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US accuses Iran of secret ties to Al Qaeda

WASHINGTON (AP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of maintaining secret ties to the Al Qaeda network and imposed new sanctions on several senior Iranian officials.

Pompeo made the remarks just a week before the end of Donald Trump’s administration, apparently to counter President-elect Joe Biden’s express desire to resume negotiations with Iran on the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Pompeo criticized Iran for alleged secret ties to al Qaeda, citing intelligence data indicating that Tehran was home to the group’s number 2, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, who was allegedly killed in August. by Israeli agents.

Iran, with a Shiite government, and Sunni Al Qaeda, are not natural allies in the Islamic world and have had bad relations since the Taliban, which hosted Osama bin Laden, took power in Afghanistan in 1996. Two years later. Iran accused the Taliban of assassinating several Iranian diplomats in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Although the US authorities had previously confirmed the deaths of al-Masri and his daughter, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, Pompeo’s remarks are the first official comment to that effect.

“Today, I can publicly confirm to the world for the first time his death on August 7 of last year,” Pompeo said. He further asserted that Iran had “closely monitored” members of Al Qaeda prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and had increased such activity and decided to actively support them after the nuclear deal.

Pompeo said ties between Iran and al Qaeda improved considerably in 2015, when the Barack Obama administration, along with France, Germany and Britain, were finalizing the nuclear deal. He offered no evidence of his accusation. Pompeo resolutely opposed the deal when he was a member of Congress.

“A wave of change was occurring within the Iran-Al Qaeda axis,” Pompeo said. “Iran decided to allow Al Qaeda to establish a new base of operations, on the condition that members of Al Qaeda abide by the rules decreed by the regime for the presence of Al Qaeda in the country.”