Pompeo warns Iran is new ‘home base’ for al Qaeda
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday charged Iran with aiding and abetting al Qaeda, warning that the partnership poses a “grave threat” to international security and safety of Americans at home.
The secretary made his remarks in a speech at the National Press Club less than a week after a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College count for the presidential election.
Pompeo has condemned the violence by the mob, though he has avoided criticism of President Trump, who has widely been accused of inciting it.
The secretary focused his remarks on laying out the connection between Iran, which the U.S. lists as a state sponsor of terrorism, and al Qaeda, the group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The secretary’s speech served as a warning to the incoming Biden administration against rapprochement and engagement with Iran.
“Since 2015, Iran has also given al Qaeda leaders greater freedom of movement inside of Iran under their supervision,” Pompeo said.
“As a result of this assistance, al Qaeda has centralized its leadership inside of Iran. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s deputies are there today, and frankly, they’re living a normal al Qaeda life,” he said, referring to the current leader of al Qaeda.
“The time is now for America and all free nations to crush the Iran-al Qaeda axis. The Trump administration’s actually made progress. Let’s not tolerate Iran giving al Qaeda a second wind,” he added.
Pompeo also acknowledged for the first time the death of senior Al Qaeda leader Abu Mohammed al-Masri in Iran in August, though he did not address the circumstances. The New York Times reported in November that al-Masri was shot by Israeli agents.
Al-Masri was behind the 1998 twin bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 200 people, including 12 Americans, and injured hundreds more.
“Al-Masri’s presence inside Iran points to the reason that we’re here today,” the secretary said.
“Al Qaeda has a new home base. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran. … We ignore this Iran-al Qaeda nexus at our own peril. We need to acknowledge it. We must confront it, indeed we must defeat it.”
Pompeo has staked his legacy on his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, a full-court press of sanctions meant to bankrupt and squeeze the leaders of Tehran to adhere to a list of 12 demands the secretary laid out to “act like a normal country.”
He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on more than 1,500 individuals and entities that have deprived the Islamic Republic of $70 billion in revenue and that Iran’s proposed military budget has decreased by 24 percent this year.
Pompeo announced additional sanctions Tuesday, against two Iran-based al Qaeda leaders and three al Qaeda leaders of a Kurdish battalion operating on the border between Iran and Iraq.
The State Department also announced a $7 million reward for information leading to the location or identification of Abd-al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, an Iran-based key leader of al Qaeda.
Critics say the Trump campaign against Iran failed to rein in its destabilizing activities in the Middle East and that confrontation with the U.S. has emboldened its leaders to violate the terms of the Iran Nuclear Deal meant to limit the amount of dangerous material that could be used for a nuclear weapon.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.