WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of actively supporting Al Qaeda, saying the country now serves as a “home base” for the militant group and provides operatives with travel documents and logistic support is.
Pompeo’s allegations go beyond previous statements by US intelligence officials, other foreign governments and counterterrorism experts, who have described a complex and sometimes tense relationship between the Shia-ruled government and the Sunni extremist group in Tehran, which took place on 11 September 2001 Had launched attacks. .
Pompeo, who did not cite US intelligence reporting for his statements, said relations between Iran and al Qaeda had shifted in 2015 only when the regime in Tehran agreed with the United States and other world powers over its nuclear program. An agreement was made.
Pompeo, referring to the nuclear deal known as the Joint Agreement, said, “Everything changed in 2015 – the same year that the Obama administration and the ‘E-3’ – France, Germany and Britain – were finalizing the JCPOA Were.” Work plan.
The secretary said this marked a “sea change” but did not explain how Tehran changed its approach to al Qaeda when the United States and other governments imposed sanctions on Iran in exchange for the extent of its nuclear actions Had agreed to lift.
Pompeo, speaking at the National Press Club, said that Iran decided to allow Al Qaeda to “establish a new operational headquarters” on the condition that it obeyed the rules of governance governing al Qaeda within the country . “
Since 2015, Iran has provided Al Qaeda leaders with “greater freedom of movement” and the Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard “with secure documents and ID support such as travel documents, ID cards and passports – enabling al Qaeda activity” Are, ”said Pompeo.
Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif denied the accusations, pointing to the hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks largely from Middle Eastern countries with close ties with the Trump administration, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In the intelligence community’s publicly released assessment of worldwide threats in 2019, there was no mention of Iran’s lending support for al Qaeda.
Nicholas Rasmussen, a former intelligence officer and now executive director, said Pompeo said Iran had increased its cooperation with Al Qaeda and allowed the group to allow attacks from Iranian soil. Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.
“If those statements are true, it would have to be supported by some very specific intel or body of intelligence that emerged over a period of time. I have no way of evaluating whether this is an exaggeration or an overgrowth. Intelligence, or if So, they think, “said Rasmussen, who served as the director of the National Counter Terrorism Center under the Obama administration.
Rasmussen said that in his work in the intelligence world before Trump entered office, he did not remember the analysis that saw a major shift in Iran’s relations with al Qaeda around 2015.
Rasmussen told NBC News, “As I recall, through 2016, the intelligence community did not have an idea that Iran’s approach to Qaeda went through a sea change in 2015.”
US intelligence found that Iran was allowing al Qaeda factions to travel to Syria to wage war there. “By 2013, we had come to appreciate that the Iranians were allowed to be more comfortable. Al Qaeda has freedom of movement, they have to participate in what was happening in Syria,” he said.
Due to Iran’s ties to Al Qaeda, Pompeo said that the United States would impose sanctions on al Qaeda leaders, who said they were based in Iran, Muhammad Abbat – Abd al-Rahman al-Maghbi, and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al- Also known as Arif. Also three leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked group operating along the border with Iran and Iraq.
The State Department is also offering a $ 7 million reward for “the location or identity of al-Maghrebi”.
Pompeo has attempted to forge ties between Iran and Al Qaeda since becoming a top US diplomat, both raising the issue in closed-door congressional briefings and open hearings on Capitol Hill.
Pompeo’s insistence on the Iran-al Qaeda axis over the past two years has led some lawmakers to be wary that he was trying to establish a legal justification for a possible war with Iran, called the Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 ) Was authorized by. Congress after 9/11 attacks.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky pressed Pompeo in April 2019 over his intentions and Pompeo brushed aside the question, saying he “just likes to leave lawyers”, but he persevered. “There is no doubt that there is an affair. Period. Full stop.”
Democratic rape. Alyssa Slotkin of Michigan, who served on Michigan’s Armed Services Committee, said a few months later, “We were presented with a fully formal presentation of how the 2001 AUMF could authorize the war on Iran… by Secretary Pompeo said. His own words. “
Speaking on Tuesday, Pompeo called Iran “the new Afghanistan”, where the United States fought nearly two decades of war in the name of destroying al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks. “It’s really worse,” he said.
Pompeo said, “Bin Laden’s rogue is ready to gain strength and capabilities. We ignore this axis of Iran-Al Qaeda.” We should accept it. We should face it. We must defeat it. “
Pompeo, however, did not say whether Al Qaeda’s presence in Iran posed a direct threat to the “homeland”, and did not cite US intelligence agencies as the source of his allegations.
“At no point did I hear the word motherland, and God knows that if he could say that, he would have said it. If he could ask it to include a piece of a creepy homeland, he would be happy to do it. Will be. ” , “Rasmussen said.
Pompeo’s “statement that the Islamic Republic of Iran is now home to al Qaeda is a major exaggeration,” said Bruce Reidel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“It is true that there is a complicated relationship between Iran and al Qaeda,” Riedel said.
He said Iran turned a blind eye to al-Qaeda operatives who fled to Iran from neighboring Afghanistan after the US-led invasion, and saw them as a possible bargaining chip in retaliation in the United States and ensured Did not want terrorist groups to target Iran.
He said, “This is not a black-and-white affair. There is truth in the notion that Iran and Al Qaeda have some connections. But it misses the big picture, that they are quite hostile entities.”
On Tuesday, Pompeo also acknowledged the death of Al Qaeda’s second-largest leader, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, on the streets of Tehran on August 7 last year, the first such public acceptance by an American official.
Al-Masri was believed to be the mastermind behind the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that claimed the lives of twelve Americans. According to media reports, al-Masri was gunned down by Israeli operatives at the behest of the US on the anniversary of the 1998 attacks. Pompeo did not provide any further details on the circumstances of his death.
After a 2018 analysis of documents seized at Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts in 2011, the US military killed an al Qaeda leader in 2011, finding no evidence that Iran and al Qaeda cooperated in carrying out terrorist attacks . The study was carried out by Nelly Lahoud, an academic and expert in al-Qaeda, a think tank in New America.
NBC News has previously reported that the night Navy Seal confiscated the documents bin Laden killed, suggesting that al Qaeda and Iran sometimes cooperated, but there was also deep mistrust marked by threats and kidnappings.