US Senator Graham says Iran 'safe haven' for al-Qaeda, 'architects of September 11'

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Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham said Iran has become a "safe haven" for al-Qaeda terrorist group and its regime was the "architect" of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"The Iranian regime is the largest state sponsor of terrorism and they have become a safe haven for al-Qaeda, the architects of 9/11," Graham said on Twitter.

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The Senator's statement was in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement, saying al-Qaeda terrorist group established a home base in Iran, but did not provide concrete evidence.

The New York Times reported in November that al-Qaeda's Abu Muhammad al-Masri, accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, was gunned down by Israeli operatives in Iran. Iran denied the report, saying there were no al-Qaeda "terrorists" on its soil.

Pompeo said: "Tehran gives sanctuary to the terror group’s senior leaders as they plan attacks against America and our allies. Indeed, since 2015, Tehran has allowed al-Qaeda figures in the country to freely communicate with other al-Qaeda members and perform many functions that were previously directed from Afghanistan and Pakistan, including authorization for attacks, propaganda, and fundraising."

"The Iran-al-Qaeda axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and to the American homeland itself, and we are taking action," he added.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Pompeo's accusations were "warmongering lies" and claimed that no September 11 "terrorists" came from Iran.

"(With) fictitious Iran 'declassifications' and AQ (al-Qaeda) claims, (Pompeo) is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies," Zarif tweeted.

Earlier accusations by the George W. Bush adminstration of Iranian links to al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States have been discredited. But reports have surfaced over the years of al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in Iran.

Shia Iran and al-Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim group, have long been sectarian foes.

Graham said: "While not surprising, it is still stunning the Iranian regime continues to offer sanctuary to al-Qaeda members and leaders. Those who believe the JCPOA (Iran's 2015 nuclear deal) would bring about change in Iran are incredibly naive."

The administration of outgoing President Donald Trump has further increased its pressure on the Iranian regime with more sanctions targeting several industries and officials in Tehran.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran, which have been increasing since 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, reached historic heights last January when the US killed Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

But Tehran signaled it was hoping for better relations with Washington under the administration of incoming President Joe Biden, for the crippling sanctions on it to be lifted. Biden has signaled a willingness to return to diplomacy with Iran.

Graham added: "I hope the Biden Administration will understand the true nature of the Iranian regime before they engage with them a second time."

- With Agencies

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