The Pompeo ploy

January 13, 2021 - 21:15

TEHRAN – In a sign of inability to prevent the incoming administration from rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has resorted to what he took from the CIA archives to cook up a new story against Iran.

On Tuesday, Pompeo participated in an event at the National Press Club in Washington, level new accusations against Iran for its alleged links to the al-Qaeda (AQ) terrorist group. In what appeared to be a diplomatic sleight of hand, Pompeo claimed that Iran has become a “new Afghanistan” in terms of hosting al-Qaeda leaders.

“Al-Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a result, bin Laden’s wicked creation is poised to gain strength and capabilities. We ignore this Iran-al-Qaeda nexus at our own peril. We need to acknowledge it. We must confront it. Indeed, we must defeat it,” the hawkish top U.S. diplomat claimed.

Pompeo pointed out that the United States has taken drastic measures against al-Qaeda since the 9/11 attacks. These measures, Pompeo claimed, have pushed the al-Qaeda members to search for a new haven.

“That effort drove al-Qaeda to search for a safer haven, and they found one. The Islamic Republic of Iran was the perfect choice,” he claimed.

The outgoing U.S. secretary of state went so far as to say that Iran still has links to al-Qaeda.

Pompeo did not present any evidence to support his allegations, and, in fact, some of these allegations are nothing new. However, they elicited a strong response from Iran and Russia.

Iran rejected Pompeo’s claims as “warmongering lies.”

“From designating Cuba to fictitious Iran 'declassifications' and AQ claims, Mr. 'we lie, cheat, steal' is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies. No one is fooled. All 9/11 terrorists came from @SecPompeo's favorite ME destinations; NONE from Iran,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted in response to Pompeo’s remarks.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry also rejected the allegations as “baseless,” calling on Pompeo to “die of anger.”

“Resorting to such ploys and threadbare and baseless claims can, by no means, help the terrorist US regime correct its path, which is full of mistakes, and restore the unjustifiable image of the officials of this regime,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement. “As martyr Beheshti aptly put it, Mr. Pompeo! Be angry and die of this anger,” the spokesman continued.

Pompeo accused Iran of supporting al-Qaeda while ignoring his predecessor’s admission that it was the U.S. that “created” and “funded” al-Qaeda. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said many times that the U.S. has created and funded al-Qaeda to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.

“Let’s remember here that people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago. And we did it because we were locked in the struggle with the Soviet Union; they invaded Afghanistan. And we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work. And it was President Reagan in partnership with the Congress led by Democrats, who said you know what? Sounds like a pretty good idea. Let’s deal with the ISIS and the Pakistani military, and let's go recruit these mujahidin. And great, let's get some to come from Saudi Arabia and other places, importing their Wahhabi brand of Islam, so that we can go beat the Soviet Union. And guess what? They retreated. They lost billions of dollars, and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Clinton infamously said testifying before a Congressional committee.

But why does Pompeo ignore these facts? The question is simple: because he hates the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and wants to make sure that the incoming Biden administration would not be able to return to it.

This was on full display during his Tuesday speech. Pompeo sought to use the alleged links between Iran and al-Qaeda to warn against reviving the JCPOA. He claimed that before 2015, Iranian authorities had strictly restricted the movement of al-Qaeda members living inside of Iran, “putting them under virtual house arrest.”

“But I have to say today that is not the situation. Indeed, everything changed in 2015 – the same year that the Obama administration and the E3 – France, Germany, and Britain – were in the middle of finalizing the JCPOA,” Pompeo noted.

He then tried to imply that Iran may use its links to al-Qaeda to put pressure on JCPOA signatories to revive the nuclear deal.

“Imagine that al-Qaeda starts carrying out attacks at Iran’s behest, even if the control is not perfect.  Who is to say that this isn’t the next form of blackmail to pressure countries back into a nuclear deal?” Pompeo asked.

Pompeo is clearly trying to torpedo any future effort to revive the JCPOA. Over the past few years, he has taken many measures to ensure that the nuclear deal will not be revived. Pompeo led the Trump administration’s efforts to change the logic of sanctions and, in some cases, reimpose previously imposed sanctions under non-nuclear-related authorities, including the U.S.’s counterterrorism sanctions authority. The main purpose of these measures was to create what pro-Trump experts call a “wall of sanctions,” a strategy that aims to make it harder for the Biden administration to lift sanctions against Iran.

Establishing links between Iran and al-Qaeda may be intended to make it even more difficult for the incoming U.S. administration to lift sanctions that were re-imposed under United States counterterrorism sanctions authority.  Pompeo may have succeeded in doing so.

In his recent interview with the website of the Leader’s office, Zarif said that a U.S. return to the JCPOA will not be enough anymore because the U.S. has imposed pre-JCPOA sanctions and changed their logic to terrorism-related authorities, which made the lifting of sanctions even more difficult.

According to Zarif, when the JCPOA was negotiated there was a different kind of sanctions imposed on Iran and the JCPOA has outlined how these sanctions would be lifted but the situation has changed after the Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA.

“Over the past four years, Trump worked to hollow out the JCPOA and impose sanctions that even if the U.S. returns to the JCPOA, they will remain in place. For example, they (the Trump administration) removed nuclear-related sanctions on our Central Bank and Petroleum Ministry and imposed sanctions on them under counterterrorism authority. They basically changed the logic of sanctions,” Zarif said.

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