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Was Rigi's arrest by Iran staged?

by MEIR JAVEDANFAR in Tel Aviv

24 Feb 2010 04:5637 Comments
Abdolmalek-Rigi-001.jpg[ analysis ] The arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the commander of the Baluchi Jundollah movement, is a major victory for Iran. For years, Rigi had masterfully eluded capture, staying for the most part in the lawless regions of western Pakistan, from where he directed attacks against Iran. It is believed that he also spent time in Afghanistan.

Before and again soon after his arrest, Iranian authorities accused Rigi of having ties with the West. During the troubles in Northern Ireland, the IRA highlighted the ties between loyalist paramilitary forces and the British army and intelligence services with the slogan "Collusion is no illusion." The same statement could well be applied to Jundollah's relations with U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

One indication is the relative freedom with which Jundollah has operated in the West. Organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah are unable to run radio stations and collect funds in Europe. The same restrictions have not been imposed on Jundollah, despite its reported links with Al Qaeda and its record of attacks inside Iran, some of which have targeted civilians.

The quality of the organization's intelligence and the deadly effectiveness of its attacks also suggest that it has received help from foreign intelligence agencies. American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh alleged during the Bush era that the CIA was supporting the organization, and there has been no sign that those ties were severed after Obama's election.

A stark indication was the twin suicide attack staged by the group on October 18, 2009. Jundollah operatives managed to assassinate Brigadier General Nourali Shoushtari, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard's ground forces, as well as four other senior commanders. It is very difficult to believe that an organization thought to have at most 3,000 supporters in Iran, centered in one of the country's poorest regions, would be able to access the funds and intelligence gathering resources required for such an operation on its own. The group has pulled off several other spectacular assaults, including an attack on Ahmadinejad's bodyguards.

The circumstances of Rigi's recent capture are as mysterious as his exact whereabouts have been during the past few years. Some Iranian sources, such as the Tabnak news agency, said he was "arrested abroad," offering nothing more specific. By contrast, Iran's English-language Press TV reported that he was captured on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan. And according to the AP, lawmaker Mohammad Dehghan told the official IRNA news agency that Rigi was "flying over the Persian Gulf en route from Pakistan to an unidentified Arab country when his plane was ordered to land inside Iran."

After that first wave of reports, the Tehran-based news analysis site Iran Diplomacy, run by Iran's former reformist foreign minister Kamal Kharazi, offered still a different version of events. According to Iran Diplomacy, Rigi was arrested with the help of Pakistani intelligence officials, who took action after "consulting" with the United States. Of particular note, the site claims that Rigi was arrested while "he was in hospital."

This is where the story becomes fascinating. It is very possible that Iran Diplomacy is right and Rigi was in fact arrested in a hospital abroad by Pakistani agents. It is entirely plausible that the Iranians, desperate to show that their intelligence agency has both the capacity to find its targets wherever they may be and the power to force foreign planes to land in its territory, asked the help of the Pakistanis in staging the entire incident. It is very possible that the Pakistan government now sees Jundollah as a liability, and has decided to remove the organization from its soil. This makes much more sense than the version of the capture that involves forcing Rigi's aircraft to land in Iran. If the operation was not staged, there would have been a huge outcry from the foreign nation where the plane is owned. However, not a sound has been heard from any other country about a forced landing. It appears quite possible that if any plane was involved, it was an Iranian one.

The staging of such an operation would come at a helpful time for Iran's intelligence agency, which is growing increasingly concerned about its loss of legitimacy at home and the defection of several of its scientists abroad. The "spectacular" arrest of Rigi may repair some of the damage. It can also be used to send a message to members of the opposition outside the country that the long arm of Iranian intelligence can find them anywhere. But without Pakistan's help, it would have been extremely difficult, both militarily and diplomatically, for Iran to carry out such an operation. In the case of Abdolmalek Rigi's arrest, Pakistani collusion -- this time with Iran -- is indeed probably no illusion.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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37 Comments

These days things are so messed up that we don't believe that black is back and not white. People in Iran just tired of all these theater shows with actors such as Hamas, jundollah, British role etc, terrorists, war, Islamists, radicals, death to this, death to that.......can't we just live our lives as we used to in 70s....Enough of these theater shows of the region!

