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Iran blasts have Jundallah's fingerprints
by Staff Writers
Tehran (UPI) Dec 15, 2010

Peace deal would free Arabs to focus on Iran: Rudd
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 15, 2010 - An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would free up the Arab world to "exclusively focus" on the problem of Iran's nuclear programme, Australia's top diplomat said in remarks published on Wednesday. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said in an interview with English-language Jerusalem Post that a peace agreement would be a "game changer in relation to Iran." If a solution was found to the decades old Middle East conflict, it would free up the Arab and Islamic world to "exclusively focus on the challenge of Iran's nuclear threat to the wider region," he said. Leaked US diplomatic cables posted online by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks over the past two weeks have revealed a deep concern among Arab states in the Middle East about Iran's nuclear programme.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear power, has not ruled out a military strike to prevent Iran acquiring an atomic weapons capability, an ambition its arch-foe Tehran strongly denies. Rudd, who completing a three-day visit to the region, said Iran's nuclear programme was a central theme of his talks with Israel's leadership. Two days ago, further leaked cables showed Australian intelligence officials have repeatedly expressed concern that Israel may launch a military strike on Iran which could lead to nuclear war in the Middle East. Face-to-face negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart last week and US officials are urgently seeking ways of bring the sides back together in the search for a peace deal.

Senegal recalls Tehran ambassador over arms seizure
Dakar (AFP) Dec 15, 2010 - Senegal has recalled its ambassador to Tehran after Iran failed to provide a "satisfactory" explanation for arms sent from Iran and discovered in the port of Lagos in October, officials said Wednesday. "Senegal, standing by its commitments to peace and security that should govern relations between states, and judging that the explanations provided on this affair by the Iranian side are not satisfactory, has decided to recall its ambassador for consultations," the foreign ministry said in a communique transmitted to AFP. The ministry said the arms were bound for a "state in western Africa," the officials said, while local press reports and observers said Dakar feared the arms consignment was destined for the separatist rebels of the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces in southern Senegal. Casamance, which is cut off from northern Senegal by the Gambia, has been caught in a separatist rebellion since 1982, and a peace accord signed in 2004 failed to stop the violence. Until now Senegal and Iran have enjoyed strong diplomatic ties.

A suicide bombing attack outside a mosque in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province that killed 38 people Wednesday has all the hallmarks of Jundallah, a Sunni Islamist group that has become a thorn in the side of the Shiite regime in Tehran.

The United States, in an apparent gesture toward Iran in advance of talks on Iran's contentious nuclear program last week in Geneva, branded the organization an international terrorist group Nov. 3.

The attack is likely to have internal repercussions in Tehran, with demands for iron-fist retaliation against the group that the regime has long claimed is funded, armed and directed by the U.S., British and Pakistani intelligence services to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seemingly locked in an escalating power struggle with fellow conservatives, the attack in the port city of Chah Bahar on the Gulf of Oman could intensify tensions within the regime.

Although there was no claim of responsibility, the apparent use of multiple suicide bombers for a single attack is a tactic Jundallah, which means Soldiers of God, has used before.

The group carried out twin suicide bombings July 15 at a Shiite mosque in the provincial capital, Zahedan, that killed 28 people. The target apparently was a group of officers of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps who were among the worshippers.

The corps, the regime's Praetorian Guard, has spearheaded Tehran's war against Jundallah and other rebel groups in border regions the regime maintains are aided by the Americans and Israelis.

In October 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber killed at least 42 people in the town of Pishin in impoverished Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan. The victims included five top-level Revolutionary Guard commanders, among them the deputy commander of the corps' ground forces.

That triggered a major crackdown against Jundallah, which culminated in the Feb. 23 capture of its leader, Abdolmalik Rigi, a charismatic young Baloch, by Iranian intelligence operatives in a complex operation.

According to Iranian reports, the Kyrgyz airliner he was flying from Dubai to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, was forced down in Iran.

Rigi was executed June 20, and Tehran hoped that would put paid to Jundallah's eight-year insurgency.

Rigi was swiftly replaced as the group's commander by a veteran Islamist fighter identified as Mohammed Dhahir Baluch.

The Chah Bahar attack indicates the organization has regrouped and remains capable of deadly attacks directed against the regime and its Shiite adherents.

The July suicide bombings in Zahedan were Jundallah's response to Rigi's execution by hanging.

The group doesn't have known links with al-Qaida or the Taliban but a significant shift in its operations in late 2008 to tactics widely employed in Iraq and elsewhere indicated it had come under the influence of jihadist ideology.

In December 2008, Jundallah carried out its first suicide bombing, targeting a security forces headquarters in the town of Saravan. In May 2009, it carried out a suicide attack on a Zahedan mosque, its first major strike against a civilian target.

According to the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor, the State Department's decision to place Jundallah on its terrorism blacklist represented "a huge gesture toward Iran."

It said Washington apparently "made the move in hopes of reaching an understanding on the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region after U.S. forces exit Iraq."

The move followed a series of diplomatic events, including "a preliminary understanding between Iran and the United States regarding a new power-sharing formula in Iraq in the form of a government led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Washington seeking Iranian input in the process toward a settlement in Iraq, Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan, and Iran not creating instability in Lebanon."

The U.S. move may have been intended to refute allegations the CIA supported Jundallah and to distance itself from the group.

But independent analysts suggest Jundallah has received indirect U.S. support through Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which runs extensive covert operations along the Baluchistan border, or through Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran's main geopolitical rival in the region.

"The Saudis have a hand in every Sunni group in the region," former CIA officer Philip Giraldi observed in July. "They're definitely players and may well be involved independently of the United States."


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