US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of having secret ties with the al-Qaida network and imposed new sanctions on several senior Iranian officials, AP reported.
In a speech to the National Press Club just, Pompeo attacked Iran for secret ties with al-Qaida, citing newly declassified intelligence suggesting Tehran harbored the group’s No. 2, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, who was killed in August, reportedly by Israeli agents.
Although U.S. officials had previously confirmed the death of al-Masri and his daughter, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, Pompeo’s remarks were the first on-the-record comments supporting the claim.
Today, I can confirm publicly to the world for the first time, his death on Aug. 7 of last year, Pompeo said. He also alleged that Iran had closely monitored al-Qaida members before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and had stepped up such activity and had decided to actively support them following the nuclear agreement.
Ties between al-Qaida and Iran vastly improved in 2015, when the Obama administration, along with France, Germany and Britain, were finalizing the nuclear deal, he reasserted.
A sea change was happening within the Iran-al-Qaida axis, Pompeo said. Iran decided to allow al-Qaida to establish a new operational headquarters, on the condition that al-Qaida operatives inside abide by the regime’s rules governing al-Qaida’s stay inside the country.
He said that since 2015, Iran has given al-Qaida leaders greater freedom of movement inside Iran and have provided safe havens and logistical support to al-Qaida. Pompeo asserted that al-Qaida had now based its leadership in Tehran and was continuing to plot attacks on the U.S. and Western targets from there.