Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Our Man In Balochistan
I thought for a moment, when reading about the pending release of the 15 British sailors this morning, that we might have a few Iran-free news cycles to look forward to. Little did I realize that I'd missed a brand new one that had already started.
From an ABC News report broadcast yesterday:
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.
The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.
It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.
U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.
This is the group, you might recall, that claimed responsibility for blowing up a bus in southeastern Iran last February, killing 11 members of the Revolutionary Guards. Iran claims that the group is affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, though it's never been proven, and has long complained of American support.
An American official, on the other hand, told ABC News that Jundullah has collaborated with the US in tracking al-Qaeda members, and the CIA denied that they provided the group with any funding, which is consistent with the report's claims.
The truth is probably somewhere in between, depending on who shows up at the trading post on any given day. Either way, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Iranians have got some legitimate grievances. While it would be naive to think they've been acting like saints in Iraq, they're probably getting as good as they dish out, and on both sides of the map. As soon as the British sailors get back to London and the leaks start to fill in the gaps on what we know, it could turn out that they've actually shown some restraint.