Afra / February 24, 2010 2:32 AM

Is there a relationship between this arrest and arresting Taliban number 2 in Karachi? On another note I do understand the incentive might exist, but I doubt it IRI Intelligence ministry needs it. Their qualities are well known to friends and foe.

Ali / February 24, 2010 2:54 AM

This is a farce. Token arrest, firings, retirements of spies, foes, collaborators is first step of regime collapse.

The jet in the photos is a 1970s Lear Jet; this is produced in Pakisatn or by IRI Ground Forces. The Rev. Guard use French made Dassault Falcons.

There is wide fear in the Revolutionary Guards about mutiny. A recent list of promotions to General for Colonels was cancelled for Noruz, as the officers refused to accept the promotions. This has NEVER happened in IRI.

Last happened in '78 as future Generals know they are walking dead when the revolution comes...

Shah / February 24, 2010 4:22 AM

Shalom, Meir from Tel Aviv!

What an embarrassment to US covert ops this Rigi affair promises to be. He was caught with a US-issued Afghan passport under a fake name. Imagine what this terrorist will "cough up" under intensive questioning- US style.

This makes your Mossad mission in Dubai look like child's play (which it was, judging by all the traces left behind).

(BTW: I didn't even read your desperate attempts at spin.)

Face it: VEVAK accomplished what to date the US hasn't been able to do with Osama bin Laden. Ask yourself why.

Pirouz / February 24, 2010 4:22 AM

your opening is contrary to your ending, full of maybes and possibles! and finally you have no clue what has happened, you just missed it by an inch!

vladimir / February 24, 2010 5:09 AM

Dear Shah,


The clip I saw on TV showed Rigi disembarking what appears to be a Dassault Falcon 20 or 900.


But you say it is a Learjet. I can't find a Learjet model whose exterior looks at all similar to what is being shown on the newsreel. What model Learjet is it?


Also, please source your statements about senior officers refusing promotions in 1978 and again in 2010.


Who were the officers who declined promotion to general in 1978?

Ali from Tehran / February 24, 2010 9:18 AM

Pirouz,

You make very definitive statements. Is this because you are involved with the Barbaric regimes intelligence agencies - i.e. are you a spy????

BTW I love the (now repetitive and tired) comparison with the West - in this instance US and Israeli intelligence. Please tell us - why did VEVAK succeed where US intelligence has failed?

One last question - do you have a problem with Meir - an Iranian Jew living in Israel? You always want to highlight his Jewishness - is this the same mentality as that of the Nazis who forced Jews to wear Yellow stars?

Agha Irani / February 24, 2010 11:19 AM

It is an old story that British liked to create Shia to have an opponent for Sunni. They had such bad history and no wonder we had Daiee Jan Napoleon story....there is always good reasons behind satire. Brits are helping now again the Islamic system of our country to survive by creating foreign enemies and helping them to arrest them. The Iranian government also needs the propaganda to keep people in fear of an enemy.
And the US funds Jundollah another terrorist groups, which is quite clear.
Maybe non of these countries, ( UK and etc) really like the democratic green movement to go forward.
Maybe unlike what west claims they need to keep this theater to go on at the cost of serious damage to average citizens of Iran.

These propaganda game is only damaging the Green Movement.

These games are also becoming old...people r just fed up....Enough of Islamism...

Anonymous / February 24, 2010 10:39 PM

I can't stand the Iranian regime; the sooner they're gone, the sooner I can have a good dream...of the people of Iran being free like me to write what's on their minds without repression & fear...to not worry about a loved one or shed a tear for someone of their friends & family who are picked on & picked up for nothing & driven to Evin Prison & beaten to death or raped as well beforehand...that's why I want to see the end of this Iranian regime. So that their people can be free & dream a good dream!

Jaker / February 25, 2010 3:37 AM

Well said Jaker!

