Already involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and neighboring Iraq, Iran is now increasingly worried about the threat from Sunni militants on its eastern border with Pakistan, who get backing, it claims, from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Although rarely mentioned in public, persuading Iran to budge on issues like its nuclear program may well depend on addressing what it now sees as a multi-faceted, global attack on it by Sunni jihadis.
On Sept. 9, those jihadists detonated a massive car bomb at an Iranian military base near the border, clearing a path for 70 fighters to stream in. According to a statement from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, reinforcements had to be helicoptered to the scene to end a three-and-a-half-hour gun battle, and the fighters fled across the border into Pakistan. A few weeks later, the militants carried out a series of raids on border posts, killing five Iranian policemen. The attacks were the latest in a long campaign of roadside explosions, suicide bombings at mosques, and gun attacks on security posts that have killed more than 600 Iranians, mostly civilians, since 2005.
In the weeks following the Sept. 9, car bombing at the Iranian base, Iran raided a village in the Pakistani district of Chagai. According to Pakistani officials, Iranian soldiers, sometimes in helicopters and convoys, have chased militants deep into Pakistan on an almost weekly basis over the last year, sparking firefights and occasionally killing Pakistani soldiers.
Iran says the jihadis enjoy support not only from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, but also from the Inter-Services Intelligence branch of the Pakistani military.
Pakistani officials say they are overwhelmed by internal security problems, and securing the border with Iran is not a top priority.
Perhaps most importantly, the Sunni jihadists attacking Iran have deep ties with politically connected opium smugglers, men flush with billions of dollars who despise the Iranians for their own reasons.
On Dec. 14, 2005, gunmen ambushed the lead car in a motorcade carrying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a tour of Sistan-Baluchistan, killing the driver and a bodyguard. Ahmadinejad escaped alive, but Tehran was rattled.
The attack was orchestrated by Abdelmalek Rigi, then age 22. Rigi’s boyish, grinning face became the defining image of Baluch jihad in Iran. As a teenager, the Iranian-born Rigi had come across one of Iran’s notorious public executions—eight young Baluch men strung up by cranes in public view—and he dated his militancy, in part, from that moment. In 2007, he told Western media (PDF) that his group aimed not to topple the Iranian regime, but to increase autonomy for Sistan-Baluchistan and shield minorities from Tehran’s “despotic religious rule like Fascism, [or] like Nazism.” Within six months of the attempt on Ahmadinejad, Rigi’s group, Jundullah, pulled off several more brazen attacks on highways near the border, killing dozens of non-Baluch and taking Iranian Republican Guard officers hostage.
By the end of 2009, Jundullah suicide bombings had killed scores of Shiite worshippers at mosques in southeastern Iran and 42 people in Pishin, including the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard ground forces.
Fuming Iranian officials blamed the United States and United Kingdom for backing the militants, and Pakistan for inaction. A dozen Revolutionary Guards were caught deep inside Pakistan, tracking Rigi. In public, Pakistan denied Rigi was on its soil, but in private, authorities quickly moved to help the Iranians find him, focusing on the border near Turbat.
A 2008 Pakistani raid near Turbat turned up Abdolhamid Rigi, the brother of Abdelmalek Rigi.
“Whatever used to happen in Iran, they would say it was because of Pakistan. But we did a lot, and the proof of that is that we handed over Abdolhamid Rigi,” said the then-Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik. During two years in Iranian custody, Abdolhamid provided crucial details of how Jundullah operated. On Feb. 23, 2010, when Abdelmalek Rigi boarded a Kyrgyzstani passenger plane from Dubai to Bishkek, Iran had the flight diverted to Sharjah’s airport, where the head of Jundullah was arrested
Pic - "More than 70% of the world’s opium flows across the same border the jihadis do, and from the start, the traffickers and Baluch jihadis targeting Iran have cultivated a cozy relationship."