Al-Qaeda: Pompeo says Iran is jihadist network's 'new home base'

Elias Hubbard
January 13, 2021

Pompeo said Iran has given Al-Qaeda leaders freedom of movement inside Iran, as well as safe havens and logistical support since 2015, when Iran signed a nuclear accord with world powers.

In a speech a week before leaving office, Pompeo confirmed a New York Times report that Al-Qaeda's second-in-command was killed previous year in Tehran, although he did not say that Israel carried it out. Iran denied the report, saying there were no al Qaeda "terrorists" on its soil.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed the accusations as "warmongering lies".

"Al Qaeda today is operating underneath the hard shell of the Iranian regime's protection", he said.

"Iran made a decision to allow al-Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters on the condition that al-Qaeda operatives abide by the regime's rules governing al-Qaeda's stay inside of the country", he said. For Biden, "the optics are quite hard to justify giving in to the Islamic Republic and giving in to pressure tactics, particularly in light of the past criticism of the deal", he said.

"Through multi-faceted consultations with leading Iranian officials, South Korea and Iran will work together to craft swift, constructive solutions to the pending issues based on the long-standing friendship between the two countries", the foreign ministry said in a press release.

A former senior USA intelligence official with direct knowledge of the issue told Reuters that Iran was never friendly with al-Qaeda before or after the 9/11 attacks and any claims of current cooperation should be viewed warily.

This comes amid expectations that Pompeo will give a speech accusing Iran of supporting Al Qaeda (recycling the famous Bush-era lie about Saddam an Al-Qaeda to justify the invasion).

Former President George W Bush also accused Iran of having ties with the 9/11 attacks on the United States, but these allegations have since been debunked.

Iran, a Shiite clerical state, is ideologically opposed both to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, extreme Sunni movements that are predominantly Arab, and has fought on fronts overseas against both.

Iran has rejected Western calls for wider global talks over its nuclear and military ambitions after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

As a clerical state based on Shiite Islam, Iran is considered ideologically opposed to extremist groups like al-Qaida, which adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam and have traditionally been supported by Iran's arch-enemy Saudi Arabia.

Tensions have been ramped up in recent days amid the one-year anniversary of the U.S.' killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated since 2018 when Trump abandoned Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, which imposed strict curbs on its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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