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Media promotes far-fetched ‘bin Laden in Iran’ report

Muriel Kane
Raw Story
May 7, 2010

According to a new documentary, Osama bin Laden has been living in Iran’s capital of Tehran with his family since 2003, enjoying the protection of the Revolutionary Guard and regularly taking part in the elite sport of falcon hunting.

This seemingly bizarre charge by by falconry expert Alan Parrot appears in the film Feathered Cocaine, which depicts “the secretive world of falconers where some birds can sell for over $1 million, and in which the elite of the Middle East conduct business and politics in remote desert camps.”

Parrot, who claims to have traveled to Iran after he graduated from high school in the 1970’s and become chief falconer to the Shah, says that a northern Iranian warlord, who reluctantly agreed to talk about bin Laden after one of Parrot’s men saved his life, spoke of meeting the al Qaeda leader on six hunting trips between 2003 and 2008 and described him as calm and healthy.

As unlikely as Parrot’s story might appear, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos actually raised the question with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad during an interview on Tuesday, inaccurately asserting that Parrot himself had met bin Laden on several occasions.

“There’s a new documentary out that says that Osama Bin Laden is living in Tehran,” Stephanopoulos began. “And the subject of the documentary, a man named Alan Parrot, one of the world’s foremost falconers living in Iran, says he’s spoken to Osama bin Laden several times since 2003. Is Osama bin Laden in Tehran?”

“Your question is laughable,” Ahmadinejad replied. He went on to say mockingly, “I heard that Osama bin Laden is in the Washington, D.C. … Because he was a previous partner of Mr. Bush. They were colleagues in fact in the old days. You know that. They were in the oil business together. They worked together. Mr. Bin Laden never cooperated with Iran but he cooperated with Mr. Bush–”

The film is being promoted heavily by Fox News, which places particular emphasis on the claim that “Parrot’s story is supported in the documentary by former CIA agent Robert Baer, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East and of how the CIA is managed. Baer, the onetime Middle East operative on whom the movie Syriana is based, explains that while he was in the CIA, he used satellites to watch the camps and they proved to be one of the key ways Al Qaeda was funded.”

It is not clear how far Baer’s endorsement extends, especially since he recently suggested that bin Laden is most likely dead. It also appears that in the film he was speaking only of al Qaeda’s use of falconry camps and may not even have been aware of Parrot’s assertion that bin laden is in Iran.

A review of Feathered Cocaine at DVDTalk states, “The always-fascinating Robert Baer (the former CIA field officer who inspired the Clooney character in Syriana) pops up to explain that falcon hunting camps are where business is done in the Middle East; meetings and cash hand-offs are the norm, and presumably, that’s where Osama bin Laden took care of at least some of his financial and logistical planning. … But the film goes deeper into the weeds. Parrot says he has a source, a professional smuggler (though not of falcons, of course) who says that bin Laden is in Iran.”

“Parrot then proclaims that bin Laden’s falcons all have tracking devices on them,” the reviewer continues, “so if we were to go to Iran during hunting season, the signals from those falcons could be used to triangulate his location. Uh huh. He claims to have given all of this information to the government, but he’s been ignored by both the previous and the current administrations, so clearly, our government doesn’t actually want to catch Osama bin Laden.”

In 2006, when the Dubai Ports deal was in the headlines, Parrot — who also claims to have been part of the inner circle of the late President Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates — was promoting a very similar story, but with a focus on the UAE rather than Iran.

Parrot told FrontPageMagazine at that time, “The Sheiks fly into falcon hunting camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan on C-130 military cargo planes filled with SUV’s, supplies and even steamer trunks full of cash. … They meet with al Qaeda leaders or bin Laden himself while in these camps and discuss their Muslim obligations and unity. When they leave, they leave all the vehicles, supplies and any other useful equipment behind as donations to al Qaeda for its efforts at jihad.”

Around the same time, Parrot appeared on Fox News — wearing a turban and with a falcon on his wrist — and told host John Gibson that he had personally witnessed bin Laden dealing with government officials at camps in the United Arab Emirates. “They have failed to close down the falconry camps, which are the real venue for planning the terror events that we have seen around the world,” Parrot charged.

This clip was then featured by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who commented plaintively, “How could we have failed to shut down the falconry camps? We know Al Qaeda is after our field mice.”

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