The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary Guards

Border crossing fun: Iran and Pakistan

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A group of Iran's Revolutionary Guard members look at the pictures of  their commanders and colleagues, who were killed in Sunday's suicide bombing in southeastern Iran, during a funeral ceremony in Tehran.  (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

A group of Iran's Revolutionary Guard members look at the pictures of their commanders and colleagues, who were killed in Sunday's suicide bombing in southeastern Iran, during a funeral ceremony in Tehran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

UPDATED: Pakistani news channel Aaj TV is reporting that the Iranian guards have been released on a directive from the Ministry of Interior.

Our friends from our beloved neighbouring country are here! But why couldn’t they just have lined up for a visa like everyone else? Or is everyone misreporting?

News agencies are reporting that eleven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have been arrested in Pakistan for illegally crossing over into the country. The Revolutionary Guards were detained in Mashkel and the police has seized two vehicles and is investigating.

Meanwhile, the IRGC is denying that they entered the country. According to Press TV:

Reacting to the report, head of the public relations office of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps

Brigadier General Sharif told Press TV that the detainees were not members of the IRGC.

“That part of the report related to Sepah [IRGC] lacks credibility and is not true,” Brig. Gen. Sharif said on Monday.

Another informed source told a Press TV correspondent that those arrested were Iranian border police who were hunting down fuel smugglers.

“In line with efforts to fight fuel smugglers, a number of Iranian border police forces chasing fuel smugglers entered Pakistani soil by mistake,” he explained.

This comes in a series of several back-and-forth statements from Iran and Pakistan on the Jundullah issue – the group that attacked the IRGC on October 18 and killed 42 people.  Following the attack, Iran called for Pakistan to hand over the Jundullah leader to the country – a request which Pakistan said they couldn’t really help with because they believe Rigi is in Afghanistan. Obviously, this is all on-the-record stuff so I have no idea what the Pakistanis told the Iranians. Iran’s interior minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was in Islamabad last week to reiterate the same and there have been reports that the Revolutionary Guards want to launch an operation to find Rigi themselves.

Now if the reports of the Revolutionary Guards being detained is true, we can expect to see an official reaction from Pakistan (along the lines of sovereignty et al), but this could also be a sign that given that Pakistan is busy with Waziristan, they’ve asked Iran to deal with the problem themself.

Of course, it really could just be the forces fighting the fuel smugglers…

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 27, 2009 at 3:05 am

The Iran-Pakistan conundrum

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I’ve had a post brewing in my head about developments in Iran-Pak all day long – had to shove thoughts of Jundullah aside to blog about the Islamabad bombings – but this tweet just reminded me of why I needed to write in the first place.

reuters-iran

The attack on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on Sunday, which killed 43 people including senior officers, has led to quite a disaster for the already-besieged-with-problems Pakistan. Iran, which has blamed (in not so many words) the United States, the United Kingdom and Pakistan for the attack, has been going back and forth with Pakistan on the root of the problem: Jundullah.

The group – based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province – has taken responsibility for the attack. In a nutshell, Iran wants Pakistan to hand over its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, over to the Iranian authorities. On the other hand, Pakistan denies that Rigi is in Pakistan. A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson told AFP:

‘We don’t know the whereabouts of Rigi,’ said the Pakistan spokesman. ‘As Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, Rigi is not in Pakistan,’ he added.

Pakistan has a lot at stake here. The country enjoys a stellar relationship with Iran – save for the rows they get into over Jundullah – and that relationship has been built further during Zardari’s presidency. The much-talked about Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline deal could see a delay if the row isn’t resolved soon. To add, the Iranian Parliament has demanded Ahmedinajad to freeze aid to Pakistan, which is to the tune of 300 million dollars for counter-terrorism assistance.

It is also via Iranian legislators that the idea of a military operation inside Pakistan came about:

Isna quoted a lawmaker from Sistan-Baluchestan, Payman Forouzesh, as saying: “There is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary.”

Apparently referring to agreement among lawmakers, he said: “There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory.”

I don’t think that Iran, despite being furious over the attack, will actually allow IRGC to cross over into Pakistan and begin ground operations here. Instead, I assume that Pakistan will try and find some Jundullah members and hand them over to Iran and try and appease Iran in any way possible.

Meanwhile, the two friends have been talking.

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Ahmedinajad:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday urged his Pakistani counterpart to confront the rebels, saying the “presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable.”

