Iran and Al Qaeda hate each other but their mutual hatred of Zionism and the United States may turn them into allies for terror – and for defending Iran, writes political scientist Seth Jones for the esteemed Foreign Affairs magazine.

Al Qaeda terrorists are a two-edged sword in Iran, which on the one hand has detained some of the terrorists for a decade but on the other hand also can use Al Qaeda’s help to stage terrorist attacks, particularly if Iran is attacked.

Several senior Al Qaeda terrorists are under house arrest in Iran, which also serves as the lone country where Al Qaeda – so far – is safe from President Barack Obama’s pledge to wipe out the international terrorist network.

Iran is far from cooperating with Al Qaeda now, according to Jones, but necessity being the mother of invention, they easily could be drawn closer together. While Jones advises the Obama administration not to provoke Iran not an alliance with Al Qaeda, he fails to note that their twinning could provide the West and Israel with a possibility of wiping out two targets at once.

Al Qaeda terrorists were in Iranian prisons and under harsh conditions in the beginning of their confinement in the early past of the last decade, Jones writes, but many of them now are out of prison and free to travel and raise funds so long as they do not plot attacks in Iran, do not target the regime and, in short, stay out of sight.

“Iran is likely holding al Qaeda leaders on its territory first as an act of defense,” according to Jones. “So long as Tehran has several leaders under its control, the group will likely refrain from attacking Iran. But the strategy also has an offensive component. If the United States or Israel undertook a bombing campaign against Iran, Tehran could employ al Qaeda in a response…. Al Qaeda's proven willingness and ability to strike the United States make it an attractive partner…"

“Moreover, Iran is in many ways a safer territory from which al Qaeda can operate…. Although most governments in the region have clamped down on al Qaeda, Iran's willingness to allow some activity sets it apart.”