Iranian Interior Minister Mustafa Mohammad-Najjar announced Tuesday that the leader of Iran’s anti-regime Jundallah militant group, Abdolmalek Rigi, had been captured in Pakistan by Iranian authorities and transferred to Iran. The Sunni organization has been responsible for dozens of attacks in Iran, including one last October that killed more than 40 people, including 15 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Details of the capture remain hazy, though it appears to have involved Pakistani cooperation. Pakistani ambassador to Tehran Mohammad Abbasi said on Wednesday that Pakistan was involved in the arrest, claiming that Rigi was captured on a flight from Dubai.
“Whatever the true story,” writes Asia Times Online, “the fact is that Pakistan appears to have abandoned one of its strategic assets against Iran” (February 25).
Why? Stratfor points to another possible angle to the story: that the arrest was a result of a deal made between the U.S. and Iran.
“Iran claims Rigi was at a U.S. military base within 24 hours before his capture. And Stratfor sources in Iran suggest that the United States allowed Pakistan to turn Rigi over to the Iranians, with the United States seeking in return greater assistance from Iran in stabilizing Iraq” (February 24). Stratfor’s sources say Islamabad turned Rigi over to Tehran last week.
Though Stratfor says this version of the story cannot be verified, it says “the possibility of U.S. assistance—in an attempt to make Iran more willing to cooperate in other areas—cannot be ruled out.”
If this is the case, it would once again demonstrate the leverage Iran has over the U.S., particularly in Iraq. Regardless, the capture of its most-wanted fugitive is a victory for Iran. ▪