WASHINGTON — Secretary of Condition Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of actively supporting Al Qaeda, indicating the place now serves as a “house base” for the terror group and provides operatives with journey paperwork and logistical aid.

Pompeo’s allegations go effectively outside of earlier statements by U.S. intelligence officers, other foreign governments and terrorism professionals, who have described a complicated and at times tense romance between the Shiite-dominated federal government in Tehran and the Sunni extremist team that launched the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Pompeo, who did not cite U.S. intelligence reporting for his assertions, claimed the connection in between Iran and Al Qaeda shifted in 2015 just as the routine in Tehran wrapped up an arrangement with the United States and other world powers about its nuclear system.

“All the things modified in 2015 — the similar year that the Obama Administration and the ‘E-3’ — France, Germany, and Britain — have been finalizing the JCPOA,” Pompeo stated in a speech, referring to the nuclear offer acknowledged as the Joint Detailed Plan of Motion.

The secretary mentioned it marked a “sea modify” but did not describe what led Tehran to change its tactic to Al Qaeda at that instant, when the United States and other governments agreed to carry sanctions on Iran in return for limits on its nuclear operate.

Pompeo, speaking at the Countrywide Press Club, explained Iran determined at the time to allow Al Qaeda to established up “a new operational headquarters, on the problem that Al Qaeda operatives inside of abide by the regime’s guidelines governing Al Qaeda’s remain inside of the state.”

Considering the fact that 2015, Iran has offered Al Qaeda leaders “higher flexibility of movement” and the ministry of intelligence and Revolutionary Guard have “presented risk-free havens and logistical support — like travel files, ID playing cards, and passports — that enable Al Qaeda action,” Pompeo explained.

Iranian Overseas Minister Javad Zarif vehemently denied the accusations, pointing out the hijackers powering the 9/11 attacks mostly came from Middle Eastern nations with nearer ties to the Trump administration, these kinds of as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Mr. ‘we lie, cheat, steal’ is pathetically ending his disastrous vocation with extra warmongering lies,” Zarif tweeted in response. “No a person is fooled. All 9/11 terrorists arrived from @SecPompeo‘s favourite ME locations NONE from Iran.

In the intelligence community’s publicly introduced assessment of all over the world threats in 2019, there was no mention of Iran lending help to Al Qaeda.

Pompeo’s assertions that Iran had improved its cooperation with Al Qaeda and had permitted the group to plot assaults from Iranian soil went additional than past statements by U.S. intelligence officers in excess of the past four several years, reported Nicholas Rasmussen, a former intelligence formal and now the executive director of the World wide World wide web Discussion board to Counter Terrorism.

“If all those statements are real, that would have to be backed up by some really unique intel or a system of intel that emerged over a period of time of time. I just you should not have a way to examine if that is an overstatement or an overreading of intelligence, or if that is what they imagine,” stated Rasmussen, who served as director of the Nationwide Counterterrorism Center below the Obama administration.

Rasmussen explained that in his function in the intelligence globe before Trump entered office, he did not keep in mind assessment that observed a significant shift in Iran’s back links with Al Qaeda all over 2015.

“As I remember, there was not a see in the intelligence group by 2016 that Iran’s strategy to Qaeda went through a sea change in 2015,” Rasmussen instructed NBC Information.

U.S. intelligence did locate that Iran was making it possible for Al Qaeda operatives to travel to Syria to combat in the war there, he said. “By 2013, we experienced appear to recognize the Iranians were being far more at ease permitting Al Qaeda have flexibility of motion, to allow them take part in what was taking place in Syria,” he mentioned.

Due to the fact of Iran’s links to Al Qaeda, Pompeo said the United States will impose sanctions on Al Qaeda leaders who he claimed are based in Iran, Muhammad Abbatay — also recognized as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-Arif, as perfectly as 3 leaders of an Al Qaeda-linked team operating on the border among Iran and Iraq.

The State Department is also offering a reward of $7 million for info top to “the location or identification of al-Maghrebi,” he mentioned.

Pompeo has attempted to draw connections in between Iran and Al Qaeda because turning out to be the leading U.S. diplomat, increasing the difficulty in both shut door congressional briefings and open up hearings on Capitol Hill.

Pompeo’s insistence on an Iran-Al Qaeda axis over the past two several years produced some lawmakers wary that he was hoping to lay the authorized justification for a feasible war with Iran, below the 2001 authorization for the use of navy pressure (AUMF), adopted by Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky pressed Pompeo in April 2019 on his intentions and Pompeo sidestepped the issue, stating he most well-liked to “just depart that to the legal professionals,” but he remained company. “There is no question there is a connection. Interval. Complete quit.”

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who serves on the Household Armed Solutions Committee, reported just a number of months later on, “ We had been absolutely presented with a comprehensive official presentation on how the 2001 AUMF may authorize war on Iran … Secretary Pompeo reported it with his individual terms.”

Speaking Tuesday, Pompeo identified as Iran “the new Afghanistan,” where the United States fought just about two many years of war in the name of destroying Al Qaeda next the 9/11 assaults. “It is really essentially worse,” he added.

“Bin Laden’s wicked creation is poised to get strength, and capabilities. We disregard this Iran-Al Qaeda axis at our individual peril,” Pompeo stated.” We ought to accept it. We must confront it. We ought to defeat it.”

Pompeo did not on the other hand say that Al Qaeda’s existence in Iran posed a immediate risk to the “homeland,” and he did not cite U.S. intelligence agencies as the resource of his allegations.

“I didn’t listen to the word homeland at any place, and God is aware of if he could have claimed that, he would have stated that. If he could amp it up to include a terrifying homeland piece, he would have been content to do that,” Rasmussen said.

Pompeo’s “assertion that the Islamic Republic of Iran is now the residence of Al Qaeda is a vast exaggeration,” said Bruce Riedel, a 30-yr veteran of the CIA and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“It is correct there is a intricate romantic relationship involving Iran and Al Qaeda,” Riedel mentioned.

Iran turned a blind eye to Al Qaeda operatives who fled to Iran from neighboring Afghanistan right after the U.S.-led invasion, and viewed them as a doable bargaining chip in countering the United States and ensuring the terror group did not concentrate on Iran, he explained.

“It is not a black and white situation. There is a germ of real truth to the notion that there is some partnership involving Iran and Al Qaeda. But it misses the significantly bigger image, that they are rather hostile entities,” he said.

On Tuesday, Pompeo also acknowledged the demise of Al Qaeda’s second greatest chief, Abu Muhammed al-Masri, on the streets of Tehran on Aug. 7 of final yr, the to start with this kind of public acknowledgment by a U.S. formal.

Al-Masri was considered the mastermind at the rear of the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that claimed the life of twelve People. According to media stories, al-Masri was gunned down by Israeli operatives at the behest of the U.S. on the anniversary of the 1998 assaults. Pompeo did not provide any even more details on the instances of his loss of life.

A 2018 assessment of paperwork seized in Osama bin Laden’s hideout after U.S. forces killed the al Qaeda chief in 2011 identified no proof that Iran and al Qaeda cooperated in carrying out terrorist assaults. The research was carried out by Nelly Lahoud, an tutorial and pro on al Qaeda, for the New The united states feel tank.

NBC News has previously described that the files seized the night time Navy SEALs killed bin Laden propose that Al Qaeda and Iran sometimes cooperated but also had deep distrust marked by threats and kidnappings.