Page 2 of 2 Balochis intensify rebellion in Iran
By Chris Zambelis
For Iran and other countries with a stake in IPI, the potential for insurgent
groups such as Jundullah to threaten critical energy infrastructure is cause
for serious concern. The threat of attacks by Jundullah against regional energy
infrastructure will surely increase if the Baloch feel that they are not
reaping any of the benefits of the revenue earned by Tehran from its gas
exports via the IPI.
Radical Islam and Baloch nationalism
Given the Sunni faith of its members and its violent history, some observers
suggest that the group maintains ties to radical Sunni Islamists. Tehran also
regularly accuses Jundullah of maintaining ties to Sunni extremists such as
al-Qaeda and the Taliban in what
likely amounts to an effort to tarnish Jundullah's image abroad.
Iran also happens to accuse Jundullah - among other minority ethno-national and
sectarian insurgent groups operating on its territory - of receiving support
from US, British, and Saudi intelligence in an effort to destabilize the
Islamic Republic from within by fomenting ethnic and sectarian strife.
Jundullah fervently denies any links to radical Sunni Islamists and any
suggestion that it operates at the behest of foreign intelligence services.
Despite reports linking Jundullah to radical Sunni Islamists, there is no hard
evidence linking Jundullah to radical Sunni extremists such as al-Qaeda or the
Taliban. Since its inception, Jundullah has been keen to frame its cause as a
mission to improve the daily lives of the Baloch in Iran. At the same time,
Jundullah has also presented its struggle in sectarian terms, essentially as a
struggle between a besieged Sunni minority and an aggressive Shi'ite Islamist
While Jundullah's emphasis on sectarian grievances may lend credence to the
argument that the group does harbor radical Sunni Islamist leanings akin to
al-Qaeda or the Taliban, in reality this approach most likely reflects the
group's effort to showcase its plight as an ethnic and sectarian minority
community that faces systematic discrimination within Iran.
In fact, given that the name Jundullah is imbued with religious overtones
typical of radical Sunni Islamist movements, the group's decision to begin
referring to itself as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI) - in
addition to Jundullah - may have represented an attempt to reintroduce itself
internationally amid growing concerns about the spread of al-Qaeda's brand of
Baloch leader Abdulmalak Rigi has stated that Jundullah and the Iranian Baloch
are not interested in independence from Iran, but only seek to achieve a better
life for the Baloch minority, within a state that respects their human rights,
culture, and faith. During an October 2008 interview, the Baloch leader also
stated that Jundullah is prepared to lay down its arms and to enter Iranian
politics: "If we were allowed to practice our rights in full, we are willing to
drop weapons and enter political life." 
Jundullah's stated willingness to enter the political process in Shi'ite
Islamist-dominated Iran also suggests that the group's radical activities and
violence are meant to further nationalist objectives as opposed to radical
Jundullah's decision to execute a suicide bombing nevertheless raises questions
regarding the potential influence of radical Islamist ideologies on the larger
Baloch nationalist movement in Iran, even if only among a fringe minority
within the larger movement. At the very least, Jundullah's decision to resort
to suicide bombings indicates that tactics used by radical Islamists in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Pakistan are serving as a template for other militant groups
to emulate in their own campaigns across the globe.
There are also indications that radical Sunni Islamists in Iran and abroad who
are strongly opposed to the Islamic Republic are following events in Iranian
Balochistan closely, as evidenced by the growing number of extremist websites
and chat room forums appearing in Arabic, Farsi, English and other languages
concerning the plight of the Baloch and other Sunni minorities in Iran.
The radical fringes of Sunni Islam consider Shi'ite Muslims to be heretics and
non-believers. Sunni extremists who subscribe to al-Qaeda's brand of radicalism
also consider Shi'ite Muslims and Iran as secret allies of the United States
and part of a conspiracy to undermine Sunni Islam. Increasing violence and
instability in Iranian Balochistan may eventually attract foreign fighters to
Iran. Jundullah's threat to expand its violent campaign outside of Iranian
Balochistan will also highlight the plight of Sunnis in Iran and may therefore
attract radical Sunni Islamists to the Baloch cause.
While concerns regarding the spread of radical Sunni Islamist ideologies within
the Baloch nationalist movement in Iran will continue to receive attention,
there is no conclusive evidence linking Jundullah to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or
affiliated groups. By all accounts, the trajectory of Jundullah's militancy
will continue to emphasize the plight of the Baloch as a disaffected minority
At the same time, the ongoing violence and instability in Iranian Balochistan
can potentially draw radical Sunni Islamists to the Baloch cause. There is also
evidence that radical Sunni Islamists are paying closer attention to events in
Iran, a trend that is likely to continue due to the widely held belief among
many Sunni extremists that Iran and Shi'ite Muslims constitute an enemy akin to
the United States.
1. For more details regarding these and related incidents in Sistan-Balochistan
from a radical Sunni Iranian perspective that is staunchly critical of the Shia
Islamic Republic, refer to the official website of the Sons of Sunnah Iran,
"Iran's War Against Sunni Muslims," October 20, 2008. The same site carries an
extensive list of Sunni Islamist websites opposed to Iran and Shi'ite Muslims.
2. Reza Hossein Borr, "The Armed Struggle in the Eastern Parts of Iran Entered
a New Phase When the First Suicide Mission Was Carried Out in a Military Base
in Sarawan, Baluchistan, on 29 December 08," January 1, 2009.
3. See "An Overview of the Baloch Students Organization".
4. Reza Hossein Borr, op cit.
5. Quoted in Sons of Sunnah Iran, "Iranian Sunni Group Wants to Enter Political
Life," October 24, 2008.