Afra / February 25, 2010 4:14 AM

That's the way to go about Iran:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/24/iran-protest-internet-satellite/print

Anonymous / February 25, 2010 4:27 AM

pirouz - glad people recognize you on these sites by now and discard everything you say. first, you are definitely not smart - no two ways about that (though I think you think you are a genius). second, you are a disgusting racist. third, you are an apologist for an islamo-fascist dictatorship, so you are lower than the dust and dirt you despise.

np / February 25, 2010 5:52 AM

Here's the Iran Air Force role in the terrorist takedown: Rigi's passenger plane with 113 aboard (likely B-737, Kyrgyzstan Airlines QH 454, operated by Eastok Avia), enroute from Dubai (DXB / OMDB) to Bishkek-Manas, Kyrgyzstan (FRU / UAFM), was forced to land at Bandar Abbas TFB.9 (BND / OIKB) by two intercepting Iran Air Force F-4E Phantom IIs. (If the scrambled F-4E Phantom IIs came from TFB.9, perhaps elements of 91 TFS.)

Pirouz / February 25, 2010 10:27 AM

Mark Pyrouz, I see that you've been spreading your military "knowledge" on multiple boards, including one rightly called armchairgeneral.com:

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1426920

Anyways, you claim that Rigi was on a B-737 with 113 onboard. Does this plane look like it can carry even 50 people?

http://www.nation.com.pk/uploads/news_image/large/RigimetUSIndianenvoysinAfghanistanbeforearrest_9949.jpg


GooGoo / February 25, 2010 10:46 PM

GooGoo

great catch on Pirouz...

what a disgrace this Pirouz "half Iranian son of an American Korean war Veteran"!!!! is.

And recently he has showcased his new feminine alterego: Roya

Freud is laughing in his grave right now.

Ahvaz / February 26, 2010 2:49 AM


Very nice interception by Iran on this terrorist leader. The entire world should congratulate and support Iran on this magnificent operation.
Well done VEVAK.
CIA leran form them and see if yo can catch Osama after all these years!!!!!!!

IRAN#1 / February 26, 2010 2:51 AM

British expressed "satisfaction" at capture of Rigi and his hand over to the Islamic Republic of Iran by Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The hand over had occurred ONE WEEK before the announcement.

If US agencies were involved, then the question arises that would aiding the terrorist regime in Iran and IRGC (a terrorist organization) to capture Rigi be against US laws?

Anonymous / February 26, 2010 3:16 AM

The flight passengers who said they both were on the flight and they were removed from the plane because it need to be refueled. After everybody left the plane they arrested both Rigi and his friend. During the lending they spoke each together in English, worrying that they would br arrested. The link below have pictures of the lended plane:

http://diesel.elcat.kg/index.php?showtopic=3443387&st=20

me / February 26, 2010 1:07 PM

Dear Ahvaz,


Regardless of who Pirouz is or the agenda he serves, the aptly named GooGoo has not caught anything.


If Pirouz's story has substance, then Rigi's commercial flight over Iranan was either forced down by scrambled jet-fighters or ordered to land by Iranian airspace controllers. He would then have been identified, arrested and transferred to a government plane for the trip to Tehran, as per the Dassault Falcon 20 (or 200?) seen in newsclips and photographs.


Using the photo of the Falcon aircraft to debunk Pirouz's story is truly sophomoric.


The best source for vetting Pirouz's story would be the other passengers on the commercial flight, who would certainly have noticed the unscheduled landing in Iran and the removal of one or two passengers from the bay.


But if the story is true, it may not be attributable to the claimed prowess of Iranian intelligence.


My wild guess would be that UAE authorities handed him to Iran as a hard rebuke to Rigi's western handlers for their complacency and/or complicity in the Mossad hit in Dubai last January.


Plausible deniability could have been maintained by informing Iran of Rigi's flight discreetly thru informal back-channels or anonymous tip-off.

Ali from Tehran / February 26, 2010 10:53 PM

Dear Ali from Tehran

"My wild guess would be that UAE authorities handed him to Iran... "

Possible. This guess is as good as any. The timing of his "arrest" --the day after the release of video of attack on dorms-- and his "confession" on Iranian TV only three days after his capture are all very curious, and open the door for all kind of conspiracy theories (which we Iranians are particularly fond of).

Ahvaz / February 27, 2010 2:38 AM

Dear Ahvaz,


Exactly.


Like an OBL videotape surfacing a week before the 2004 election admonishing US voters against reelecting Dubya.