“The Pakistani government should help to quickly arrest these criminals so they can punished,” Ahmadinejad told Asif Ali Zardari during a telephone call received from the Pakistani leader.

Zardari:

Zardari called the incident “gruesome and barbaric” and pledged full Pakistani support to fight the militants, according to a statement from his office.

But remember, the Revolutionary Guards want Abdolmalek Rigi

The head of the Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on Monday that Tehran will demand that Pakistan hand over Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi, who is accused of being the mastermind of the bombing.

Jafari said a Tehran delegation will head to Pakistan to deliver “proof to them so they know that the Islamic Republic is aware of its (Pakistan’s) support” to the group led by Rigi.

Lets see what the next few days bring to this state of affairs. President Zardari, your move?

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 21, 2009 at 4:43 am

Iran gets attacked, and the conspiracy theories begin

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Iran's Revolutionary Guards. (Photo - AFP)

Iran's Revolutionary Guards were targeted in Sunday's attack. According to news reports, they have begun to blame western countries for the attack. (Photo - AFP)

Every half-hour in Pakistan seems to bring with it yet another ‘breaking news’ alert; but when Geo TV ran an announcement of a suicide attack in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, I almost didn’t believe it until they cut to Iran’s state-run channel Press TV which announced the news.

While intitial reports said that 60 people had been killed, Press TV is now reporting that 20 have been killed and 40 injured. Their website also says that two separate attacks were launched:

The first attack took place at a unity gathering of Shia and Sunni tribal leaders on Sunday morning, in the Pishin area, a region situated in the borderline Province of Sistan-Balouchestan.

Reports indicate that provincial IRGC commanders Brigadier Nour-Ali Shoushtari and Brigadier Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh were among those who lost their lives in the attack.

Several tribal leaders and recognized local figures from both the Shia and Sunni communities were killed in the attack.

At around the same time, another group of IRGC commanders were caught in an explosion as their convoy came under attack at a road junction in Pishin- a region situated between the two towns of Sarbaz and Chabahar.

According to Al Jazeera’s Nazinene Mosheri:

“Just three weeks before [June’s] presidential elections there was a big explosion in that area, where 25 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

The head of Jundullah said that his group carried out the attack.

The Iranian’s say that they are carrying out a duel war against drug traffickers and Jundullah, which they claim is linked to al-Qaeda.”

Moshiri said that there was no suggestion that the blast was linked to the recent disputed presidential elections.

“What is common in this area is kidnappings, explosions and clashes between Jundullah and Iranian authorities.

“But what is very interesting is that this meeting that was about to take place was with senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. So this was potentially an extremely important meeting.”

The most obvious perpetrator seems to be the terrorist group Jundullah, though no one has taken responsibility for the attacks as yet. Jundullah has attacked the province several times before and has an extremely murky history from its inception to its current sources of support.

From Asia Times Online:

Jundullah, which at times calls itself the “People’s Resistance Movement of Iran”, came into prominence around 2003. It was allegedly founded by Nek Mohammed Wazir, a former Pakistani Taliban leader. Its current leader, Abdel Malik Rigi, was educated in southern Pakistani port city of Karachi in the same madrassa (seminary) as a majority of the Pakistani Taliban leadership and he claims to have fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. The group says that it is fighting for the rights of Iran’s roughly 4 million Balochs, which it claims have been suppressed by the Shi’ite regime in Tehran.

The group started by targeting important elements of the Iranian state presence in Sistan-Balochistan province, particularly the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, but has since carried out suicide attacks against civilian targets.

Needless to say, this will cause even stronger diplomatic issues for Iran, the UK and the US as well as Iran and Pakistan, countries that have traditionally been strong allies. And if it isn’t Jundullah, then whoever is responsible clearly did a good job of adopting the former’s pattern.

Meanwhile after breaking the news, Press TV went back to its regular programming, leaving the rumours of 60 dead, who/how/what/where all hanging in the air. Who doesn’t love state-run channels?

UPDATE

As expected, Jundullah has taken responsibility for the attack. The Iranian ambassador in Pakistan has pointed out, yet again, that Jundullah’s chief is hiding in the Pakistani province of Balochistan and has announced that Iranian Home Ministry officials will be visiting Pakistan soon. Lest we forget, the last time Jundullah attacked, it sparked a diplomatic row.

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 18, 2009 at 8:35 pm