On Tuesday the Trump administration is expected to once again go on the anti-Iran offensive a day after on Monday it declared its intent to label Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels a designated terrorist organization.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will accuse Iran of aiding and sheltering top al-Qaeda terrorists in an anticipated speech on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
"With just eight days left in office for President Donald Trump, Pompeo is expected to offer details on allegations that Iran has given safe haven to al Qaeda leaders and support for the group, the sources said, despite some skepticism within the intelligence community and Congress," Reuters writes.
Let’s talk Iran. The men in these photos threaten America and Israel nearly every day. pic.twitter.com/CROlrItsHk— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 12, 2021
That skepticism arises in part due to Shia Iran and Sunni al-Qaeda being fierce enemies in recent history, with Iran long aiming to root out outlawed Sunni militant organizations particularly active in the country's southwest region. There's also the fact of Iran being at war against the Sunni insurgency in both neighboring Iraq and more recently in Syria.
The claim of Tehran and al-Qaeda being in cahoots has echoes of the Bush administration allegation of secular Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein working with al-Qaeda, which it used as one of its many debunked justifications for war.
The Iran-Qaeda claims are nothing new, as neocons have for years maintained that the Islamic Republic actually orchestrated 9/11, while at the same time they ignored the mountain of evidence which points to Saud state sponsorship (and the fact that the vast majority of hijackers were Saudi nationals). Pompeo will likely invoke 9/11 in his Tuesday speech and make connections to Iran.
Pompeo's speech is also expected to feature the case of Abu Muhammad al-Masri. A New York Times report from November described him as AQ's second in command while alleging that he was assassinated inside Iran by Israeli operatives at the behest of US intelligence, claims which Tehran subsequently denied.
In the end Pompeo's allegations are just as much for domestic consumption as they are "threatening" to Iran's leaders, given it's part of continued White House efforts to "box in" Biden on Iran even before he enters office, limiting his ability to act on swiftly restoring to the terms of the nuclear deal, or JCPOA.