Or Israel discovering a ship laden with illicit Iranian arms stashed in cardboard boxes with conveniently explanatory labels, on the very day that the damning Goldstone Report was scheduled for discussion in the United Nations.

Ali from Tehran / February 27, 2010 12:27 PM

Rigi was handed over to Iran by Pakistan. The entire flight was ordered to land "plant & cover" is an IRI fabrication to show their supremacy re flights in Persian Gulf area, dealing with Terrorists outside their own borders etc. UAE correctly states that Rigi never landed in Dubai, contrary to what IRI claims. The same UAE that published all details of the folks who assassinated the IRI Hamas lackey. This is IRI intel's ballooned int'l victory, while they can't deal with teenagers in Tehran streets! Pakistan got handsomely rewarded with Iranian worker's pay cheques.

Mooshe Divar / February 27, 2010 4:11 PM

Thus spoke Mooshe Divar the Magnificent Rodent!

Ali from Tehran / February 27, 2010 8:25 PM

Mooshe Divar:

The UAE said that Rigi never used his papers to officially enter the UAE, they confirm that he did land and board a flight at the airport.

anon / February 28, 2010 4:56 AM

When I first saw the headline for this article I thought - not worth the entertainment!

To my surprise, having landed here to read the comments, I have to retract my initial impression.

I read with great amusement the many conspiracy theories that conveniently sidelined the main story. Just as a reminder: a self-confessed terrorist with suggested ties to the west has been captured. This would normally be a happy occasion for all peace-loving, anti-violence forces fighting terrorists across the globe!

Oh, look over there!

Admittedly, the conspiracy theories are amusing if not darn right fantasmic!

jay / February 28, 2010 8:13 AM

The way I see it is that none of us here can be sure exactly what happened or how he was caught. But I'm sure of one thing - that is that the IRI has a propaganda machine that creates lots of misinformation and lies; therefore any story that comes from them is the story that I find the least credible.
After all Rigi's confession was a joke - US doesn't care about al-Qaeda etc. - written by paranoid IRGC fools.

Agha Irani / February 28, 2010 9:28 AM

I despise acting as like a conspiracy theoretician but after looking at the pix in the link "me" posted above I'm leaning twd believing that Rigi was not in that Boeing 737 when foreced landed in Bandar Abbas.
Take a look for yourself,first pic. shows the plane parked on the taxiway and passengers are disembarking and entering a transport bus.
My question is, where are the military and other security personnel and their equipment?
If Rigi was in that plane the whole area would be swarmed with infamous Robo-Cops in SWAT team outfits, APCs, machine guns and whatnot.
You don't even see a hint of handguns in both pictures.
Unlike Armchair General Pirouz I don't know how Rigi ended up being in the hands of vevak goons but I'm certain he was not in that 737.

Aryajet / March 1, 2010 7:10 AM

1- Kyrgyzstan foreign ministry denies arrest of foreign nationals off it's airliner.
2- Earlier Kyrgyz airline had confirmed the arrest
3- UAE says the owner of the passport shown never got off the plane, he arrived in UAE on the plane and left on the same plane heading BACK to Kyrgyzstan.
4- Pakistan helped in the arrest of Rigi, according to Pakistani ambassador in Iran.
5- Rigi was based out of Pakistan from day 1, up until the day of his arrest? Why leave Pakistan close to his theater of Ops and to go to Kyrgyzstan? Via an int'l hot spot like UAE?

As the pictures on the blog show, no security and no guns after the forced landing.

Somebody may have been arrested, he may have been a plant to create the aerial snatch job to divert attention from Pakistan, and give credibility to the ludicrous confession by Rigi that Americans offered him a base in Kyrgyzstan (check a map) Kyrgyzstan doesn't have a common border with Iran. Why wouldn't US offer a base next door to Siatan in either Pakistan or Afghanistan? and why would US support a Talibanesque terrorist while fighting Taliban?
I'll leave that to the conspiracy consumers

As for Rigi's "confessions", as a prominent IRI official said, IRI security will make B.H.Obama confess in 48 hrs. So we can be sure Rigi's confessions are anything but the truth and given voluntarily!

A terrorist state arrests a terrorist that was not in their camp. If IRI arrests the heads of Lebanon's Hezbollah & Hamas, now that would be news everybody can use.

