On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed without evidence that Iran is al-Qaeda’s “new home base,” recycling an old talking point of an al-Qaeda-Iran alliance that has been repeatedly debunked.
Sources first told Reuters about the planned speech on Monday night and said Pompeo was poised to make the accusation despite skepticism in Congress and US intelligence agencies. A former US intelligence official told Reuters that Iran was never friendly with al-Qaeda before or after 9/11, and that “any claims of current cooperation should be viewed warily.”
Despite the doubt, Pompeo still made the claim. Hurling accusations at Iran without evidence is nothing new for the secretary of state. Tuesday’s speech was part of his effort to ramp up the pressure on Iran as much as possible before Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20th.
In November, The New York Times reported that Abu Muhammad al-Masri, who the Times said was al-Qaeda’s second in command, was killed in Iran by Israel back in August 2020 at the behest of the US. Pompeo mentioned the alleged assassination and said he was announcing it for the first time.
But questions remain about the report, including how a roadside assassination in Iran could go unnoticed, and how President Trump could have a top al-Qaeda leader killed without fanfare. Iran immediately denied the report, and questions arose about whether or not al-Masri could have been in Iran at the time.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed Pompeo’s claims as “warmongering lies” in a tweet on Tuesday.