Covert U.S. support for Jundullah, the Baluchi separatist/terrorist group in southeastern Iran, hasn’t been much of a secret for a long time. Were it not for the recent State Department decision to label Jundullah as a terrorist group, I don’t think anyone would have thought that things had changed. In light of the atrocity carried out against the people in Chahbahar by Jundullah, it would be especially shameful and foolish if our government had lent the group any support in the last two years. As the Leveretts noted in May 2009, the Obama administration had apparently not cancelled any of the covert programs begun under its predecessor.
Responding to Reza Aslan’s column on the subject, Greg Scoblete remains skeptical about the possibility of ongoing U.S. support for Jundullah, but adds “you’d have to marvel at the incredible absurdity of such a policy, should it exist.” Well, Greg and I would marvel at it. I assume we are more or less in agreement that directly encouraging Pakistan-based terrorism and militancy against one of its neighbors is incomparably stupid. It becomes even more so when our government has policies regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan and India that are supposedly aimed at discouraging exactly these things on the grounds that such activity contribute to the destabilization of Pakistan, regional insecurity, and the undermining of the U.S. war effort. Then again, there are quite a few anti-Iranian hawks who would be very pleased by such a policy. Indeed, if one assumes that wreaking havoc, fostering ethnic separatism, encouraging internal political violence, and destabilizing the Iranian government are desirable goals, and for the most part these hawks do, aiding Jundullah makes perverse, morally bankrupt sense. Like most hawkish Iran policy options, backing ethnic separatist groups to undermine the Iranian government does not create changes in Iran’s government or its behavior, but simply exposes Iranian citizens to additional suffering for no discernible purpose except to demonstrate that Washington is “doing something” to punish Iran for its nuclear program.
We can hope that the official designation of Jundullah as a terrorist group means that the U.S. is no longer actively supporting it, but there is one example that comes to mind that makes me think this designation may not matter when it comes to U.S. backing. A year before the bombing of Yugoslavia, the State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist group, and by 1999 the U.S. and NATO were waging an illegal war against Yugoslavia on behalf of that terrorist group. As many will have already seen by now, the wartime leader of that group and head of Kosovo’s current government, Hacim Thaci, has been linked with drug and organ-trafficking. That will come as a surprise to exactly no one who paid at any attention to the nature of the KLA as an organization. In any case, that suggests that officially designating a group as a terrorist organization does not bar U.S. support for that group now or in the future.
P.S. Here is the Leveretts’ post on the capture of the Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi. If Washington is not supporting Jundullah now, there is a widespread belief in Iran that this is still the case.