Reuters Saul Loeb
Informed sources said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to disclose recently declassified information to publicly accuse Iran of having links with Al Qaeda, before handing over power to the Biden administration.
Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that while there is only eight days left for President Donald Trump in office, Pompeo is expected to provide details that Iran has provided safe haven and support to al Qaeda leaders, despite some doubts within the intelligence community and Congress.
It was not clear what Pompeo intended to reveal in his speech to the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday.
The two sources, who requested anonymity, said that he may cite declassified information about the killing of the second man in the Al Qaeda network in Tehran last August.
The New York Times reported last November that Abu Muhammad al-Masri, accused of helping orchestrating the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, was killed by Israeli agents in Iran. Iran denied the report, saying that there were no “terrorists” from Al Qaeda on its soil.
Iran was a target during the Trump administration, and Pompeo has sought to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic in recent weeks with more sanctions and hot rhetoric.
Advisers to President-elect Joe Biden believe the Trump administration is trying to make it difficult for him to re-engage with Iran and accede to an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
It is noteworthy that Pompeo had accused Iran of having links with Al Qaeda in the past, but did not provide concrete evidence.
“There have been times when the Iranians worked alongside Al Qaeda,” said Pompeo, who was director of the CIA in October 2017.
Previous accusations by the administration of President George W. Bush regarding Iran’s links to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by Al Qaeda were refuted. But reports have emerged over the years of Al Qaeda operatives hiding in Iran.
A former senior US intelligence official with first-hand knowledge of the case said the Iranians had never been friendly with al Qaeda before or after the 9/11 attacks, and any allegations of current cooperation should be treated with caution.