US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has finally told the American people what they needed to hear about the malign regime in Tehran. Americans now know a truth that we in the region have been trying so hard to communicate: Iran and Al-Qaeda are, and have been for a long time, best buddies.
In the US and elsewhere in the West, our suggestions of Iran-Al-Qaeda ties were initially laughed off, dismissed with a heavy dose of skepticism. We were accused of trying to tarnish Iran’s image, of projecting our problems on to them. The skeptics appeared to have logic and reason on their side: How could an extremist Sunni terror organization and an extremist Shiite regime work together? But they forgot the dictum: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Iran and Al-Qaeda became friends, and facilitators and perpetrators of terror, because they shared an enemy: The West and Saudi Arabia, with its moderate Islam. Al-Qaeda’s bombing of residential compounds in Saudi Arabia after 9/11 reminded us all that both Saudi Arabia and the US were in the crosshairs of Al-Qaeda and Iran.
Some profess to be shocked by Pompeo’s revelation, but in truth it is not new. Previous US administrations, especially the one led by Barack Obama, knew the gory and sinister details — but perhaps wanted to give Tehran a chance. Years ago, the US Treasury Department and State Department reported on Iran’s support for Al-Qaeda by harboring its members and financing their activities, unsurprisingly given the billions of dollars committed by Iran to support terror groups in the region. Nevertheless, the Obama administration went ahead and signed a “deal with the devil” in the form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — giving Tehran license and funds to kill, plunder and hold everyone hostage to their acts of terror on land, on the sea and in the air.
Is Saudi Arabia innocent of ties to Al-Qaeda? Of course not. As the Kingdom’s enemies never tire of pointing out, Osama bin Laden, the group’s founder, was a Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. But the fundamental difference between Riyadh and Tehran is that Saudi Arabia as a sovereign state is, and always has been, opposed to terror. The Kingdom pursued Osama bin Laden everywhere he went, and did everything it could to extradite him from Sudan and Afghanistan. When all else failed, he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship. Saudi Arabia defeated Al-Qaeda by sending the terrorists to jail, or to the gallows. Iran, on the other hand, is the sovereign state that gave them sanctuary, safe houses and arms, paraded them publicly and glorified them as martyrs, and gave them the means to create mayhem and destruction across the Middle East and the wider world.
Pompeo’s parting words are an important reminder to any in the incoming administration who may wish to revive the Obama nuclear deal
Faisal J. Abbas
The Iranian regime has used Sunni and Shiite militants in equal measure. It has nurtured the hardcore Sunni extremist Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in Palestine, along with Shiite mercenaries in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq in its single-minded goal of death and destruction. This is the regime that provided Al-Qaeda with oxygen when it was gasping for breath.
As he leaves office, Pompeo’s parting words are an important reminder to any in the incoming administration who may wish to revive the Obama nuclear deal. Ridding Iran of its nuclear ambitions would be welcome, but the mistakes of the past must not be repeated. Iran’s non-nuclear threats are a clear and present danger, its support of terrorism — in all forms — unending. Despite the olive branch extended by Obama, Iran attacked the US Navy three times through its Houthi agents in Yemen during his tenure — the same Houthis the Trump administration this week designated terrorists.
Pompeo has done the world, especially the American people, a great favor by putting the truth about the Tehran regime into the public domain. It is now up to world leaders to understand Iran for what it is: A state sponsor of terrorism, a seed of extremism, and a rampaging bully. Hopefully, the strategy of appeasement and reliance on good intentions is now long gone and the new US administration will work with its regional allies on neutralizing ALL threats from Iran — not just nuclear ones.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News