Pompeo beats the War Drums

20.01.2021

 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed on a press conference on Tuesday that al-Qaida had established a new home base in Iran. He made a case for how al-Qaida poses a major threat to the US and allied interests in the Middle East in a host of ways. He claimed the militant group had "burrowed inside" Iran, making it harder for the US to target its members.

"Iran is indeed the new Afghanistan ... as the key geographic hub for al-Qaida," Pompeo said without providing any evidence for his fictitious claims. "Unlike in Afghanistan, when al-Qaida was hiding in the mountains, al-Qaida today is operating under the hard shell of the Iranian regime's protection," he added.

"Tehran gives sanctuary to the terror group's senior leaders and has allowed al-Qaida to fund-raise, to freely communicate with other members around the world and perform many other functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan and Pakistan."

As an offensive military “Superpower”, the US claims to have immunity to commit acts of terrorism and invade anywhere it likes. In flagrant violation of international law and treaties, the US is trying to impose its own laws and rules on the world. With a massive military budget, the US has acquired the global monopoly on violence and acts of terrorism. The so-called “war on terror” is in fact a premeditated never-ending global war OF terror. It is an open threat against any defenseless nation in the Middle-East that dares to oppose US imperialism.

Through the years, al-Qaida has become the US’s favorite boogeyman, a slogan to rally for support for its next invasion, and that somehow magically pops up anywhere right before the US plans to invade.

Who created the predecessors of the Al-Qaeda we know today?

The majority of the academic writing on the emerging subject of the Taliban and al Qaeda’s ascent tend to place the blame for the creation of the radical Sunni terrorist group squarely at the feet of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for funding the mujahedeen, many of whom would eventually go on to have rather successful careers as members of either the Taliban or al Qaeda, with the most famous of all obviously being Osama bin Laden.

The most famous of the books written about the CIA’s role in the formation of al Qaeda and the Taliban is Charlie Wilson’s War, which describes how the playboy congressman from Texas convinced his colleagues, with the help of a friend in the CIA and several other sources, funded the mujahedeen in their fight against the invading Soviet Union, who was America’s arch nemesis at the time. Unfortunately, as evident when he said “My God, what have we done?”, upon first seeing about the 9/11 attacks on the news, he did not fully comprehend the possibility that the rebels that he authorized the CIA to assist could someday rip out of their control and start attacking US interests.

Another book which considers the CIA to be chiefly responsible for both 9/11 and the aforementioned US proxy al Qaeda ripping out of CIA control is Peter Dale Scott’s The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America . This book also posits that a “deep state” truly pulls the strings of America’s government and has been desperately trying to conceal the many crimes that have committed around the globe in the name of preserving America’s empire.

We’re talking here about Operation Cyclone, the CIA-led covert operation to provide funding and weapons to the mujahedeen of Afghanistan during their war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Yet, some academics argue that the US’s role even went further than funding al-Qaeda.

In a 2004 article entitled "Al-Qaeda's origins and links", the BBC wrote: “During the anti-Soviet war Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.”

Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia once stated on live TV: “This is ironic. In the mid-'80s, if you remember, we and the United - Saudi Arabia and the United States were supporting the Mujahideen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. He [Osama bin Laden] came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, he said the communists. Isn't it ironic?”

Some of the CIA's greatest Afghan beneficiaries were Arabist commanders such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who were key allies of Bin Laden over many years. Haqqani—one of Bin Laden's closest associates in the 1980s—received direct cash payments from CIA agents, without the mediation of the ISI. This independent source of funding gave Haqqani disproportionate influence over the Mujahideen, and helped Bin Laden develop his base. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Wahhabi-influenced ideology would later be a profound influence on the way the Taliban ruled Afghanistan once they came to power, most famously through their severe curtailing of women’s rights and their strict prohibitions on any Western influences that could even remotely be conceived as “fun”, such as sports, music, movies, and television.

Amazingly, as a recent New York Times article revealed, even more than thirty years later, Hekmatyar is still as involved as ever in Afghanistan’s government, recently returning to the negotiation table with President Ashraf Ghani in an attempt to bring some semblance of stability to one of the most tragically war-torn nations in modern history. If the US had any real interest in breaking its ties with al Qaeda, it would not have Hekmatyar anywhere near negotiations for the future of the country.

Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, an al –Qaeda associate of Bin Laden's, was given visas to enter the US on four occasions by the CIA. Rahman was initially recruiting Arabs to fight in the Soviet-Afghan war, and Egyptian officials testified that the CIA actively assisted him. Rahman later became a co-plotter of the World Trade Center bombing.

One allegation the CIA has never even attempted to deny is that the U.S. Army enlisted and trained a former Egyptian soldier named Ali Mohamed, and that it knew Ali occasionally took trips to Afghanistan, where he claimed to fight Russians. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, who interviewed U.S. officials about Ali, the Egyptian did tell his Army superiors he was fighting in Afghanistan. During these trips, he was training other Afghan Arabs and wrote a manual from what he had learned from the US Army Special Forces.
 

How al-Qaeda popped up in Iraq

Many scholars argue that the US, as it invaded Iraq, tended to use sectarian divisions in the country. Though it had a 90% Sunni leadership, the majority of the Iraqi population contains of Shiite Muslims.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq, also called al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia was active in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, comprising Iraqi and foreign fighters opposed to the U.S. occupation and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

Al-Qaida organized a wave of attacks, often suicide bombings that targeted security forces, government institutions, and Iraqi civilians. Intending to deepen the sectarian conflict at the heart of the Iraq War, it especially targeted Iraqi Shiites, sometimes during religious processions or at Shiite mosques and shrines. A 2006 attack widely attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq destroyed the golden dome of Al-ʿAskariyyah Mosque in Samarra, one of Shi’ism’s holiest mosques, amplifying the existing cycle of violent retribution and provoking some of the worst sectarian violence of the post-invasion period.

The US leadership used al-Qaida presence in Iraq as a justification of its invasion of the country over and over again. In a July 24, 2007, speech specifically on the issue, 30 President Bush said: “... Our troops are....opposing ruthless enemies, and no enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than al Qaeda. They send suicide bombers into crowded markets; they behead innocent captives and they murder American troops. They want to bring down Iraq's democracy so they can use that nation as a terrorist safe haven for attacks against our country....”

Critics of the US invasion of Iraq maintain that Al Qaeda or pro-Al Qaeda elements were motivated by the U.S. invasion to enter Iraq, others state it might have even actively encouraged al-Qaida to enter Iraq. Other critics maintain that the Administration has emphasized an "Al Qaeda" component of the insurgency as a means of bolstering U.S. public support for the war effort in Iraq. According to this view, the Administration has repeatedly attempted to link in the public consciousness the Iraq war to the September 11 attacks in part because of consistent public support for a military component of the overall war on terrorism.

It is estimated that al-Qaida’s and America's invasion of Iraq and caused the death of more than 3.5 million Iraqi civilians. The overwhelming majority were innocent women and children. The 13-years long genocidal sanctions took the lives of at least 2 million Iraqis, including 600,000 Iraq children under the age of 5.

Al-Qaida in Syria; armed through a CIA program and fighting for US goals

Operation Timber Sycamore was launched in 2012 or 2013 as the US planned to bring “freedom and democracy” to Syria. It supplied money, weaponry and training to rebel forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. According to US officials, the program was run by the CIA's Special Activities Division and has trained thousands of rebels. President Barack Obama secretly authorized the CIA to begin arming Syria's embattled rebels in 2013, partially due to lobbying by foreign leaders, including from King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The jihadist organization Jabhat al-Nusra (aka the al-Nusra Front), involved in Syria’s civil war since 2012 and with strong affiliations to al-Qaida, ended up on the receiving end of the program. Other US-backed rebels often fought alongside al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front.

In October 2015, al-Nusra offered bounties worth millions of dollars for the killing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Leader Al-Julani said he would pay "three million euros ($3.4 million) for anyone who can kill Bashar al-Assad and end his story"

On 28 January 2017, several Salafist jihadist groups, including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (a name-change of al-Nusra), agreed upon a merger agreement, resulting in the formation of a new group called Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham ("Organization for the Liberation of the Levant"). With Jabhat Fateh al-Sham being one of the most powerful/influential groups in the new formation, its leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani was appointed the high level position of overall military commander of the new group, and continues its activities in the areas of North-Syria that the Syrian army has not reconquered today.