IRI's track record of discovering western paid spies (three US hikers in prison in Tehran & French exchange student still waiting for outcome of her trial, arrested for taking photos of Tehran demos post election) and now Rigi readily confessing before his beard had a chance to grow, is indication that Obama is hell bent on arresting the arrival of Mehdi, as Ahmadinejad so profoundly postulated.

Phonecian / March 2, 2010 1:44 PM

PressTV says Iran released footage which proves Rigi was on the plane. Unfortunately, they didn't post that video.

GooGoo / March 2, 2010 10:00 PM

Iran secretary several time reconnoiter rigi in Saudi Arabia and UAE and Pakistan but they always rousted it by US.
You don't know what happens for this reason that all thing is clear,you are not acquiescent.
Dobay-Bishkek air plain passengers after this with presents of Iran went to Bishkek,and ambassador of Kyrgyzstan evoked.
We are whole happy in Iran from capture this bloody terrorist that living freely in Afghanistan and Pakistan where NATO & US Army are there and clearly if they didn't let him,he can not be there.Richard Harvard in Bishkek surprised and he is thinking to another terrorist to engage against Iran.
rigi confessed to logrolling with NATO and us,and if he didn't confess we all knew this bygone.

Javid / March 3, 2010 9:54 AM

Iranian satirist Hadi Khrsandi, put it best:

How to cook an Abdolmalik

Juxtaposing the statements made by IRI security officials and the Kyrgyz Aviation Authorities, we reach the conclusion
that Abdolmalik Rigi, never having boarded the Kyrgyz airliner, while flapping his wings over IRI airspace and walking
towards Kyrgyzstan, was approached by an IRI fighter jet, who slipped a lasso around his neck, and was slowly guided back to earth.

If you want the events of his arrest not to befuddle you, accept this explanation please!

http://news.gooya.com/columnists/archives/101250.php

Neda / March 4, 2010 1:25 AM

If we want to reach the truth, then we should make sure not to accept anything from anybody WITHOUT REASON. Of course we can't deny something which is missing enough proof to look acceptable.
If one believes something without reason, he hasn't used his brain.
I see some videos that look totally alright, and, I don't know if aliens simulated people on them, or Iran has a filming studio much more professional than hollywood to create such videos so real, or it was all a set up or if it wasn't.
It just looks OK. Why I should deny something before knowing it's false? That's dangerous.

Mohammad / March 5, 2010 4:20 AM

Not only it was staged, but was ARRANGED. ISI (Pakistani intelligence) would need permission from CIA to deliver Rigi to the Islamic Republic.

The regime in Iran had already captured his brother, whom they have held for several months. The regime's torturers are apt at using relatives to force anyone to say anything they want.

Therefore, it is not too far fetched to conclude that the regime must have been torturing his brother in front of Rigi to get him to say whatever they wanted, including links to CIA.

Rigi, by over emphasizing his link to CIA in his TV confessions, was probably trying to signal the opposite and tell the viewer that his capture had been arranged.

The method of torturing fellow fighters to get pilots to make TV confessions was first used in Vietnam.

Bobak / March 5, 2010 7:28 PM

Bobak, I'm not saying you are totally wrong. I'm saying why don't bring proof instead of only claiming these. You should bring us proof.

That can't be impossible. You yourself, must have believed it using perfect proof, like court-acceptable reasons. Anybody else must believe it this way too.

If we don't, I can walk around and say Ahmadinejad had a halo and you should believe it.

Mohammad / March 9, 2010 6:00 AM

After many years of problems and wrangling, today the Iranian and Pakistani government signed a major gas deal.
The question is: was Rigi's arrest the final hurdle that was removed? possibly.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_abw6TJImQQ

Meir Javedanfar / March 10, 2010 12:45 AM

It's possible, but the question is who cares? I mean, if it was, so what? What's the issue? I don't get it.

Mohammad / March 10, 2010 5:11 AM

pakistan is part of this conspiracy ,iraniian whatever did but pakistan is clearly responsible of jandullah leaders hanging and the time will come when u will realize that he was right and fighting for noble cause .

shahram abbasi / June 20, 2010 10:49 AM