This time, the chickens came home to roost.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards chief Maj. Gen. Mohanmad Ali Jafari, in an almost hysterical tirade, blamed the US, the UK and Pakistan for the death of the second-in-command of the IRGC's al Qods Brigades, Gen. Nur Ali Shoushtari, and half a dozen of his lieutenants at the hands of a suicide killer in Sistan-Baluchistan Sunday, Oct. 10. The attack left 42 people dead and 29 injured.
On the day of the attack, debkafile revealed that Shoushtari's undercover job was running al Qods terror bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, the latter two in conjunction with Hizballah and Hamas respectively. In this capacity, he was the first deputy of the al Qods commander, Gen. Qassem Suleimani.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terror sources report that their boss, the IRGC chief Gen. Jafari, was upset enough to point the finger at any party rather than own up to al Qaeda's successful penetration of the high walls of Guards' security and intelligence to wipe out the top echelon of its covert external terrorist arm, the al-Qods Brigades.
In his distress, the general hurled threats left and right: “Behind this scene are the American and British intelligence apparatus and there will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them” and it will be “a crushing response,” he thundered.
US president Barack Obama and his engagement policy was cast aside and Revolutionary Iran's “big Satan” bogeyman dredged up for the sake of diverting popular attention from the colossal damage inflicted on Iran's security backbone, the “invincible” corps.
Iranian general, like the Saudi prince, made an appointment with death
In closed discussions in Tehran, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report regime leaders decided the charge could be usefully recycled should the nuclear talks with the six powers fail. Iran would then say it has quit “courageously” as a matter of honor in the face of America's two-faced treachery. The US would be accused of parading diplomatic willingness while employing terrorist tactics.
But the cool heads in Tehran, while not averse to cooking up fairy tales for pragmatic use, know exactly, our sources report, whose hand was behind the deadly attack in Baluchistan: Al Qaeda, which has a long operational history with the Sunni Baluchi terrorists of Jundallah, decided to put them on the spot. They have no doubt that al Qaeda trained and delivered the suicide bomber to the scene of attack at Sarbaz in the southeastern Iranian province of Baluchistan on the Pakistani-Afghan border.
The operation bristled with the same features as an attempt on the life of Saudi Prince Muhammad, son of interior minister Prince Nayef on Aug. 29, who was then running the kingdom's campaign against al Qaeda.
Both were carried out in areas close to borders across which al Qaeda maintains active bases: in southern Saudi Arabia near the Yemen border two months ago and close to the Pakistani border in Baluchistan this week.
But most telling of all, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-sources also reveal, the victims, the Saudi prince and the Iranian terror master, were playing with fire. Both knew their assailants and had arranged to meet them. Prince Mohammed got away with minor injuries after he made the mistake of flying his would-be assassin to their rendezvous aboard his private plane – and letting him off without search – because he believed the terrorist would make good on a promise to deliver the rich crop of al Qaeda's Yemen leadership into Saudi hands.
Gen. Shoustari was less fortunate. He paid with his life for making a date with a Jundallah operative at Sarbaz. He too trusted his killer was carrying word of his leaders' surrender.
Al Qaeda is a force to be reckoned with in US diplomacy
By prearrangement, the bomber, clad in Iranian Revolutionary Guards uniform, was allowed to wait at the entrance to the hall where Shoustani and his top staff were to supervise a conciliatory get-together of Baluchi Shiite and Sunni tribal chiefs. When the heavily-secured convoy arrived at its destination, the general stepped out of his armored car and motioned to the terrorist to approach him.
Neither he nor his guards suspected a thing.
Shoushtari and the man shook hands, exchanged a few words and, there and then, the suicide bomber blew himself up. In eliminating the deputy commander of al Qods Brigades, the Jundallah terrorist also wiped out the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard command of turbulent southeastern Iran, with far-reaching consequences not only for Iran, but the US as well.
According to our counter-terrorism sources, Al Qaeda's clean sweep was also a last warning to Iran's leaders not to dare cozy up to Washington. If they ventured to conclude intelligence-sharing deals with the Obama administration for the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the Islamic republic's most restive border districts would go up in flames; North Khorason which borders on Turkmenistan, Central Khorason which abuts on Afghanistan and Iranian Baluchistan which shares borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, are all minority regions easily inflamed against the Shiite regime in Tehran.
Al Qaeda was telling Tehran that it was capable of generating the same conditions in those districts, which take up nearly 35 percent of Iran's territory, as those plaguing US and British forces in south Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand by enlisting them to Qaeda's or the Taliban flag of jihad.
The birds had flown ahead of the Pakistan offensive
Our Iranian sources report that Tehran got the message but has yet to decide how to handle it.
The tactical skills displayed by al Qaeda and its allies in the operations against the Saudi prince and the al Qods general refute the claim of America's success in neutralizing al Qaeda's operational resources which President Obama's made on October 6 during a visit to the National Counter Terrorism Center in Virginia.
There is nothing wrong with their foresight either.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's counter-terrorism sources, having tracked al-Qaeda and Taliban movements in readiness for the big Pakistani military offensive launched on Oct. 17 in South Waziristan, found they had quietly transferred their main operational headquarters out of South and North Waziristan over to Pakistani Baluchistan.
The jihadists made sure that the Pakistani army was stretched too thin to properly block that exit from the war zone by staging devastating terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities which necessitated a heavy military presence, in addition to troop concentrations on the Indian border. Al Qaeda and Taliban then seized the opportunity to relocate their top headquarters out of harm's way.
This development, which US intelligence planners did not take into account, could in the long run prove the South Waziristan offensive to have been a costly error.
For now, President Obama will have to wait upon decisions in Tehran – not only regarding the nuclear issue, but also on its response to al Qaeda's new threat.