Funny is, the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham have long focused on battling the Syrian government (which was and is the US’s goal in Syria) rather than plotting terrorist attacks against the United States, and thus protecting its goals.

Al-Qaida and Iran are NO match made in heaven

The US administration has tried several times to tie Iran to its “favorite boogeyman” al-Qaida, a claim that has been called politicized or an outright lie by many analysts and experts. Pompeo made the latest allegation with less than two weeks left in office, and did not offer any evidence to back it up.

Pompeo went as far to claim that Iran has decided to grant al-Qaida militants “freedom of movement” on Iranian soil, and is even providing the group with “logistical support.” He claimed that Iranian authorities made a deal with al-Qaida in 2015, which lead to the centralization of al-Qaida leadership in the Iranian capital Tehran.

However, while expressing these claims, Pompeo completely ignores the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaida are not exactly a match made in heaven. Iran is a Shia-majority country. Its leaders are Shia Muslims. Al-Qaida on the other hand is a radical Sunni group that has targeted Shia Muslims everywhere it set foot, killing thousands of the same Shia Muslims Iran has tried to organize and protect through its support for Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. Iran has been directly and indirectly battling al-Qaida for decades. Iran has always seen al-Qaida as a threat. It has done its efforts to undermine the influence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan. It has fought al-Qaida through its affiliated militias in Iraq and Syria for many years. Al-Qaida leaders have even declared the Iranians ‘Rafidun’ or rejectionists, a very derogatory term for the Shias. It is absurd to allege that Iran and al-Qaida would make for suitable partners.

According to analyst John Ghazvinian, Iran has even tried to help the US battle al-Qaida. It has rounded up al-Qaida fighters that had escaped the border from Afghanistan, forwarded photocopies of the passports of more than 200 al-Qaida fighters to Washington, and has tried to warn the US about the dangers of al-Qaida many times, setting aside its differences with the US to fight a greater evil.

Reactions

The allegations made by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been met with skepticism. The Iranians themselves have probably had a good laugh. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was first to react, as he called Pompeo’s speech “warmongering lies” in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

According to a Politico reporter, the evening before his Iran speech, Pompeo was seen out for dinner in a Georgetown restaurant with the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen.

Even al-Qaida experts that are frequently negative about Iran voiced skepticism about Pompeo's claims, saying it long has been known that senior al Qaeda operatives stayed in Iran under house arrest before 2010, but that Pompeo was largely exaggerating that the group has made Iran its new home base or roams freely on Iranian soil, pointing out that there may be smaller units hiding in the mountain ranges at the Afghanistan/Pakistan borders.

Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, noted that the Trump administration “lies all the time” about Iran and is currently engaged in “a campaign to make it harder for Biden…to return to diplomacy with Iran.”

“It would be a stretch, however, to say as Pompeo did that al-Qaida has found a ‘new home base’ in Iran, since it’s not really ‘new’, nor is it really a ‘home base’ which remains the Afghanistan/Pakistan border regions,” said Peter Bergen, an al-Qaida expert at the New America think-tank.

Conclusion

Iran has been a target throughout the Trump administration, and Pompeo has sought to further ratchet up pressure on Iran in recent weeks with more sanctions and heated rhetoric, in an attempt to burn all bridges to diplomacy with Iran for the upcoming Biden administration.

For its part, the US will continue to use its favorite excuse for its war OF terror, the “al-Qaida” boogeyman, with the “Islamic extremism” label, to frighten the American people and justify its armed aggression against other nations. It is much easier to promote a “war on al-Qaida” than a war on another sovereign country. In other words, al-Qaida is in this context a US fabrication used to deflect attention away from its ongoing war on nations that reject US-imperialism. It is a catch-all term used to cover-up US crimes in the Middle-East. In reality, one can even go as far to say that al-Qaida is a US proxy terrorist group, that constitutes of Western-trained, funded and armed mercenaries. Al-Qaida is the boogyman – a handy tool helping fuel the violence – to justify the next US invasion in the region. It is thus part of a global destabilization agenda for modern-day colonialism.