US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that Al Qaida has been allowed to establish a “new home base” in Iran has confirmed what many governments and security analysts have said for years: that the Iranian regime continues to work with impunity towards destabilising regional and global security as well as harbour and protect designated terrorists and jihadist networks.
According to Pompeo, unlike in Afghanistan, when Al Qaida was hiding in the mountains, the terror group today operates openly “under the hard shell of the Iranian regime’s protection,” enabling it to gain strength and capabilities that were being systematically severed in other parts of the world.
But the assertion that Tehran had allowed Al Qaida figures in the country to freely communicate with other members since 2015 and to perform many functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan — such as authorisation for terror attacks, propaganda and fund-raising — does not come as a shock for the international community, which has for years been demanding that Tehran be held accountable for its violent footprint of proxy warfare, especially in the Gulf and Middle East.
From brazen attacks on Saudi oil installations and aviation facilities to obstructing a solution for the war in Syria and preventing a legitimate government in Yemen from functioning and opposing peace efforts in that country through bombs and bullets, Iran’s interventions in the Middle East have been clearly and violently demonstrated time and again. The atrocities committed by Iran-aligned Al Houthi terror group in Yemen have been well documented and widely denounced, while the attacks of Iranian proxy groups such as Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq have invited US military retaliation. And Iranian plots to bomb demonstrations against the regime have also been thwarted in Paris.
Yet, the world must move beyond the cataloguing of such Iranian evil to bringing its planners and perpetrators to justice.
Instead of obfuscating reality and relentlessly misleading the international community, Tehran must therefore commit to full transparency in immediately cutting off all ties to jihadist networks; stop supporting, financing and arming its cohort of proxy militias and end its subversive policies that threaten its neighbours.
And instead of engaging with Tehran in carte blanche negotiations, the incoming Biden administration must continue to hold Iran to account not only for its nuclear intransigence but also its patronage of violent actions against Gulf states and the wider region. Left unchecked, the new axis of the regime in Tehran, pro-Iranian militias and Al Qaida that Pompeo has cited will certainly fuel further violence across the Middle East and poses a grave security threat to world peace and regional security.