Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran and al Qaeda of forming a secret alliance and becoming “partners in terrorism” in a speech that could derail President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to re-engage with Tehran.
Revealing newly unclassified intelligence, Pompeo said the Iranian regime was providing logistical support to the extremist group and had become their new base — allowing al Qaeda to focus on new terror attacks and posing “a grave threat” to US security.
“Al Qaeda has a new home base. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a result, bin Laden’s wicked creation is poised to gain strength and capabilities,” Pompeo said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, referring to the late terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, one of the group’s founders.
“We ignore this Iran-al Qaeda nexus at our own peril. We need to acknowledge it. We must confront it. We must defeat it,” he went on.
The secretary dismissed the popular theory that the pair are on opposite sides of the Muslim Sunni-Shia religious divide and said they formed a mutually convenient alliance in 2015 — around the same time as the nuclear deal brokered by President Barack Obama designed to clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear program.
“Iran decided to allow al Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters on the condition that al Qaeda operatives abide by regime’s rules governing al Qaeda,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said efforts by the US to destroy al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11 drove the group out of Afghanistan and into the arms of Iran, where their activities are a lot harder to monitor.
“We now have the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the home base for al Qaeda. They are partners in terrorism, partners in hate. This axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and the American homeland itself,” he said.
“Al Qaeda today is operating underneath the hard shell of the Iranian regime protection. America has far less visibility on al Qaeda’s capabilities and their activities than we did,” he said.
The outgoing Trump administration has taken a hardline approach to Iran’s nuclear activities, hitting the country with economic sanctions and withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement in 2018.
Iran has long denied allegations it hosts al Qaeda, but Pompeo pointed to the killing of al Qaeda’s second-in-command in Iran last year.
Despite the rogue regime continuing to grow its nuclear arsenal, the Biden administration is reportedly eager to build on the Obama-era nuclear deal.
Rejoining the original nuclear deal requires Washington to lift most of its sanctions against Tehran, handing the Islamic regime a major win.