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Pompeo claims Iran is ‘new home base’ for Al Qaeda

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday claimed that Iran has become a new “home base” for Al-Qaeda.

Pompeo said in a statement that the “Islamic Republic of Iran has given a new operational headquarters to al-Qaeda, the terrorist network with more American blood on its hands than any other.

“For al-Qaeda, Iran is the new home base. 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,” he said.

Pompeo’s statement comes just a week before he leaves office.

He noted in the statement that in 2016, the US Treasury Department identified and sanctioned three senior al-Qaeda operatives residing in Iran and noted that Iran had knowingly permitted these al-Qaeda members, including several of the 9/11 hijackers, to transit its territory on their way to Afghanistan for training and operational planning.

“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 said.

Pompeo also announced of Iran-based al-Qaeda leaders Muhammad Abbatay (also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi), and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-Arif as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

“Under the same authority, I also announced the designations of Isma’il Fu’ad Rasul Ahmed, Fuad Ahmad Nuri Ali al-Shakhan, and Niamat Hama Rahim Hama Sharif as leaders of the al-Qaeda Kurdish Battalions (AQKB), an al-Qaeda-linked group that operates on the border between Iran and Iraq.

“As a result of these designations, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with these individuals and their property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked.

“In addition, it is a crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to al-Qaeda,” he said.

Pompeo also announced a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location or identification of Abd-al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, an Iran-based key leader of the al-Qaeda group.

“The Department is also re-advertising previously announced reward offers on three additional senior al-Qaeda leaders, including two operating in Iran: Sayf al-Adel and Yasin al-Suri,” he said.

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif responds to Pompeo’s allegation of Al-Qaeda’s presence said that :“From designating Cuba to fictitious Iran ‘declassifications’ and Al-Qaeda claims, Mr ‘we lie, cheat, steal’ (Pompeo) is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies. No one is fooled.”

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Twitter permanently banned an account believed to be linked to Iran’s supreme leader Friday after it posted a threatening image that included former President Donald Trump, NPR reported.

According to The Associated Press, the account, @khamenei_site, was linked to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s website and the same account had previously posted portions of Khamenei’s speeches and official content.

However, a Twitter spokesperson told the AP that the account was fake, without elaborating on how it determined that.

The image that resulted in the ban, Trump playing golf in the shadow of what appears to be an aircraft, is captioned “Revenge is certain,” written in Farsi.

The same image can be found on Khamenei’s English website. Below the picture is a quote from Khamenei from last month: “Soleimani’s murderers and those who ordered his murder must face revenge. … Both the murderers and those who ordered it should know that revenge may come at any time.”

Trump and other administration officials have said the US targeted Qassem Soleimani — a powerful Iranian general and a key strategist against the U.S. — who was killed in an airstrike last year.

Trump’s social media presence was all but silenced after he was accused of inciting violence at the US Capitol on January 6. As a result, both Twitter and Facebook moved to ban him permanently from their platforms.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” a Twitter statement said.

Trump was also banned from the @POTUS account for the last days of his term and from his reelection campaign account.

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Ghani fires finance minister, appoints caretaker to the position

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday dismissed finance minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal from his post and approved a new acting minister, said the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) in a statement.

The AOP cited a number of reasons for this move including the delay in the collection of taxes, weak management, lack of commitment to good governance, not obeying Article 77 of the Constitution, violating Presidential decrees and directions, the lack of cooperation in an assessment of illegal appointments at the ministry and for trying to prevent the assessments, the statement read.

The AOP added that Ghani approved Mohammad Khalid Payenda as acting finance minister.

Arghandiwal was a close ally of Ghani during his election campaigns and was appointed as acting minister of finance in March last year. 

He received a vote of confidence from the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) in November last year.

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Biden to keep Khalilzad as peace envoy for now

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former president Donald Trump’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will retain his position, for now, three sources familiar with the matter told CNN. 

This move is not typical as traditionally an incoming administration replaces all politically appointed officials – especially those dealing with foreign policy issues. 

Khalilzad, a diplomatic veteran, has worked on the peace process for more than two years and has been the key official from Washington to meet with both the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as all other stakeholders and regional leaders. 

No further details were released and according to CNN the State Department did not comment when asked about Khalilzad staying on board. 

However, in a statement issued late Friday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib that the United States intends to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement.”

He also said Washington would assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Sullivan also expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this “historic opportunity for peace and stability.”

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