Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday al-Qaeda has a new home base in Iran, though he offered no evidence in a speech in Washington, DC, a claim Iran immediately rebuffed.
Pompeo said al-Qaeda had centralised its leadership inside Tehran and that deputies of leader Ayman al-Zawahiri are currently there. Such claims have been met with some scepticism within the intelligence community and Congress.
“Al-Qaeda has a new home base. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a speech at the National Press Club.
“I would say Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan – as the key geographic hub for al-Qaeda – but it’s actually worse,” he said. “Unlike in Afghanistan, when al-Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, al-Qaeda today is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection.”
The secretary of state, who will leave office on January 20 when President Donald Trump’s term ends, also urged more international pressure on Tehran, but stopped short of calling for military action, saying: “If we did have that option, if we chose to do that, there’s a much greater risk in executing it.”