Iran insists the US was backing the leader of an armed Sunni group heading an insurgency in the country who was captured earlier this week. Washington denies the claims.
Abdolmalek Rigi says he was on his way to the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan to meet with a US official when he was seized – sparking further mystery over American use of the facility in the Central Asian country.
It's not the first time the Manas airbase has hit the headlines, and all for the wrong reasons.
The latest allegation is from Iran claiming the facility is an American front to transport terrorists to undermine the Iranian government.
“The Americans promised to give us aid, they said they would cooperate with us and give me arms and machine guns. They told me in Kyrgyzstan they had a base called Manas near Bishkek and that in a place like this some high ranking American person could come and we could make an agreement about making personal contacts,” Abdolmalek Rigi said.
This statement comes in a televised confession on Iranian state TV. Officials claim when they captured the terrorist leader he was carrying a fake Afghan passport.
“The Americans said that Iran was going its own way and they said their problem at the present is Iran, not Al-Qaeda, not the Taliban, but Iran,” Abdolmalek Rigi said. “One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for them to attack Iran militarily but they plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iranian groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for this Islamic state.”
The confession has sparked criticism from those who let the United States set up shop in their backyard.
The Jundallah group confirmed the arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi and now is accusing the US and other foreign intelligence services of helping the Iranian government capture its leader.
“The Jundallah group or The Rigi Brothers organization – it is a family firm, you might say – which operates as a terrorist organization and is widely thought to be based in Pakistan, but it operates in Iran on the other side of that border,” explained investigative journalist Webster Tarpley, who is sure there is an extra twist to the story involving Pakistan, which possibly gave the militant leader away.
The Jundallah group is believed to be engaged in drug smuggling and organizing terror acts.
They are accused of blowing up top Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers last year.
“This Abdolmalek Rigi was the number one most wanted terrorist on the Iranian most wanted list,” he said.Despite the fact that the details of Abdolmalek Rigi’s arrest remain unclear, “either way it is a tremendous victory for the Iranians because they essentially decapitated this very threatening terror group,” believes Tarpley.
“This is the US$400 million in Iran’s Regime Change Act approved under [George W.] Bush. This guy has been meeting with, as some say, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who met this terrorist and certainly NATO generals in Afghanistan,” accused Tarpley and added that “they [Jundallah group] operate as an arm of NATO strategy in the entire region.”
In Webster Tarpley’s opinion, this episode is part of the battle for Belujistan, a critical area for Iran for hydrocarbon transit to China.
It appears, said Tarpley, that the goal of the offensive of the US in the Helmand province of Afghanistan is Iran’s economic interests. By announcing the offensive in Helmand province, they “wanted to drive the Taliban to Pakistan,” cutting Iranian exports to China through Pakistani seaports.
Dr. Seyed Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran claims that the US is being hypocritical and that Iranians are happy after Abdolmalek Rigi was captured.
“They were not only supporting this particular terrorist organization…[…] For many years, they’ve carried out many thousands of terrorist attacks on Iran, as well as other terrorist groups such as Pi-juk and so on,” Marandi told RT. “What is extraordinary about this particular terrorist organization, that has the backing of the United States, is that they carry out some of the most brutal murders, they cut people’s heads off on television and it does not get any coverage on BBC or CNN or in The New York Times, which is itself pretty extraordinary, but the murders that they carried out have angered the Iranians for the last few years. And it was a major victory for the Iranian intelligence organizations that they were able to capture the leader and his deputy the other day.”
Investigative journalist, Wayne Madsen, also posits there is a connection between the US and the group.
“What [Rigi] has stated on Iranian television is that he was there to meet a top US official,” says Madsen. “And the word I get from Asian intelligence services is that person was President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke who happened to have been in Bishkek at the same time.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department strongly denies any involvement with Rigi and released this statement to RT:
“We view the arrest of Mr Rigi as a positive step to prevent potential attacks against innocent civilians. The US strongly condemns all forms of terrorism, including those that target Iran. Any allegations of US involvement are absurd. The US does not sponsor or support terrorism,” US State Department spokesperson Darby Holladay said.
Also, the Obama Administration has repeatedly said relations with Iran have to begin with renewed diplomacy, a sentiment that has critics growing increasingly more skeptical.
“I think it’s quite obvious that the United States is being very hypocritical,” Dr. Seyed Mohammad Marandi says. “They are not only supporting this terrorist organization but they were also supporting the MEK for a number of years, they have carried out many terrorists attacks in Iran over the last three decades.”