Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Jundullah (Soldiers of God) has long been a thorn in the side of the Iranians and a continuing source of tension between Pakistan and Iran. The most recent was the suicide attack on October 18th of last year in Pishin which resulted in the death of several top officers of the revolutionary guards. The Iranians blamed the US and Pakistan with some justification.
A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.

A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context.

Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.


Besides condemning alleged Western support for Jundullah, the Iranian government sharply criticized Pakistan, from whose territory the bombers were said to have entered Iran, and demanded that Islamabad act against the group.

While any suggestion of a U.S. hand in Sunday's attack may be far-fetched, Iran is basing its accusation on the covert program begun by the Bush Administration during its second term in office that allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to efforts at destabilizing the regime from inside Iran. And while President Obama came into office promising a new era of engagment with Iran, it's not clear whether the covert program was ever suspended. Former Bush National Security Council officials Flynt Leverett and Hilary Mann Leverett wrote recently in the New York Times of their conversations with Iranian leaders, saying "President Obama has had several opportunities to send ... signals [of good intent] to Tehran — such as ending Bush-era covert programs against Iran — but has punted." Iran has long suspected that groups such as Jundullah are supported as part of the covert campaign, and in 2007, ABC News alleged that Jundullah had secretly received advice and encouragement from U.S. intelligence officials.

The founder of Jundullah Abdulmalik Rigi (or more fancifully Emir Abdulmalik Baloch) who has personally claimed to have "executed" Iranians. It is reasonable to assume that the Pakistan Army intelligence service, the ISI has a hand in maintaining and funding the Jundullah. But, the ISI seems to have turned on its asset. The Iranians reported that Rigi was captured when the plane carrying him to Dubai was forced to land in Iran. Asia Times Online is reporting that
Baloch tribes in the Taftan area of Balochistan in Pakistan say Rigi was arrested inside Pakistan and then handed over to the Iranians. All that Iranian state television showed was a handcuffed Rigi being escorted by four masked commandos off a small aircraft.
If this is indeed true and the ISI is turning on its assets expect the assets to hit back. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a fanatical anti-Shiite group, which is closely linked with Jundullah has previously carried out some pretty brutal attacks in Pakistan. It might decide to do more of the same. The fact that ISI is turning on its assets might also cause some discomfort to other terrorist organizations previously supported by the ISI. Altogether an explosive situation.

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