The Iranian government is celebrating the capture of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of a violent group called Jundullah (Arabic for Soldiers of God), which Tehran says is a terrorist organization supported by the United States, Great Britain and Israel.
Jundullah is one of several groups that have been conducting bombings and other violent attacks against Iran's Islamic regime with the aim of knocking it off balance.
In a July 7, 2008, article for The New Yorker magazine, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted Robert Baer, a former CIA clandestine officer who worked in South Asia and the Middle East for nearly two decades, as saying that Jundullah was one of the militant groups in Iran benefiting from U.S. support.
Hersh also reported that President George W. Bush signed an intelligence finding in late 2007 that allocated up to $400 million for covert operations intended to destabilize Iran's government, in part, by supporting militant organizations.
Hersh identified another one of the militant groups with "long-standing ties" to the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations communities as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, which has been put on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.
But Jundullah has been spared that designation, a possible indication that the U.S. government views it as a valuable asset in the face-off against Iran, or in the parlance of the "war on terror," as one of the "good guys."
Gen. Mizra Aslam, Pakistan's former Army chief, has charged that the U.S. has been supporting Jundullah with training and other assistance. But the U.S. government denies that it has aided Rigi or his group.
Since his capture this week, Rigi has been weaving intricate, though inconclusive, stories about his contacts with American officials. According to Iran's Press TV, Rigi said the United States promised Jundullah military aid in support of its insurgency against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Rigi described contacts in March 2009, claiming that U.S. representatives "said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment, arms and machine guns. They also promised to give us a base along the border with Afghanistan next to Iran."
Rigi asserted that the U.S. representatives said a direct U.S. attack on Iran would be too costly and that Washington instead favored supporting militant groups that could destabilize Iran.
"The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran" not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran," Rigi said, according to Press TV.
"One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for us [the United States] to attack Iran militarily, but we plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iran groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for the Iranian (Islamic) system," Rigi said.
Rigi added that the Americans said they were willing to provide support "at an extensive level." However, in Press TV's account, Rigi did not describe any specific past U.S. support for his organization.
Iran's security forces announced that they had arrested Rigi on Tuesday by bringing down his plane over Iranian airspace, as he was onboard a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan, where he said he was expecting to meet with a "high-ranking" U.S. official.
Rigi's capture represents an embarrassment for Western and Israeli intelligence, which have tried to stir up Iran's minorities, comprising almost half of the population. Jundullah contends that it is protecting the rights of Sunnis in Shiite-dominated Iran.