News / Middle East

US Places Iranian Opposition Group on Terror List

During a funeral ceremony, people carry flag-draped coffins of victims of two bomb blasts in Zahedan,  southeast of Tehran, claimed by the Sunni group, Jundallah, 17 Jul 2010
During a funeral ceremony, people carry flag-draped coffins of victims of two bomb blasts in Zahedan, southeast of Tehran, claimed by the Sunni group, Jundallah, 17 Jul 2010

The United States has placed an armed Iranian opposition group, Jundallah, on its terrorist list.  Iran has long accused the United States of supporting Jundallah.  There are several possible reasons Washington has decided to designate the group as terrorist.

According to analysts, the Obama administration has contemplated putting Jundallah on the terrorist list for some time, but the administration ruled out any conciliatory gestures to Tehran after the June 2009 contested Iranian presidential election and the subsequent crackdown on the unarmed and nonviolent opposition.

This 2009 file photo shows weapons allegedly confiscated from Jundallah, an armed Sunni opposition group in Zahedan in southeastern Iran
This 2009 file photo shows weapons allegedly confiscated from Jundallah, an armed Sunni opposition group in Zahedan in southeastern Iran

Since its emergence in 2003 as an armed opposition group, Jundallah has been a thorn in the side of the Iranian government.  The Sunni group, claiming to be fighting for the rights of Iran's ethnic Baluchis, has carried out several high-profile bombings, the latest being a blast at a mosque in Zahedan that killed 27 people.  The attacks have generally targeted members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran has accused the United States of covertly backing Jundallah as part of a bid to topple the Iranian government.  The United States denies providing any support to the group.

Voicing what he emphasizes is his personal view, Congressional Research Service Iran analyst Ken Katzman says the Obama administration's gesture may be linked to trying to get negotiations on Iran's nuclear program back on track.

"There could also be an effort to say, hey, we have gotten this new round of sanctions, we have gotten other governments to enact very similar sanctions, and now we are trying to show some evenhandedness, that we are not trying purely to be punitive, we are not trying to go for some sort of regime change strategy here, we are committed to negotiations if we can find some sort of arrangement that suits everybody on the nuclear issue," said Katzman.

Iran has been sending mixed signals about renewing nuclear talks.  The so-called P-5+1 group - the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany - have been consulting about how to deal with Tehran.  But U.S. officials say the designation of Jundallah is not tied to the nuclear issue.

However, Iran analyst Reva Bhalla of the private intelligence firm Stratfor says there is another motivation for the gesture.

"But, really, I think the heart of the matter between the United States and Iran remains on Iraq, and figuring out whether there can be some sort of mutual understanding over the level of Iranian influence and a U.S. recognition of that influence, while making sure at the same time that the United States has a foothold in the region to keep the Iranians at bay, and work with its Gulf allies, and with Turkey especially, to make sure that Iranian power is somewhat contained," said Bhalla.

The Iraqi political stalemate has dragged on since the March elections in which no party secured an outright majority.  Efforts are centered on some kind of government of national unity that includes Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish parties, and analysts say Iran wants to be sure that the outcome is favorable to its interests.

Speaking from Iraq, U.S. Deputy Commander for Operations in Iraq Lieutenant General Robert Cone said Iran has exerted positive and negative influence in Iraq, but that its influence appears to have waned.

"I think you would say that probably in the last couple months, in this period of government formation, we think that the Iranian influence has diminished somewhat, and I think overall that is probably appropriate for where we are, at least on the violence side at this point in the formation of the government and in the current delicate political situation that we are in," Cone said.

Reva Bhalla adds there is unease in the corridors of power in Tehran that there will be more pressure on President Obama to take a tougher stand with Iran, particularly on the nuclear issue, after the Republican Party gains in the recent U.S. congressional elections.

"On the Iranian front, though, that is going to take a huge maneuver, something along the lines of Nixon goes to China, where the U.S. would have to reach a very broad strategic accommodation with the Iranians.  And whether that is done through force or through negotiated settlement, who knows?" Bhalla asked. "But I think that Iranian question could come into play a lot more prominently as a result of these elections."

But analysts say that even with more pressure from some quarters of Congress for action against Iran, the president still has the executive power in defense and foreign policy matters.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs