ABC News: US backing Iran’s Baluch rebels

ABC News, citing unnamed US and Pakistani intelligence sources, reports April 3 that the ethnic Baluch militant organization Jundullah, responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran, has been “secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005.” Officials say the relationship with Jundullah “is arranged so that the US provides no funding to the group,” which would require an official presidential order or “finding” as well as congressional oversight.

Baluch tribal sources told ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections in Europe and the Gulf states. Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to its Pakistan bases. Regi apparently claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.

In a slightly questionable convergence of journalism and wonkery, ABC says Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center, served as a “consultant” on the story. ABC says he recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members. Speaking of Regi, Debat said: “He used to fight with the Taliban. He’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist… Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera.”

Most recently, Jundullah took credit for a February attack that killed 11 members of the Revolutionary Guard on a bus in Zahedan. Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the attack. They ostensibly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan. The broadcast was interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot.

Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Dick Cheney met with Pervez Musharraf in February. A CIA spokesperson told ABC “the account of alleged CIA action is false.”

See our last posts on Iran and the Baluch insurgency.