Here’s where it could get tricky for U.S. officials. It should not be too difficult to confirm whether or not the images of Rigi flashed during the press conference match up to the Manas military base. (There’s no mention of Rigi on the website for the Transit Center.)
Is the CIA really doing business with an al-Qaeda linked organization? Could the enemy of Iran’s mullahs be seen as friends of the United States? Last October, former CIA agent turned Time magazine columnist Robert Baer confirmed that the agency had indeed had contact with Jundallah in the past. Baer said it was “confined to intelligence gathering in the country.” The English-language Iranian news outfit Press TV calls Jundullah “a Pakistan-based terrorist group closely affiliated with the notorious al-Qaeda organization.”
As Baer explained, it has been Jundallah’s ability to target commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that have been keeping Iranian mullahs up late at night. In October 2009, a suicide bombing by the group killed five or six top commanders and 25 other people. In 2008, sixteen Iranian police officers were killed; eleven were killed in 2007 and nine were killed in 2005.
For now, details in this shadowy story full of terrorists and their possible puppeteers remain murky. Even the facts regarding Iran’s forcing the airplane down have become grist for the rumor mill. Al-Jazeera TV reported that Rigi had been arrested in Pakistan and handed over to Iran by authorities there. The Guardian reports that other accounts say Rigi was arrested in Iran, but after the small aircraft he was flying on had already landed there.
Iran is firm about one thing: “We have clear documents proving that Rigi was in co-operation with American, Israeli and British intelligence services,” Heydar Moslehi says.