The US State Department announced today that it would be designating Sunni militant group Jundallah as a terrorist organization for a number of attacks on civilian targets in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The move was seen by many as a conciliatory one ahead of P5+1 talks with Iran, but also raises questions about America’s recent ties with the group.
US officials have admitted to having a covert relationship with Jundallah for years, which the group’s leadership says began shortly after the organization severed ties with al-Qaeda. Though the group has a history of launching attacks in both Iranian and Pakistani Balochistan and has separatist ambitions, since the al-Qaeda split attacks have been exclusively inside Iran.
The exact details of the relationship have been secretive, though after their capture by the Iranian government leaders of Jundallah claimed the US was not only providing direct funding for the organization, but was singling out targets.
It may be that the capture of the Rigis served to harm US influence with the group, and since then the group has launched major attacks against Shi’ite mosques. Attacks on civilians weren’t uncommon before the Rigis’ capture, however, so it is unclear what the State Department’s new problems with the group actually are.