US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that al-Qaeda has established a new home base in Iran and therefore the US has fewer options to deal with the organization.
Just eight days before President Donald Trump’s term is due, Pompeo claimed that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda leaders as a refuge and the group, despite controversial doubts within the intelligence community and Congress.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Pompeo also confirmed that the number two of al-Qaeda, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, known as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed on August 7, 2020.
The New York Times claimed last November that al-Masri, accused of assisting in the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in Africa, was shot by Israeli agents in Iran. Iran denied the news, saying there were no al-Qaeda “terrorists” on its territory.
“Al-Masri’s presence in Iran points to the reason why we are here today. Al Qaeda has a new home base: the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denied Pompeo’s accusations on Twitter and described them as “war-provoking lies”.
Iran has been a target for four years under the Trump administration, and Pompeo has been trying to further increase the pressure on Tehran in recent weeks with more sanctions and heated rhetoric.
Advisors to elected President Joe Biden believe that the Trump administration is trying to make it difficult for the new administration to re-engage with Iran and re-engage the United States in the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Pompeo also announced that they imposed sanctions on al-Qaeda leaders and three leaders of al-Qaeda Kurdish battalions in Iran.
The US Secretary of State also announced that those who provide information on the position or identity of al-Qaeda leader in Iran, Mohammed Abbatay, also known as Abdulrahman Al Maghrebi, will be awarded up to $ 7 million.
Pompeo; accused Iran of affiliation with Al Qaeda in the past; however, he did not provide any concrete evidence.
The George W. Bush administration’s accusations that Iran was linked to the September 11, 2001 attacks of Al Qaeda were disregarded. However, reports of al-Qaeda agents hiding in Iran have surfaced over the years.
A former US intelligence official with direct knowledge of the issue said that Iranians have never been friends with al-Qaeda before or after the 9/11 attacks and that existing allegations of cooperation should be evaluated with caution.
Shiite Iran and Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim organization, have long been hostile to each other because of their different sects.