Pompeo says Iran is Al Qaeda’s new ‘home port’

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Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that Iran, the sworn enemy, had become a new “base” for Al Qaeda worse than Afghanistan, a claim questioned by experts.

In a speech a week before leaving office, Pompeo confirmed a New York Times report that Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed last year in Tehran, although he did not said Israel executed him.

“Al Qaeda has a new base. This is the Islamic Republic of Iran, ”Pompeo said in a speech to the National Press Club.

“I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan – as a key geographic hub for Al Qaeda – but it’s actually worse.

“Unlike Afghanistan, when Al Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, Al Qaeda today operates under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection. ”

He called for more international pressure, calling the alleged alliance a “massive force for evil all over the world”.

President Donald Trump’s hawkish senior diplomat paused before urging for military action, saying, “If we had this option, if we choose to do so, there is a much greater risk in executing it.” ”

But he announced sanctions against several people and a reward of $ 7 million for information on an al-Qaeda member who he said was in Iran, identified as both Muhammad Abbatay or Abd al-Rahman. al-Maghrebi.

Iran, a clerical Shia state, is ideologically opposed to both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, predominantly Arab extremist Sunni movements, and has fought on the fronts abroad against both.

Many experts believe that Tehran has allowed Al Qaeda operatives to use its territory – compared to the U.S. military’s shelter – to provide guarantees that extremists will not target Iran.

Pompeo admitted that the late founder of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden himself “considered members of Al-Qaeda inside the Islamic Republic of Iran to be hostages” and that there was no had no evidence that Iran supported the attacks of September 11, 2001, mainly carried out by Saudi nationals.

But Pompeo, a former CIA chief, said Iran in recent years had allowed al-Qaeda greater freedom of movement, including the issuance of travel documents, and that the group had “centralized leadership. In Tehran.

“Tehran has made it possible for Al Qaeda to raise funds, to communicate freely with other members of Al Qaeda around the world and to perform many other functions which were previously ruled from Afghanistan and Pakistan” , Pompeo said.

Pompeo has defended a hard line on Iran, including sweeping sanctions that have ravaged its economy.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to seek a return to diplomacy and has brought in Bill Burns, a highly respected former diplomat who has conducted secret negotiations with Iran, as head of the CIA.

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