Is Iran the biggest sponsor of world terrorism?

Paul Cruickshank: So Iran is . . . has a very clear relationship with Hezbollah, which is a group with both a political and a military arm based in Lebanon.  It hasn’t launched a terrorist attack in many years on civilians.  That might be disputed, but it . . . but it has not launched a sort of terrorist attack on civilians outside Lebanon, inside Lebanon for several years.  It has launched obviously missiles into Israel which have killed civilians.  But it hasn’t sort of organized car bombings.  It hasn’t launched suicide attacks.  So it’s not engaged in what is classically understood as terrorist activity in the last years.  Obviously historically it has been responsible for terrible acts of terrorism in the 1980s and other non . . .  You know hundreds of Marines were killed.  It’s been responsible for attacks in Argentina.  But in the last years it’s not been responsible for the types of attacks that Al Qaeda have been responsible for around the world.  Iran has also been accused of harboring certain Al Qaeda figures within the country that fled Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.  Certainly I think there are a number of figures – such as __________, a military commander within Al Qaeda – who are in Iran.  But the understanding that we have is that they’re under house arrest.  They’re not free just to operate at will in that country.  So I think that Iran has had historically relationship with terrorists.  There are Al Qaeda figures in that country which have not been handed over to the United States.  So I think that with Iran when the President makes these allegations, you know that is the context of what is going on here.  But I . . .  You know I . . .  Let’s put all that in parenthesis because you know I . . .  Do you know what?  Because I . . . I . . . Let’s talk about whether to include that or not, the Iran side.

 

Question: Does any country sponsor al-Qaeda?

 

Cruickshank:      Well I can say something to that.  I mean . . .  Well I mean . . .  I mean Nobody is sponsoring Al Qaeda.  No.  No country is sponsoring Al Qaeda.  And when President Bush makes these remarks, he’s not referring to Al Qaeda.  And if he is, he’s mistaken because no country is sponsoring Al Qaeda.  They’re not receiving any state response, you know.  I mean I can go on and on, but one of the key justifications to go into Iraq was obviously the relationship between . . .  So maybe we can do a little …there.  But in a recent message, bin Laden has said look, you know, “I haven’t received state support from anybody, which makes me free to do what I like.  Hezbollah is restrained by these different powers and I can do what I like.  We can launch the operations we want to.”  So maybe there’s a little thing we can do on that.

 

Paul Cruickshank:      So the President of the United States has recently said that Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism.  I don’t think he’s referring to Al Qaeda.  There certainly Iran has had a relationship with Hezbollah, with certain Shiia militia forces within Iraq.  Al Qaeda figures are also present in Iran right now, but it is thought they are under house arrest.  So under some sort of restriction.  And they’re certainly not cooperating with the Iranian regime.  There might be some elements of the Iranian regime which has had some dealings with Al Qaeda in the country.  It’s very, very cloudy what’s going on there.  But Iran has not been responsible for sponsoring Al Qaeda around the world.  One of the justifications of going into Iraq was the idea that there was some sort of relationship between Saddam Hussein and certain Al Qaeda linked fighters such as … in Iraq; and an alliance of convenience between a … secularist figure and a religious group.  Those have really not been borne out in recent years. And the idea that Iran, a Shiia power, would ally itself with Al Qaeda, which is a Sunni, fundamentalist, anti-Shiia organization, I think is a pipe dream.  It’s very unlikely to happen.  Al Qaeda fighters in their statements, and on forums, and . . .  Sorry.  Radical figures on . . .  Sorry.  Let me think about this a little bit.  I’m just . . .  That’s the first bit.

 

Paul Cruickshank:      The second . . .  I mean there’s been quite a lot of talk in the . . . on these jihadist forums about, “Does it make sense for us to ally ourselves with Iran?”  There’s been quite a lot of talk on those jihadist forums about whether Al Qaeda should ally itself with Iran against the United States.  I think most of the people who are posting these messages have concluded that that sort of alliance wouldn’t make sense.  They’re not prepared to come up with some sort of alliance of convenience with Iran.  They view Iran, because of its support for Shiia militia groups in Iraq which are seen as killing Sunnis, in very hostile ways . . . terms right now.  So Shiia powers . . .  These jihadists who are part of Al Qaeda right now are a very fundamentalist, very intolerant ideology which sees Shiias as heretics.  So for Al Qaeda any sort of alliance of convenience with Iran is not gonna happen in the years to come.  It’s not gonna make sense to them.  And for Iran, I don’t think it’s gonna make any sense whatsoever either.  So when the President talks about Iran supporting terrorist groups around the world, we have to understand that he’s not referring to Al Qaeda as one of those groups.

 

Recorded on: Jan 14 2008

Although Iran has ties to Hezbollah and Syria has ties to Hamaas, al-Qaeda’s unique mobility and effectiveness comes from their lack of affiliation.

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For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

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If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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