asylum in the Saudi Embassy. It is in this compound, Parrot says, that Bin Laden has found sanctuary.
Parrot said Bin Laden was renowned as an avid falconer who captured most of the falcons around Kandahar to raise funds to support his terror efforts.