The appearance Friday in a lower Manhattan courtroom of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and one-time al Qaeda spokesman, to face charges of conspiracy to kill Americans underlines the surprising fact that members of bin Laden's inner circle have been living in Iran for the past decade or so.
It was Abu Ghaith's decision to leave the comparative safety of his longtime refuge in Iran for Turkey a few weeks ago that led to the chain of events that landed him in Manhattan for trial.
The leading Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet, reported that Abu Ghaith was detained in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in early February. Turkey then decided to deport him to his native Kuwait via Jordan, where he was intercepted by FBI agents, who escorted him to New York.
As is well known, many of bin Laden's family and members of his inner circle fled Afghanistan for Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban in the winter of 2001, but what is less well known is that some also fled to neighboring Iran.
According to U.S. documents and officials, in addition to Abu Ghaith, other of bin Laden's inner circle who ended up in Iran include the formidable military commander of al Qaeda, Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian Special Forces officer who had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, as well as Saad bin Laden, one of the al Qaeda's leader older sons who has played some kind of leadership role in the group.
Saad bin Laden spent the first six months of 2002 living in Karachi in southern Pakistan. From there he helped one of his father's wives, Khairiah bin Laden, and several of his father's children to move from Pakistan to Iran.
For years these bin Laden family members all lived in the Iranian capital, Tehran, under some form of house arrest. Their conditions were not unpleasant, with time for visits to swimming pools and shopping trips.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence learned that some al Qaeda operatives were living in the northern Iranian town of Chalus, on the Caspian Sea.
In 2002 a U.S. Navy SEAL operation into Chalus was planned and then rehearsed somewhere along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, called off the assault because the information about where precisely the al Qaeda members were living in Chalus was not clear.