Foreign Policy Digital

U.S. Intelligence Undercuts Trump’s Case on Iran-al Qaeda Links

Despite claims by Pompeo, Tehran and al Qaeda have been at odds more often than they've been aligned since 9/11.

To bolster the Trump administration’s case against Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has given classified briefings to Congress in recent weeks alleging close ties between Iran and al Qaeda. But experts familiar with the views of the U.S. intelligence community are contradicting these claims, saying that the Iran-al Qaeda relationship almost certainly does not include active collaboration in terrorist acts and is even less evident now than it was at the time of 9/11.

“The administration is grasping at straws,” said Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We are at the lowest point since 9/11 in terms of al Qaeda numbers in that country. The numbers I have looked at suggest it’s less than five [people].”

Jones, a former senior official in U.S. Special Operations Command and a counterterrorism specialist, co-wrote a study that came to this conclusion at the end of last year, and the U.S. intelligence community believes little has changed since then despite the rapidly rising tensions between the United States and Iran, experts say.

Beyond that, there is general agreement among experts that to the extent Iran and al Qaeda have

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